Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Catching Sothlice with his Paw in the PetSafe Fishbowl

Sothlice has been feeling a little neglected this summer. Rye's been having regular playdates with her friends and Barley's been getting some solo adventures, but Soth hasn't had anything special lately. He expressed his need for excitement when he escaped from our yard a couple weeks ago and I spent 30 minutes searching for him before I found him in our neighbor's yard. 

Thankfully, our friends at Chewy.com gave us the chance to try out the PetSafe Fishbowl Cat Feeder Toy. The fishbowl is a bowl with a weighted bottom and a rim around the edge. The cat needs to reach in and "fish" for pieces of kibble. I use puzzle feeders with the girls when they've been cooped up too much and need a little extra enrichment, so I thought Soth should have a chance for some extra enrichment, too.

The fishbowl arrived with Rye's Nerf toy, so Rye thought it was definitely for her. Once I wrestled it away from her, though, I was excited to fill it up and see what Soth thought.

The fishbowl comes in an easy to open package--but not so easy that Rye could figure it out.

I put some of Soth's kibbles inside the fishbowl and set it on the table so his nosy sisters wouldn't bother him. He sniffed at it and then walked away.


The fishbowl came with some training instructions and it suggested letting the cat get used to the fishbowl by placing food around it. We've used similar training techniques with the girls, so I thought if I put some kibbles on the rim, maybe Soth would grab those and then want to investigate the kibbles inside the bowl.


I thought wrong. 


The instructions also suggested setting the fishbowl in the cat's regular bowl. When Barley and I left for agility, I decided to try that. By the time we'd gotten home, the fishbowl had been knocked off Soth's feeding table and was upside down on the kitchen floor with the kibbles trapped beneath it. I guess my hangry guy was not amused at having to work for his dinner.

Eventually, Soth got the hang of the fishbowl and occasionally I'd hear the sound of his paw rooting around in the fishbowl. As soon as I got the camera out, though, he'd stop. I had to be extra sneaky to get some footage of his using the fishbowl. After several days of trying, I was doing dishes and heard Soth fishing for kibbles. I grabbed the phone and zoomed in, so the video quality isn't great, but you can't be picky when your subject is so elusive. 

video

Since then, I've filled the fishbowl with Soth's kibbles and he's emptied it--but never when I'm watching. I can't decide if Soth actually likes the fishbowl or if he's just using it because he wants food. 

Here are some things that I like about the fishbowl, though: 
  • It stands up to the chaos of our house. Even after its 3-ft+  drop from the top of Soth's feeding table, there isn't a single crack in it. Rye has also picked it up a few times and there are a few discolored spots where she left little teeth marks in the rim, but nothing terrible.
  • It makes Soth work for food. Weight has always been a struggle for Soth. He lives to eat. He gets destructive when he sees his bowl is empty and I don't fill it up quickly enough. This slows him down a bit so that we don't have to argue about whether he really needs more food and so I don't have to explain to him that I cannot reward him for knocking a jar of peanut butter off the counter by refilling his bowl. 
Sometimes I forget that Soth could use some enrichment in his life, too, especially since Rye requires so much attention right now. Soth might not be happy that we tried out the Fishbowl Cat Feeder toy, but I think it's a great product that makes mealtime a little more interactive than just filling up the bowl and walking away.

Disclaimer: We were sent one PetSafe Fishbowl Cat Feeder from Chewy.com in exchange for our honest opinion as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program. 




Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Taking Advantage of Summer with Nerf Dog

When summer vacation rolls around, I relish the days of spending as much time with Barley and Rye as I want. Summer is all about fun and adventure with my girls (and napping with Soth while I prepare for more fun).

Summer days involve time with Rye's new pool.


We also enjoy relaxing with a good book and a good beer.



No summer day is complete without a ball game, though. When our friends at Chewy.com gave us a chance to review the Nerf Dog Tennis Ball Blaster, we knew it would be the perfect way to round out our summer plans.


Rye was excited about the blaster from the moment I got it out of the box. She danced around while I cut it out of the packaging. She continued her dance while I read the directions on the back of the packaging. 

The blaster comes with a tennis ball, but it works with any standard sized tennis ball. It can launch the ball up to 50 feet, but you can adjust how far you shoot it easily. You can also load it putting the ball in by hand or you can stick the blaster over the ball on the ground and avoid having to pick up a slimy tennis ball.

I was sure that Rye would love this toy. She gets so excited about playing fetch and she was already so excited about the blaster before I got it out of the packaging that I was sure she'd take off after it the first time I shot the blaster. If you follow us on Facebook, then you know this isn't what happened. 

Rye was still really excited about the blaster, but she didn't even register that the ball had gone flying. I was a little worried she'd be scared by the noise the blaster made, so I gave her a treat when she came up to me after I shot it. We tried 5 times, but she still just bounced around me and couldn't figure out why I wasn't throwing the ball. The next day, we tried again. I acted like I was throwing while I shot the blaster with the other hand--and Rye got it!

video

Barley had absolutely no interest in the blaster, but Rye thinks it's a lot of fun now that she's learned how to use it.



We found the Nerf Dog Tennis Ball Blaster easy to use and a lot of fun to play with. It does make some noise when you shoot it, so it wouldn't be the best toy of a noise-sensitive dog, but for dogs like Rye, it's a great way to change up your typical game of fetch. 

Disclaimer: We were given a Nerf Dog Tennis Ball Blaster from Chewy.com as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program in exchange for our honest review. 




Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Roadingtripping with Barley and Rye--Vermont Trails

In addition to visiting breweries on our roadtrip, the girls and I spent plenty of time on trails in Vermont as well.

We'd done a lot of research on different trails before leaving home. I'd bought a book about the best trails for dogs in Vermont--and after reading a description that said, " The summit has a noisy reputation on weekends and holidays due to barking dogs and occasional dog fights," I left the book at home. I figured any book that promoted a trail that was known for dog fights occurring as one of the best trails in the state for dogs was not a book I wanted to trust and I used my own research skills to come up with plans.

When we struck out at Switchback Brewing while waiting for my sister to arrive, the girls and I decided to go visit one of the local parks near the apartment we were staying in. The first park we went to was Mills Riverside Park. We'd researched the park before we left home, so I knew that there was an off-leash dog area in the park and we knew which direction to go to avoid that area and there was still a drizzle and lots of mud, so I hoped we wouldn't have to share the park with many people. 



The trails were pretty muddy, so my little swamp thing was thrilled, but Barley and I were less excited about that development. Most of our walk involved walking until we got to a really muddy spot, then turning around, going down a new trail and then repeating. We got in 2.4 miles before the rain picked up a bit more and we headed back to check out our apartment for the weekend.

We're still working on selfies with all three of us.

After cleaning up and relaxing for a while, we tried another park, the Old Red Mill Park. With the rain and clouds, the woods were a little dark and the mud made things a bit slippery, so we just spent a few minutes enjoying the river.


Our favorite park was Shelburne Bay Park. We went to this park almost every day we were there. On Saturday morning, we went for the first time to kill time before picking my sister up from the airport. There were a lot of people and dogs there, so we spent plenty of time pulling off to the side of the trail while they passed us, but there are definitely worse places to sit along the trail.





Our favorite walk there was on Sunday morning. My sister had to be at the race shuttle by 5:30, so we got to the park a little before 6:00 and we had the whole park to ourselves. I'm not a morning person, so we're very rarely out that early in the day, but the sun was up and sparkling on the bay.

Sweet Potato Rye liked sticking her head into the dandelions. 





We walked over 4 miles and saw parts of the park we hadn't seen on our previous visit, and the dogs were completely worn out afterwards, so I didn't have to feel guilty when my sister and I left to go tour Ben and Jerry's and finish off our beer passports.

You know it's been a good walk when Rye puts herself to bed.


The girls got a little surprise from Ben and Jerry's, too. 

We finished up our weekend get away with one last trip to Shelburne Bay before we took my sister back to the airport and headed home.


Overall, it was a really good trip and we had a lot of fun. But in the end, there's no place like home and we're all enjoying be back on our familiar trails and with our lake. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Roadtripping with Barley and Rye--Vermont Breweries

The girls and I have finally recovered enough from a whirlwind trip to Vermont to be able to write about our adventures. 


I mentioned yesterday that we'd driven part way on Thursday so that we could get to VT about the same time as my sister. However, while Rye and I were struggling to go back to bed on Friday morning, my sister texted to tell me that flight had been canceled. After some back and forth with the airline, she eventually got on a fight that got her to VT on Saturday morning. 

One of our big plans for the weekend was to visit 6 different breweries to get a prize from the Vermont Brewer's passport challenge. We'd missed out on an afternoon of tasting, so in order to visit 6 breweries and do all of the other activities we'd planned, we had to get started right away. The girls and I picked up their Aunt L at the airport and drove straight to the Magic Hat Artifactory.  


Even though the website said that the brewery opened at 10, they didn't actually open until 11, so we went down the street to a park and took a quick walk. Magic Hat allows dogs in the tasting room, but not on the walking tour of the brewery, so we stayed in the tasting room and the girls had a blast. For the most part, the girls sprawled on the floor in front of the bar between me and Aunt L. Rye is excellent at her default down and she'll lounge if she's on-leash and I'm not paying attention to her. Barley, on the other hand, is convinced that someone should be paying attention to her at all times, so she occasionally shifted positions any time a new person entered to see if she could lure them over. Several other beer fans came over and pet the girls--surprisingly, Rye even let some of them get more than a drive-by petting. Barley befriended one of the brewery employees who told her that her name was perfect for a brewery dog and she practically crawled in his lap while he squatted beside her and gave her a good butt scritch. 


I've never found a Magic Hat beer that I loved--they always seem to underwhelm me, but this was by far our favorite brewery experience. The people behind the bar were so friendly and funny and the girls were so welcome and comfortable here.


After Magic Hat, we traveled into Burlington to checkout the waterfront and have lunch at the Vermont Pub and Brewery. This is where my anxiety went through the roof. First, we were stuck in traffic for ages--there was a farmer's market, which lead to road closures that upset my GPS and lots and lots of people wandering the streets (and not necessarily paying attention to crosswalks or don't walk signs). We also encountered several completely full parking lots and had to figure out a way out with other cars lining up behind us. When I get stressed in the car, Barley starts barking loudly, so that happened and I was ready to explode. Eventually, we found a parking garage and I pulled in and vowed never to leave until we were ready to be done exploring Burlington forever.

The garage was only .4 miles from the brewery, but it felt like it was a 10-mile walk. We had to weave through large groups of people with dogs and children--and there were no incidents. I'm not sure I breathed the entire time. If my sister wouldn't have been with us, we couldn't have done this, but she took Barley so I could hold onto Rye and we walked single file with Bar and Aunt L behind us. Bar pretty much kept her nose at my side, so any time we encountered a dog or child, I'd drop my hand down and stick a treat in her nose. We finally made it to the Vermont Pub and Brewery before I passed out from holding my breath. 


When we walked up, there were a ton of small round tables with people crowded in on top of each other. I was pretty sure we'd be able to order and appetizer and a sample of beer before the dogs were over the experience. I'm not sure what kind of magic my sister worked, but somehow when she went up to see if there was a dog-friendly table for us, the host took us around a corner to a large picnic table with a wall beside and behind us and several feet between us and the next table. They brought out a bowl of water and the girls laid down under the table. Rye wanted to look around and attracted the attention of a little boy--whose parents did not leave their table as he ran up to my dog. As long as I kept my hand on Bar's collar, she was fine (although I could feel a slight rumbling coming from her) and Rye humored the kid for a bit, but she eventually got tired of him and ducked under the table after barking at him (which still didn't prompt his parents to get up). I also wanted to bark at him because I couldn't hold Bar's collar and give Rye treats and drink my beer and eat my french fries at the same time. I don't think any of us were sad to see his parents finish their meal and get up to leave.


Our waitress was very sweet and asked if she could pet Rye before she took our order so that they'd be familiar with each other before she started bringing things to our table. Rye sniffed her and let her give her a couple pats. I assumed she didn't want to disturb Barley's nap under the table, but in reality Barley was so good and quiet that the waitress didn't even notice her! I left the girls with Aunt L while I ran into the bathroom, so the girls emerged from under the table to keep an eye out for my return, and when I got back, my sister told me the waitress had asked her if there had always been two dogs! 

My sister and I attempted to visit Otter Creek Brewing because they have Berners on the label and those faces look like Barley faces, so I wanted to get some beer swag with a little eyebrowed dog face on it. The Otter Creek website says that you can bring dogs, but that they have to be tied up outside of the patio area although you can get up from the table to check on them at any time. I knew the girls wouldn't be ok with that arrangement, so they stayed at the apartment while we drove over an hour to get there. Unfortunately, when we got there, they were closed for a private event, but we were able to get some bottles and cans at a craft beer store in another town so we could still try the beer.


We'll definitely be making some beer art out of this box!

The girls and I had tried to visit Switchback Brewing while we waited on my sister to make it to Vermont, but as soon as we opened the door, some off-leash dogs started running out the door to greet us with a person running behind us saying, "They're friendly!" We turned around and walked away because I knew that I wouldn't be able to enjoy any beer if I had to spend the whole time managing my dogs and other people's dogs. Thankfully, most people we encountered kept their dogs on-leash and as we walked through the crowded streets of Burlington, people even asked if it was ok for their dogs to say hi and listened when I said no.

There were a few other dog-friendly breweries we wanted to try, but after our Switchback experience, I didn't want to try them without my sister's help and we could only visit so many breweries in the 48 hours we had together. (We did manage to get the 6 we needed to get our prize!) After their two Vermont brewery visits, my little brew dogs both have 3 breweries on their list of life experiences and I think we're all looking forward to adding more to that list!

 Stay tuned for our next post on more traditional dog experiences--the Vermont trails!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Roadtripping with Barley and Rye--Utica, NY

Several months ago, my sister said that she wanted to run in a race in Vermont over Memorial Day weekend. As a big beer fan, I've always thought Vermont sounded like a great place to visit. I'd also seen pictures of beautiful hikes in Vermont on blogs back in the FitDog Friday days, so I told her if she wanted to run, the girls and I would go play with her for the weekend. 

Barley is well versed in roadtripping after a trip to Massachusetts a few years ago, a day trip to Niagara Falls, and many, many trips south to visit her grandparents. Rye has only taken a road trip to her her grandparents' house and back and the short road trip to the magical farmhouse we stayed in a couple months ago. I was excited for our first real vacation together. 

Since my sister was supposed to get into Burlington early afternoon on Friday, the girls and I left on Thursday with plans to drive part way so we could get there around the same time. I'd reserved a room at a Red Roof Inn in Utica, NY--about a 5 hour drive from our house and another 4 hours to the apartment we were renting. I'd planned to stop and check our a state park or two on the way, but it rained almost the entire drive, so we just drove straight through. We got to Utica around 6 p.m. and part of me wanted to keep driving and get more of the drive out of the way, but I wasn't sure what the pet-friendly accommodations would be like if we kept going, so we went ahead and checked in to our room.

The rain had stopped, so we unpacked the car and then headed off to one of the local parks that I'd researched, F. T. Proctor Park.



The park was beautiful with some wooded trails as well as a loop around a large field. We did a couple loops and got in 2.18 miles. Despite the dreariness of the evening, there were still several groups of people out walking and we did a few U-turns to avoid having to cross paths with some excited small dogs, but the girls were thrilled to be out of the car.


We swung by Moe's and picked up a quesadilla to take back to the room after our walk and that's when the real roadtrip fun began. The Cavs were playing the semi-finals, so I sprawled in front of the tv and dove into my chips and queso. Rye, however, dove into guard dog duty.


Unlike Barley, Rye has no apartment living experience, so she took it upon herself to alert me every time there was a noise from the other side of the wall or the parking lot. She positioned herself in front of the door and didn't budge.

In the morning, I got out of bed and then she promptly snuggled up on my pillow. Somehow even with a king-sized bed, there wasn't room for me.


Once people started waking up and getting in their cars around 5:30 a.m., Rye decided it was definitely time for us to get up. Despite my best efforts to convince her to snuggle until the bagel shop at the end of the parking lot opened, she growled every time there was a noise outside and didn't let me go back to sleep. We took our time gathering our things and then set off for our final destination.

Stay tuned for our next post on how things went once we got to Vermont! 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Participating in a Scent Trial

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I'd decided to sign Barley up for a scent trial (you can read about our decision and preparation here and here) through C-WAGS. We had all kinds of plans for training--including having my parents hide our scents for us so I could know for sure that I was reading Barley's alerts correctly and not just imagining she was alerting because I knew where the scent was hidden. We were even going to take our scent kit on our road trip to get my sister to hide the scent for us.

Of course, none of those things happened.

My parents and I were on the go for their entire short visit, and while the dogs got a few adventures in with them, there just weren't enough hours in the day to set up searches. When we packed the car for our Memorial Day road trip, all of our bags were packed to the brim and the scent kit just didn't make it in (which I regretted when we were trapped inside with lots of rain and waiting for my sister's flight to arrive).

Even when we were practicing at home, things didn't go as planned. Rye snuck into the room where the boxes were and chewed on a few of them. Soth took over some of the boxes that I'd just folded closed by crawling on top of them until the flaps folded in and he had a good bed.


We still got in some practice every day leading up to the trial, but I wasn't feeling confident.


Post-bath sniffing is always fun.

The night before the trial, Barley kept alerting on an empty box and she was so insistent that was the correct box that she'd lay down beside it and refuse to keep searching. I was pretty sure that we'd wasted our money signing up for the trial.

Arriving at the Trial
The trial location was about an hour away from our house, so we got up early, ate breakfast, and left the house about an hour and a half before things got started so we'd have plenty of time to get settled in. 

When we pulled up, it wasn't completely clear where we should go, but I quickly befriended another first-timer and her boxer-shepherd in the parking lot and we muddled through together. I hadn't decided whether I was going to keep Barley in the car or bring her portable crate into the building. The morning was cool, so I knew that physically she'd be fine in the car with the sunroof open and the windows down, but I also knew I had to stay close so I didn't miss hearing our turns called--and Barley does not like being left. I scattered some treats around the car and left Barley in the car while I checked in and scoped things out. We were run #18 out of 20 for round one. The crate room was large with plenty of room for Barley to not be right next to another dog, so I went back to the car and took the crate in to set up before brining Barley in.

Beginning the Trial
There were a lot of people attending their first trial, so the judges spent some time introducing themselves and reminding us of the rules. I also appreciated that the coordinator of the trial reminded everyone that this is a sport for all dogs, so dogs needed to be kept away from each other and not allowed to roam in the crate area. The judges also allowed everyone to step into the course without their dogs to get an idea of what the set-up would be like. I was one of the only people who opted not to do this. Even though Barley stays in a crate at home and had just spent plenty of time relaxing in her portable crate while we road tripped, I knew that she would not be happy about me walking away from her when other dogs were crated near by, so I stayed sitting on the floor dropping treats into the top of her crate to keep her calm while other people went to see what they should expect. To me, keeping my dog comfortable was far more important than giving myself an idea of what to expect--I'd seen the sample layouts in the rule book and that was going to have to be good enough.

She looks smiley, but she was panting and a little stressed. 

We spent about an hour after getting set up listening to the judges and then waiting for our turn. At first, I had to drop treats into the top of Bar's crate every few seconds or she'd start to fuss and try to sit up and poke her head out of the top. Eventually, we could go a few minutes before I had to remind her that she was being good, but I was never comfortable leaving her--even just to go across the aisle to talk to other people.

Round 1
The judges recommended that before our turns we take our dogs outside, then take our turn, and then take them back out. We'd set up near the back door and the gate steward called out the dogs in sets of three, so when we were the third dog called, I took Barley out of the crate, let her have water, and then we went out the back door and walked around to the front door to get in line. That worked really well and gave Barley some space while the dog ahead of us waited to go in. Barley was excited to be in line to do something, but she was also very focused on me and listened when I asked her to stay in a down at my side while we waited. 

When we entered the search area, the judges asked if we were searching on or off leash--we stayed on leash since even though it wasn't likely, it was still possible Barley could get out to the crate area--and then they told us the timer would begin as soon as we crossed the start line.

For the first search, the boxes were set up all willy-nilly around the area. I was too busy focusing on Barley to count, but in C-WAGS there are 8-12 identical boxes in Level 1--and I think we had 12 in each round, but I wouldn't swear to it. The boxes were all small, unmarked, white boxes with their tops open just a crack.

Barley was pretty distracted at first--she sniffed the boxes, but she was more interested in the tarp at the side of the room that separated the different areas. At one point, I thought she'd found it because she finally gave one box more than just a passing sniff, and I said, "Alert," but the judge told us to continue. In C-WAGS, you can still qualify if you have one fault (dropping food, touching the dog during the search, an incorrect find) in a round, but with two faults you don't qualify, so we had one more chance to get it right. The judge gave us a 30 second warning (you have 2 minutes per round in Level 1) and I was sure that we were done. I walked Barley around a little more and eventually she paid more attention to another box and we alerted correctly. It took us 1 minute and 43 seconds, but we passed round one!


Round 2
After Round 1, Barley was reluctant to get back in her crate, but she was more relaxed, so I let her sit with her head out of the crate watching her surroundings as long as she stayed calm (she had people around us cracking up every time she poked her head out!). If she started to get to interested in something and looked like she might try to jump out or if dogs near us where moving in and out of crates, I had her lay back down and went back to treating her. 

When our turn for Round 2 came up, Barley was even more distracted. This time, the boxes were set up in a horseshoe shape, so we just moved down the line--it was much easier to remember which boxes we'd sniffed in this one! Despite the ease of remembering what we'd investigated, Barley didn't really want to sniff anything. She just trotted along beside me as we walked around. After a little urging to "find it," she eventually started sniffing. When she finally paid attention to a box for more than a second, I said, "Alert" but it was another incorrect find and we were told to continue. Barley's alert is really subtle--basically, she keeps her nose on the box and refuses to look at me. If she sniffs a box and then looks at me, I know it's not the right one--but if I wait too long when she does have the right one, she'll get impatient and move on to sniff something else, so it's hard to decide when she's actually found it, especially since when we practice at home, I always know which box is correct. Soon after, Barley found the right box and we passed that round in 1 minute and 19 seconds.

Ending the Trial
I took Barley outside after Round 2. I knew the likelihood of getting her to go back into the crate and relax was not high, so I put her back in the car and gave her a dental chew to occupy herself while the rest of the trial finished up. Shortly after I broke down our crate and got our water dish and other things back into our bag, the judges came out to give out ribbons. We were one of the few dogs to earn qualifying ribbons in both rounds, so I was especially proud of Barley. 

Post-trial ribbon selfie in the car (and yes, I was wearing a Beowulf shirt for our "battle").

What's Next?
We took two noseworks classes in the summer of 2014 and since then, all of the training we've done has been on our own and pretty sporadic. I had zero expectations going into the trial. I wanted it to be something fun Barley could do to say we'd tried it--and she far exceeded my expectations.


In C-WAGS, you have to have 4 qualifying rounds in order to title in a level, so if we want to title in Level 1, we need to enter another trial. If we title in Level 1 or Level 2, we can move on to Level 3 where you search for 3 scent articles that may or may not be in boxes and items can be stacked. That's more the type of searching that Barley's been doing for the last 3 years, so I think she'd like that even better. I'm not sure how far we're going to go with this, or when we'll trial again--a lot of the C-WAGS trials are a few hours away, which means I would probably have to spend the night somewhere and the thought of leaving Rye alone by herself with a friend checking in overnight or in boarding without her sister isn't something I'm ready to do. The next trial at this location isn't until January, though, which seems like a long time to wait. Occasionally, there are trials where my brother lives in North Carolina, so Rye could come along and play with her cousin while Barley and I competed. We'll keep checking the calendar to see if closer ones get added between now and then--and we're definitely going to keep training! 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Summer Safety for the Reactive Dog

The calendar might say we have a couple more weeks until summer is officially here--and Mother Nature definitely can't decide if summer is here--but I've been on Summer Vacation for two weeks now, so that means lots of extra time with Barley and Rye. 

For the most part, that means a lot of time in the backyard grilling and playing. 

Rye hopes there's a hot dog on this grill for her.


It also means that our schedule revolves around the Pirates schedule. We plan our evening walks around the time of the first pitch (and sometimes take extra evening walks when things are not going well). 


Summer also means that there's plenty of time for walking. Sometimes walking the two girls goes really well.

Look at those loose leashes!

But summer brings on a whole new load of issues for reactive dogs, especially when it comes to kids and bikes. When we chose Summer Safety as our topic for the Positive Pet Training blog hop, it was the perfect opportunity to reflect on how we'll get through the next few months.

We live in a touristy area, so in addition to having neighbors enjoying their own summer vacation, we also have to navigate a world full of people enjoying our beaches and wineries while they vacation. In order to survive summer, we have to remember to keep three key factors in mind before we leave the house for walks.

Treat Often
Barley's been training for a long time, so we've cut back on the amount of treats she gets significantly, but when extra triggers are around as more kids are out of school and more people are enjoying the longer days, the treat pouch stays filled when we head out the door.  I watch her for signs of stress or excitement--like perked ears and a stiff tail--and we play different focus games when she starts to quit focusing on me and I don't hesitate to dish out the treats. Keeping Barley's attention on me to keep her and the neighborhood dogs, kids, joggers, and bikers safe is far more important to me than whether she gets a few extra calories or not.

Did you say treat?

Have a Plan and Stand Up for Your Dog
I've written before about how important it is to have a plan when you have a reactive dog. This becomes even more important in the summer, especially since we live in a small town where kids still run between each other's houses and yards all day long without parents out in the yard at all times. Rye is very shy with people, but when kids ask to pet her, I usually say "Let me have her sit first" and give her lots of treats to help her learn kids are good. At times, though, the same kids want to pet Rye when I'm out with both dogs. Recently, a little boy who likes to give Rye sticks when he sees her was on the next street over with a friend and he said, "Hey! I know that dog!" and started to walk over to us, but Barley started tensing up the closer he got and I had to explain that my big dog was scared of kids, so Rye would have to say hi to him later. He ran back over to his friend and we waved goodbye. In Rye's obedience class, our trainer had us rehearse responses to "Can I pet your dog?" so between that and having lots of practice warding off people with Barley, I'm well versed in saying no. We've had similar conversations with people who have asked if their dogs could say hi (always followed by a "Thank you for asking!"--bless those people who don't just let their dogs come up to mine). Knowing how to handle being approached by friendly strangers before we even head out the door helps me keep both girls safe, happy, and confident on walks.

Barley likes to go to the woods so we can live deliberately--without kids.

Know Your Limits.
A few years ago, I came across a quotation from Suzanne Clothier: "Being realistic about what a dog can and cannot do is an act of love." Being realistic about what I can and cannot do is equally important. I've recently accepted that on weekday evenings our neighbors will be out walking their dogs after work and taking advantage of the fact that it stays light until almost 9 p.m. and I cannot safely walk both dogs with that level of distraction. We do a walk with all three of us in the morning when I know the other dog walkers who are out--and I know they will respect our decision to cross the street or to sit and wait for them to pass if one or (most likely) all three of us are having a meltdown. They'll smile, they'll wave and say hi, and they'll keep moving while I try to keep the girls under control. I've also accepted that there are certain trails we will not be able to visit all together this summer--with two excitable herding dogs, I just can't keep them both from trying to visit bikes, joggers, and squirrels and keep all of my limbs in tact, so we'll have to have plenty of solo adventures. I'm actually looking forward to that--Barley has picked up on some of Rye's naughtier walking behaviors, like lunging at squirrels, so having one-on-one time to reinforce her good dog behavior is important as is having time to help Rye learn that squirrels really aren't all that exciting. Rye and I have already had several successful solo evening walks in our neighborhood where we've started building more value for our "what's that" command and Barley's had a few adventures to remind her that she's always my best girl. The mental training for myself in realizing that there are things I just can't do has probably been the biggest key in our summer safety training.


Summer can be a daunting training task for a reactive dog, but we're choosing to embrace the challenge and really reinforce the reaction to distraction practice we work on all year round. The girls had a chance to really test their training during our recent road trip to Vermont, so be sure to check back later this week to see just how well these three elements have helped us navigate the world! 

We're linking up with our co-hosts Wag 'n Woof Pets and Tenacious Little Terrier for the Positive Pet Training blog hop, which begins on the first Monday of the month and lasts all week. This month our theme is Summer Safety, but we encourage any positive training posts. Be sure to check in and see all of the other great blogs joining us this month.