Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ren Fest

This weekend was the pet fair at the Michigan Renaissance Festival.  We often try to attend the festival, but haven’t been there for a few years.  This year, Dog Scouts was invited to have a booth as part of the pet fair, and we volunteered to help. 

Maebe ren fest We were assigned to a three-hour shift on Saturday afternoon with Cadence and Maebe helping us meet and greet the public.  I always like the chance to help out with an organization I believe in and was looking forward to it, yet had some anxiety as the date approached.  Of the four of us who were attending, Maebe is the only true extrovert.  The rest of us (Lowell, Cadence, and myself) certainly play nice with others and have reasonable social skills – none of us bite or are fear-reactive or anything ;-) - but we don’t often seek out interaction from strangers either.

Ren Fest also has its share of crowds – both people and animals – and lots of odd costumes, loud noises, weird sights, etc.  Maebe is pretty unflappable, and I was confident that Cade wouldn’t lose it or anything, but I was a little concerned that he might zone out mentally with too much stimulation.

dogs ren fest Happy to say, both dogs made me very proud.  They interacted politely and happily with a ton of people of all ages.  Cadence especially seems quite fond of young boys, something that I have observed a few times since he was a young puppy.  I was also pleased to see that he continues to have a very nice natural greeting behavior.  He doesn’t rush up to people, but when it is clear they want to pet him, he approaches and nicely sits next to them for chest scratches, and even nudges their hand should they stop.  I started to use the opportunity to get the greeting on a “go say hi” cue.

I admit we aren’t the best fundraisers.  Many DSA members have trained their dog to panhandle – meaning that they will retrieve a dollar from a stranger and deposit it in a bucket.  Django did this nicely in his panhandling days, but he seems to not enjoy these type of events any more so we let him stay at home.  Lowell worked with Maebe over the course of the day, and by the end of the afternoon she panhandled her first dollar.  I was able to shape Cade to put his mouth on the dollar, so I imagine by next time we will have some better fund-raising skills.  The bigger problem probably lay in our own discomfort in asking for donations but I think I have thought up a good spiel for next time that I will be comfortable with.  Still we brought in a few bucks and made a few sales.

Perhaps more importantly though, we were able to spread the DSA mission a bit, discussing the importance of responsible dog ownership and positive training methods.  We met some people who seemed very interested in the DSA activities and mentioned looking into camp, local troops, or just checking out the website for training help.  We had very nice conversations with a lot of pet owners, and it was nice, especially on the heels of a week filled with run-ins with people who give dog owners a bad name, to be reminded that there are a lot of good pet parents out there as well. 

It is also nice to be able to appreciate our dogs and their accomplishments and strengths.  Every week and every month, I write out my training goals for the days ahead, and the list of the behaviors I want to train or strengthen continues to grow and grow.  I also know a lot of people (mostly through DSA) who are exceptional trainers and whose dogs have an impressive array of talents.  It is easy to measure ourselves constantly against our desired goals or other people’s successes and to feel perpetually inadequate as a trainer, always striving for better.  It was nice to step back and view our dogs from the perspective of the normal pet-owning public and realize that we have raised some good little dog citizens.  Instead of just thinking about where I want my dogs to be, I was reminded to at the same time enjoy the process and to be pleased with the accomplishments we’ve made.

me and Cade ren fest

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