Phoebe is on her fifth week of obedience class, and she has been doing so well.

One of the trainers taught us he how to help Phoebe remain calm when she runs across another dog, or gets excited when she sees a person. Phoebe’s exuberance is an area we need to work on, since the ability to remain calm under crazy circumstances is crucial to becoming a therapy dog. While there is no such thing as a therapy dog class, the trainer happens to be a tester for Therapy Dogs International. Ever since we told her about our goal for Phoebe, she has been sneaking in little  tips.

Rule number 1: No jumping. If a dog jumps as a greeting, the test is over. Fail. Goodbye.

Phoebe is like a little jumping bean, so if she is excited and does not jump, it is a great achievement – baby steps.

Anyway, the trainer recommended that we turn around in a little circle to distract Phoebe when she opts to focus on another dog or person, instead of listening to commands.  Today that little hint paid off.

There is a little yappy dog down the street. The owner brings him out every day, and they hang out in the front yard – it seems like that is their bonding time. At first Phoebe was afraid of the little dog, but over time she has become less tolerant.  I certainly do not look forward to the little bark-match that occurs every time we walk by.

The route for today’s walk took us past the yappy dog. As we got near, I was relieved to see that no one was around. As soon as I finished my little happy thought, I heard the churning of a garage door opening. Dang! Yappy dog was coming out for his daily lawn outing.

Phoebe started to whine, so I tried the little circle routine and her sit as we came around to facing forward again. She was sitting before she had a chance to realize that she had entered the zone of her nemesis. The good news is that she stayed sitting, and quiet, despite any, urges she may have had. I did this for two reasons: I wanted Phoebe to learn to remain calm in the face of frustration and, well, I wanted to show off in front of yappy dog’s owner.

Phoebe came through with flying colors. She sat at the edge of yappy dog’s yard and when I said. “Let’s go” she walked by as if her poop didn’t stink. I was so proud of her.

Oddly enough, for the first time that I have seen, yappy dog’s owner actually took action and tried to get yappy to behave. Maybe he is starting to realize that his little guy can use a few manners.

You go, Phoebe! Today was a milestone; the first step towards being a therapy dog.