It’s the 4th of July weekend and a celebratory one for us humans. However, in a dog’s life it’s probably one of the most stressful. With lots of people, cars, dogs, fireworks, parades and all sorts of new and exciting noises surrounding us, you can’t blame them for being a bit stressed.
This past week has been a ruff one for the dogs (and their people) in my neighborhood. In two days, three dogs got off their leash and ran free on our busy street. One got hit by a car (and is doing fine now, thank God) and the other two decided to attack my little boy Bloo and in the process I got a big ole dog bite (or two) that is now sporting nice shade of purple. Luckily my leg will heal and all dogs involved are fine.
It’s just a reminder that this time of year can be a stressful one for our pets, it’s a time I like to call, Dogmageddon.
I’ve had my loving beast for almost two years now and we have learned so many things together. He has learned to catch a frisbee like nobody’s business, he’s learned to sit, stay, find it, leave it, touch, come, jump through a hula hoop and fetch a stick.
The one thing that escapes us is walking nicely on a leash. Walking Bloo is not only a work out on my legs because nothing less than hiking to a top of a mountain tires him out, but it’s also a workout on my arms. As soon as I open up the door to go out, he takes off like a bat out of hell only he has a person attached to the other end of the leash. If I don’t hold on for dear life, I fear I might find myself on the ground and being dragged like a draft-horse pulling trees.
So tonight, I have been doing some research on how to teach a dog how to walk with a loose leash and I thought I’d share in case you too have been working out your arms walking your dog.
As you probably know, Bloo is a rescue. I rescued him from a kill shelter in South Carolina and he came with a slew of issues as most shelter dogs do. I don’t know what happened before he met me but whatever it is made him a very frightened dog.
Most dogs learn to be fearful and reactive and are not born with it. There are some things we do as their owners that contribute to their reactivity and encourages them to continue their behavior.
For example, dogs bark when there is a change in their surroundings. One change might be the mailman walking onto our porch to deliver the mail. Bloo hears this and starts barking. In his eyes, his barking worked. The mailman came, heard him bark and left. A job well done. Continue reading →
Bloo and I have been together now for a year and a half. During our time together we’ve been working diligently on his separation anxiety, reactivity and basic dog manners. He has come a long way.
When I first got Bloo I couldn’t walk him on a leash near people, dogs, squirrels, cyclists or anything moving basically, without him lunging, barking and pretty much going nuts. It made for some stressful walks for both of us.
In the last year though, through repetition and lots of patience, we have made loads of progress. We can now walk down the street on a leash while runners run by, cyclists ride by and people walk close to us. We still get a bit distracted by squirrels, in Bloo’s defense they are just asking to be chased. We also still have some work to do when we see other dogs on a leash.
Bloo and I can attest to the rumor that rescue dogs don’t know how to play. I know it sounds weird. I mean how can a dog not know how to play tug, fetch or ball? Doesn’t that just come with being a dog?
But when I first got my pooch, this was one thing among many, he just didn’t know.
Because I don’t have kids, I will admit, Bloo has become my surrogate child. I love him that much. Which is why I am doing everything in my power to give him the best life I can. But as our dog trainer reminds us, he’s still a dog and needs to act like one.
So aside from teaching him how to sit, stay, give me five, and come on command, I had to teach him how to play like a dog. And, like anything, it has taken a lot of time.
All our work seems to be paying off though. Now, not only does Bloo play tug, but he also plays fetch. He’ll fetch it, bring it back and drop it so I can throw it again. Here’s proof:
I could be biased but my dog is smart. He learns quickly and gets bored easily. So our trainer says he’s needs a job. Unfortunately, not the kind of job that makes any money. Bloo needs a job that occupies his mind and uses his instincts.
Since he doesn’t play very often (he never actually learned how to play as a puppy), I needed to come up with something for him to do around the house. Both to occupy his mind and help him expel some of his energy.
If you think about it, dogs in the wild don’t eat their food out of a bowl. They sniff it out and forage for it. So we have changed our breakfast and dinner regime to give Bloo the opportunity to sniff out his food and find it.
When Bloo and I first met we were inseparable. We went everywhere together. Mostly because when I would leave for just a few minutes he’d bark, whine, and rip apart my roommates blinds or my friend’s garbage. He’d pace through the house and pant profusely at just the mere thought of me putting on my shoes. And when I returned, even if only gone for 30 seconds, he’d jump all over me as if I had been gone for weeks.
Needless to say, it was stressful for us both. Though I had gained a loving family member I had lost a social life.
I realized this wasn’t sustainable so I started to do some serious research on separation anxiety. What I learned was that this was pretty common in shelter dogs and luckily it is treatable. Continue reading →