Who's a Good Dog?


Leave a comment

At the Market

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Didn’t have a photo from the market to accompany this post, but here’s Arlo giving a tongue flick (stress signal) in response to my camera.

Arlo can be anxious when he meets other dogs, especially ones he doesn’t know—I think he’s conflicted: he wants to meet them and he doesn’t.   This is not a huge problem, but it is something I’d like to change so that both of us can relax a bit when we’re out in public.   We started inside (with help from our trainer) with CC/DS to a stuffed dog, then reinforcing him for check-ins, then CC/DS with real dogs outside but at a distance, then reinforcing for check-ins with actual dogs first at a distance and then gradually a little closer.  He’s been doing well on walks in our neighborhood, so for the past two weeks, I’ve been working with him at the Farmer’s Market, where there is always a good chance of seeing other dogs. We don’t actually go in to the market area—he’s not ready for that. Instead, we stay in the area across the street so he can see other dogs, but we have good distance and plenty of room to get outta Dodge if necessary. And because it’s a new environment, I’ve gone back to just CC/DS.

The first session went well. The most recent one was less successful, possibly because there was another dog there who was very stressed and barking at all the other dogs. Arlo heard the other dog before he saw him and immediately started whining and worrying. Then he barked at an adorable little dog coming toward us who didn’t even give us a second look.   (This kind of escalation is also known as trigger stacking.)  I needed to get him out of the situation ASAP, so he and my husband took a walk around the block, well away from the stressed out dog and all of the commotion while I did some quick shopping. Interestingly, although they ran into other dogs on their walk, once Arlo was away from the stressed out dog, he was ok. Our walk home was uneventful, so in spite of a rough start, we were able to end on a good note.

I felt sorry for the little dog, though. His owner was oblivious—even laughing at his dog’s stress. He probably didn’t realize the dog was uncomfortable. At least I hope he didn’t.

I love that people can bring dogs to the Farmer’s Market. It’s lovely to see dogs enjoying an outing with their humans. It’s lovely that people want to have their dogs with them, not to mention that we have a dog-friendly Farmer’s Market. But not all dogs enjoy these outings. And I say that as a person with a dog for whom the Market is overwhelming. I hope that with support and training, Arlo will improve, but I also realize he may never be comfortable there.

Another thing I observed at the Market—dogs on choke chains and prong collars. I hate those things, and I wish people would stop using them. Fortunately, there is a lot of information available about the dangers of these devices, and I’ve included some resources at the end of this post.

But if you only read this post: understand that if pinch and prong collars “work” (prevent a dog pulling on the leash), it’s because they hurt the dog. Period. And what concerns me about dogs on these collars in a public space like the Farmer’s  Market is that the collars are adding pain and stress to dogs in what is already a highly stressful environment. So dogs who tolerate the environment are actually learning to associate something negative (pain around the neck) with the environment, and especially with meeting new people (including children) and dogs. And of course dogs who are already anxious about the environment are being made to feel even worse about it. For either kind of dog, these collars are not, in the long run, doing any kind of good. They may make it possible to take a dog to the Farmer’s Market on a given day, but there are costs: pain and the possible association of people and other dogs with that pain.

Also understand that most dogs do not “naturally” walk politely on a leash, especially in a place as distracting as the Farmer’s Market. Neither of my dogs initially had great leash manners—I had to teach them. And that’s how I know that there is better equipment available for teaching leash walking and that doesn’t harm the dog. Two of my favorites are the Freedom Harness and the Ruffwear Front Range Harness.

Apparently when A. was walking Arlo, a woman stopped and asked lots of questions about his harness (he was wearing the Front Range harness).  I hope she was convinced to try it out, or one like it.

Sources and Resources:

“Choke and Prong Collars,” positively.com

“Fallout from the Use of Aversives,” eileenanddogs.com

“Prong Collars,” Glasgow Dog Trainer

Steinker, Angelika and Niki Tudge,“Choke and Prong Collars: Health Concerns Call for Change of Equipment in Dog Training,”


Leave a comment

Dear B&A

arlo

Dear B&A,

I see you’ve bought us a new quilt.  I’m not sure why we needed one–to be honest, it seems like I only just got the old one broken in the way I like it.  You know, with the right blend of dog hair, muddy paw prints and holes.  But you have your reasons, I’m sure.  Just wanted you to know that I’ll get to work asap breaking this one in too.  Should only take a few weeks.

Sincerely,

Arlo


Leave a comment

Inside Games for Bad Weather Days

The dogs and I are taking a great online class through Fenzi Dog Sports Academy called Stir Crazy.  It’s taught by Donna Hill and focuses on games you can play in small spaces–like in your living room when it’s raining outside.  Here’s a clip of Arlo, Katie and me playing one of the body awareness games.  I thought it would be a good post for Force-Free Friday.  The idea is for the dog to go around and through the cones without touching them.  At nearly 4 years old, Arlo is still wiggly enough that this game is a bit of a challenge.  But Katie is older, calmer, and more experienced, and she had no trouble at all.  I cleared out most of the furniture in the living room and used ring gates to create an “audience” area for the non-working dog.  (I had to revise that plan a bit after Arlo figured out how to get around the gate and ask whether it was his turn again.) One of the really nice features of the course is that the games are suitable for dogs with a range of abilities.  My senior girl Katie who has some mobility issues has been able to do everything so far.  You can see from the dogs’ body language on the video that they’re both having a really good time.  Ditto for me.


Leave a comment

Saturday activities

I had a long to-do list yesterday which included a bath for Arlo.  Fortunately, he’s a dog who enjoys his bath.  I say fortunately because he can be sensitive to some kinds of handling (nail trims, for example).  But baths–no problem.  Not sure whether that’s luck or because before there were baths, there was his pool, which he loves.  I.e., when we set up for a bath and he sees us fill the pool (maybe) he doesn’t think, ugh a bath, but yay! I get to play in my pool!

My favorite part of that clip might actually be Katie (who does not enjoy baths) quietly slinking away.  If there were a thought bubble above her head, it might say Don’t mind me.  I’ll just sit over here in the shade while you wash that other dog.  He really needs it.

Hard to argue with Katie.  I wouldn’t want to get that heavy coat wet either.  Although she did give me a heart attack once when we were walking on the beach by rushing headlong into the ocean and dropping out of site.  At that point, I had no idea whether she could swim, so of course I followed her in (wearing all of my clothes).  As it turned out, she was a great swimmer, and after a few seconds her little head popped up and there she was doggy paddling like a pro.  So for Katie, swimming in the ocean–yes, please.  But baths–no thanks. I honestly don’t know whether Arlo enjoys a bath, or doesn’t notice he’s getting one because he’s focused on splashing around in his pool.  But, here he is post bath looking pretty pleased with himself. bath2 Meanwhile in the garden:  it was a stormy week, and I appreciated the break from watering.  Two weekends ago, I did a major clean-out of the strawberry bed, which is now prepped for next year.  strawberries I actually hadn’t realized you can’t just let strawberries be.  At the end of each season, they need to be “mowed” (cut back) and thinned out.  I’m guessing my failure to do that was one reason why this year’s harvest was lighter than in previous years.  And since my clean-out I’m seeing lots of new growth.  Go strawberries! Except for peppers, which were a bust, this year’s garden has so far been really productive.  We were eating peas and snow peas until this week.  And kale and lettuce have been producing like crazy.  And raspberries.  Garlic is looking ready–maybe this week.  After that beans and potatoes.  And then tomatoes. photo 4