dog lying down outside looking away from the camera
Sirius practicing a down at the National Arboretum

When I left the house Saturday morning and spotted the sun, I admit I did a bit of a doubletake. What was that? After so many straight days of rain, it was easy to forget that the sun would be coming back again eventually. Since we did get lucky with some beautiful weather this past weekend, we decided to take advantage of it by going to the National Arboretum on Sunday for a walk.

If you live in the DC area and haven’t been to the Arboretum, it’s well worth the trip. It’s very family- and dog-friendly, but still has plenty of wide open places if you want to avoid getting too close to other people. Usually. That was less true than normal on Sunday, as the combination of sunny weather and Mother’s Day had the Arboretum more full than I think I have ever seen it.

If you are working on the basics of training your dog to be comfortable around lots of people, or have a reactive dog, it would not have been a good spot for you on Sunday. However, for Sirius, it was a perfect spot for a bit of Out-and-About training. At one point, we spent several minutes sitting on a bench slightly set back from the main trails. As my husband and I talked and just generally enjoyed the day, Sirius practiced his quiet down. Since we were walking a significant distance, I didn’t bring his mat. I also chose not to worry about a relaxed down, since there were numerous other dogs walking around us at unpredictable intervals.

Practicing outside, especially in a public area, is more challenging than practicing inside. A few tips for practicing a quiet or relaxed down in a public area:

  1. Build on previous training. If your dog doesn’t have a good relaxed down in the house or other quiet areas, work on that first and work on more active training in other areas.
  2. Be aware of your surroundings. If you aren’t able to find a secluded area, or even if you think you have, you need to stay aware of what’s going on around you. A person or animal that gets close to and startles your dog will setback your training.
  3. Have reasonable expectations. The fact that your dog can stay for ___ length of time in the house, doesn’t mean he or she can do so in a public area. Keep your expectations reasonable for the environment and be ready to adjust them as needed.

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