Training rule #6: Take precautions.
Training rule #7: Praise baby steps.
Last month, to better prepare Rainy for doing agility, I decided to expose her to as many new situations as I could. I started by introducing her to the great adventure of our front porch and then encouraged her to explore the stairs and sidewalk. I also began inviting more visitors over to see her. With the start of a new month, I decided it was time to venture beyond our yard.
Day #1: I took Rainy to a nearby park in a pet stroller. When we got there, I clipped a leash to her harness and took her out of the stroller to let her explore. Despite my feeding her treats, Rainy immediately found a bench to hide under. I picked up both her and the treats. Then I sat with her on a bench. Rainy nibbled at treats in my hands, all the while staying alert to the world around her. She’s a cautious cat, which isn’t necessarily bad; her caution keeps her near me and the stroller While we sat, a man strolled by, then stopped to glance back at us. “Is that a cat?” he asked. When I said yes, he told me that he takes his cat to the park too. His cat is old and loves the outdoors. He left and a family came along. The two children pointed and exclaimed, “A cat!” No one came over to pet Rainy, the way they would have if I’d had our dog with me, but from their excitement I could. Next another man walked by. He stared and then laughed, but he said, “Have a good day!” And you know what? We did. Rainy and I soaked in the sunlight and enjoyed the glorious bright and warm day.
Day #2: One of my training rules is to build on success. For that reason, I headed back to the park with Rainy. We were assaulted with a lot of chatter even before we reached the park entrance. Two large families passed us, with kids who once again acted happy or perhaps amazed to see a cat at the park. At the first bench, I took Rainy out and put her on my lap. Another of my training rules is to provide high incentives. Today I brought goat cheese. I didn’t even try to hand feed her, but just let her stick her tongue into the container. Although her body trembled at all the commotion going on, Rainy did relax enough to eat her treats. And while she ate, I caught up on phone calls. When I was done, I put Rainy on the grass. She just sat and looked at me. I tried multiple places and got the same reaction. I respected her stress and brought her back to the bench. Unlike the day before, however, this time Rainy didn’t dive under the bench. Instead she climbed up on it and looked around. I smiled and sat beside her. Baby steps!