Today was good, again. Waiting for the other shoe to drop now--it probably will tomorrow, as tomorrow is the town's monthly Farmer's Market (which I'm going to investigate, as I've never been to it before and I'm hoping it's as cool as it should be), so I expect it'll be busy in town. I know such a short space of time since we've started this more intensive training scheme can't possibly yield causation results, but there does seem to be a correlation right now between the amount of work we're doing, and the results we're seeing.
We very nearly made it home without a single vocalisation. We were playing down-stay and release games on the last two minutes home, as I was down to about three pieces of food and didn't want to not reward Lola for LLW (whereas a release from a stay, in order to be 'allowed' to run to me, is often reward enough for Lola and her stays - though obviously I don't just rely on that reward only). Lola was in a much more excited state, as when we're working on don't-bark-at-people, right now we're working on keeping everything calm--Lola's nature makes her want to bark, bark, bark when she's excited. A woman was knelt in front of my neighbour's front door; Lola saw her the same instant I did, and, from the sounds of her growl (very much a 'I don't like this' growl - the same thing she does if she's worried about a sound from next door, or a bin bag blowing across the roof opposite us when in my mother's bedroom, etc), she was taken aback by this Weird Thing.
My pup is quite in tune to what "is correct"--by her limited, doggy standards--so things like strange woman crouched in front of doors, people limping toward us, people in those motorised wheelchair-esque things, etc, are all going to rub her up the wrong way.
However, when I was at my door (the woman was still there, she didn't go until a few minutes after we'd gone in - I was watching, wondering what she was doing), Lola jumped up onto the wall. She looked at the woman, and then seemed to decide that, no, it wasn't a Strange Horrific Monster, but just a woman, and looked back at me. I rewarded her and we went inside.
She is still quite anxious about people, at the moment (lots of avoidance), but she definitely seems to be starting to see that turning to me rather than freaking out when she's startled or overwhelmed is worth it. A man walked past, about a metre away, in a hi-vis jacket carrying a huge plank of wood on his shoulder--I didn't see him until he was parallel to me, and I first noticed him from the fact I was watching Lola: she focused on something, paused for a second, and then glanced up at me. I rewarded her liberally for making the right choice.
At one point, early in the walk, there were a couple of prams heading our way (I'm still very much trying to make children and prams, especially, a really great thing, because a lot of her reactivity towards people started with and is worst around kids), so I manouevered us out of the way, onto a sloped platform that leads nobody knows where. A man stopped behind me, and I could see him out of the corner of my eye. He kept moving--it seemed, to get closer to Lola--and I was watching him through my hair and deliberately sidestepping to keep him away from Lola. She was a little stressed, but continually looked at me, rather than lunging past to get rid of the strange man.
After a couple of seconds, I realised he wasn't going to go away. I quickly scooped Lola up, practically hugging the wall to keep her away from him, and pulled around to face him (and the direction I'd originally been headed in). He, oddly enough, reached out for Lola with one hand and gestured with another to the clicker I was holding.
"Is that a clicker?"
Somewhat bemused, I just sort of stepped back away, said that yes it was, and furthermore that my dog didn't like strangers. I'm still not sure what to make of the interaction--if he knew what a clicker was (i.e. a training tool), why was he interfering so much? It seemed strange.
On the plus side, over the last couple of days I've been getting some nice feelings and looks from people. I'm mostly ignorant to the stares and mutters (from people who are probably wondering, 'why is this strange girl clicking at me?!'), but a couple of times I've definitely noticed some--generally older women--smiling at me and saying amongst themselves that Lola is really well-behaved, and that we're obviously working hard training. It makes me smile, too.
Today (and a little yesterday), I've also been making our morning town-sessions a little harder. Since she is much more reactive when people "suddenly" appear, quite a few times I had her stand in doorways, so she only saw people basically as they entered the space of a few metres she could see. I shovelled treats in her mouth to begin with, and within two or three of these little trials, she was quickly looking back to me when startled.
We had our "usual" session sat on my wall, too, today. I had Lola facing the correct way, and the difference in her overall startling and looking away from the kong was astounding. She is so much more relaxed when not watching people coming in and out of the gates--probably because the high concentration of parents and children at the gates (who only pass our house in threes or fours at most, generally, as a lot of them get into cars or go another way) makes it more overwhelming for her. She glanced up at a dog once, at a couple of shouting kids - and each time went back to her kong without fuss. Ideally, I'd like to get her down to barely startling at all, or even not at all, before school breaks for summer, but since I'm not sure when that is I don't know if it will be possible.