After an early run, our Saturday morning was spent traversing the mall moving through a series of practical challenges set up by our OccuPaws trainers. They involved riding an elevator, walking the food court, handling various distractions, and calm greetings. I decided to save the seemingly easy challenges for last.
We sped off to the elevator challenge, improvising a bit as we interacted with a few "real" children along our route. The elevator was noisier than most we have experienced, but not an issue after the initial surprise. The most difficult part was the wood floor on the second level. Obedience and skills like backing up are Monte's strong points and we completed them without issue.
This left the "easy" challenges, but the most difficult for my charge. They consisted of sitting at a bench while children rolled balls, greeting people, and interacting with a toy/food wielding child. As one of the trainers mentioned, "Monte is very aware of his surroundings." He is always on alert (visual, olfactory, aural), noticing every movement, enticing smells, and interesting sounds.
Back at home base, the other dogs were resting and Monte was alert to everything that was going on around him. At the end of the event, the observers provided feedback and Monte's negative behavior was singled out. Never one to disappoint, he provided a firsthand demonstration of his canine meltdown for all to witness. I worked through my internal protocol to remedy the situation as quickly as possible. Apparently not quick or effective enough, we were whisked away for counseling. I did receive some expert insight regarding how to deal with the situation - notice/resolve it before it becomes critical and if that fails remove him from the situation.
Opposed to working on obedience skills for an hour a day when it's convenient, raising Monte is a 16x7 job, every waking moment provides a potential situation. It's as time consuming and stressful as housebreaking a puppy (for twelve months). Since he is always "on alert", we need to monitor his energy and provide correction continually - sometimes we tire or forget. Based on my challenge experience, I wasn't as observant as I needed to be, didn't provide proper correction, nor was I able to quickly identify a hopeless situation. It was not a good day.
Sunday was better. I worked hard, watching his energy and response to prey, on our morning walk. On only a couple occasions did his energy spike. In the afternoon, we stopped to work on the playground equipment before taking him to the football field to run. He amazingly returns to HEEL after a minute to check in. He is a smart dog and deserves the best.