On Leash and No One Died

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Today we worked on leash walking. Mostly because it’s Saturday and the human was too lazy to go anywhere super fun.

It’s all good though. There are actually plenty of nearby places to go for a lovely walk. I just choose to hardly ever go to those places as leashes are generally required and I do choose to be polite to others by not unleashing my unruly creatures upon them.

Youke and Brady got to go one place just down the road, and Camm and Jaz got to go to another just a spot further down the road. In addition to lots of good sniffing, all dogs got to experience various triggers and no one exploded and no one died.

Actually, now that I think more about this, I guess I’m usually being lazy and today I was not so much. The truth is, I think one of the best things for dogs is to run off leash, sniff freely and wantonly and explore at their own pace, as long as that pace is within eye and earshot. Brady, I’m talking to you.

Walking a dog on leash in a suburban setting, to me, means management of some sort. Taking my dogs out and about pretty much anywhere on a weekend, even off leash, also means likely management. This is why most of the time, we’re out and about off leash in some less than desirable location, at some off-peak time, and on a weekday.

I opted to split the four into groups of two.

The boys and I went a few miles down the road to a local park. It’s actually a favorite spot and when Youke was a puppy, he did a lot of playing, walking and socializing there. It’s also one of the first places where he ever chased a ball down. I taught Youke to walk nicely off leash at this park and it’s all that practice we did that makes me trust him nearly implicitly. Today though, was all about the leash.

Surprisingly, the park was fairly quiet in terms of walkers and dogs. There was a large event or gathering in a pavilion in one corner of the park, but the trails themselves were nearly empty. I let the two boys sniff as much as they wanted to and used that interest and curiosity as a relief and reward when I saw the first set of people and dogs walk toward us. One of the dogs that walked by was a toy breed and Brady actually adores small dogs. The other was a larger mutt and Brady whined slightly, but the novelty of a place that we rarely go won him over. He decided he wasn’t that interested. It also helped that I was able to get off the main trail by a good 15 feet. Next up was a couple walking a Briard, off leash. This is a nice park though and the people saw my two were leashed, so they clipped up their own dog. Thank you!

As that was happening I made the dog out and knew he’d be a trigger for Brady, and possibly for Youke. Anything large and slightly weird-looking is a trigger for Brady. More “normal” dogs such a Golden Retrievers. Labradors, some German Shepherds, etc., can also be triggers, but I’ve learned it’s really more about the energy the dog projects and how they carry themselves. I’ve gotten really good at reading those factors before Brady usually even sees the dog ahead.

Therefore, before Brady could even get a look at the dog, we reversed course, walked a little way down the way we came and then stepped into an area where I could take the dogs off the trail back for about 15 feet. Apparently it was a good spot as both Youke and Brady began fervently sniffing about. The couple with the Briard walked past and we said hello to each other. Brady watched them walk by, but kept a loose leash, was quiet and was more curious than concerned. A big win.

Another thing I’ve learned is that my dogs are more likely to relax if I ring out a greeting to whomever is going by. There have been times when I feel like a complete idiot, singing out a cheery “hello” to everyone I see, but it works. It works especially well for Jasmine and Camm, both of whom tend to be a bit more suspicious at times of people.

Brady also saw a little boy walking along with his father. Brady adores little kids.

Camm does not share that same adoration of small, not fully formed humans.

After I dropped the boys off back home, I loaded up the two girls and took them to a local state park. The park seemed fairly crowded as first, but once we took to some trails, found most people were at the beach and picnic areas.

However. no sooner had we turned down a path I felt fairly certain would be deserted, when I saw riding toward us an entire family of cyclists. I proactively stepped off the side of the trail and took the girls into some brush. They thought that was quite grand as they’d not spotted the bikers yet and started exploring for small critters. Luckily, by the time the family had advanced, the girls were pretty engaged in sniffing about. That is, until Camm head the sound of the children’s voices. Both bicyclists and children are huge causes for concern in Camm’s world. The combination of the two could possibly make her head explode. So I talked softly to her, agreeing all the time that this was quite the annoying intrusion on our walk, but also assuring her that they’d be gone soon. Jasmine decided not to bark, but Camm couldn’t help herself, although the barks were short and not terribly loud.

The girls really didn’t care much about anyone else they saw on the walk, including a gangly teenage black Lab trying to pull his person over to say hello to us. I just took the girls in a very wide circle around him to avoid his advances. I’m pretty sure Camm though he was simply beneath her recognition. She glanced his way, and then proceeded to pointedly ignore him.

The girls were also super polite to a kindly older lady picking blackberries. That strategy paid off – they were offered some of the fruits of her labor. I declined the offer before she could witness their conversion into shrieking she-devils. Jasmine often seems to think she needs to emphasize a meeting with strangers by barking. While if she likes someone it’s an exuberant but loud bark, it also sets Camm off and they were both being so sweet and polite, I decided not to ruin the moment.

Although none of the outings were terribly long or physical, they were different, and different can tire a brain out. Now everyone is tired and relaxed and it looks like a curling up on the couch with a book and watching a movie night.

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