I prepped for the visit as best we could. I warned everyone at the office that Rubi needed special care around other dogs, and they seemed really happy for the heads up. I suppose not having dogs flipping out in the lobby is good business. I scheduled the appointment for the time when there would be the least amount of dog-traffic - at 8:30 in the morning. I dug into Ula's stash of extra good hot dogs (Ula is my ARLP side action). Rubi hasn't needed really high value treats for training lately, but in a new place close to other dogs, I wasn't about to be stingy with the good stuff. My car has been in the shop, so I had to drop The Voice of Reason off at work before we went to the vet. If I were a really good dog owner, I would've exercised the hell out of my dog before taking her out. This would have meant getting up at 5:00 am. Sorry folks, I'm just not that good. Instead, after dropping Zach off at work, we went to Bruegger's Bagels for some coffee and people watching.
Every once in a while, it hits me how far Rubi has come in the last few months. Remember this picture?
That is Rubi when we first started working on behavior from inside the car. And this is Rubi before her vet visit:
I think her eyes are where it's easiest to see the difference. They're much softer now than before. Her ears aren't as forward and tight, and she's not as tense in general. No forehead wrinkles, either. And, oh yeah, now she lays down and looks at me instead of obsessively watching out the windows. That, Mr. Sheen, is what it actually means to be "winning."
She even held it together pretty well when a dog walked right next to the car. She would've done much better if I hadn't've been fumbling around trying to grab treats while not spilling my coffee. In my defense, the snow bank was taller than the dog, and neither of us saw him coming until he was right on top of us.
Whoops, lesson learned.
We managed to time it just right into the vet's office; we checked in, hopped on the scale, and into an exam room without seeing another dog. Fun fact: according to Rubi's papers from 2009, she weighed 94 lbs. Today, she weighs 52. Brings a whole new meaning to the flying pig collar, doesn't it?
I was sensible enough to bring Rubi's mat with us to the appointment. Are you tired yet of seeing pictures of Rubi settling on her mat? 'Cause here's another one:
Complete with hip bump. Oh, yeah.
I could go on and on about how she acted around the other dogs, but I think that play by play, it was actually pretty boring. We didn't go head to head with anyone. Rubi was a little worried about the dog that was barking right outside out door, but as you can see from the next picture, she wasn't insane worried.
She did whine a bit, but I've decided that so long as she does what I ask of her and isn't screaming, yodeling, wailing, or otherwise making people think I beat her, I'm okay with a little whining. It seems to go away as she gets more comfortable, and so I hope it will diminish with time. Rubi did listen very nicely, and behaved decently enough for the vet and the tech to comment on how well trained she is. I'm extremely glad I thought to bring her mat. It was really handy to be able to do the relaxation protocol while we were waiting to be seen. Plus, I could put her on the mat and not have to worry about what she was doing while I talked to the vet. A few times, I think it took all the impulse control she had to stay on the mat, but that's what hot dogs are for, right?
The one issue that did crop up was that Rubi does not like to be restrained. She's not vicious about it - just squirmy. It upsets her. I actually knew about this quirk, but it slipped my mind what with all the other quirks we've been working on. She doesn't mind being hugged or picked up; she's specifically bothered by the veterinarian hold where her body is against the person with an arm across her neck and one under her belly. So I'll counter condition that a bit and see if we can't keep her a little more relaxed next time.
And hopefully next time is a long time away.