Friday, April 18, 2014

Adventures with Barley

The week started off really well. We had temperatures in the 70s a couple days at the beginning of the week, so after noseworks class on Sunday, we decided to try out another one of the parks from Doggin' Cleveland, Frohring Meadows (#45).

When we pulled up, we saw several dogs walking in one direction, so we chose the other direction through the meadows instead of through the woods. I was delighted to see lots of birds throughout the meadows.

Maybe spring really will stick around?
I also got to enjoy sitting in the backyard with both of the pets. Soth immediately went to the grass to try to eat it, so he was confined to my lap. Even though Barley was on her long lead, she refused to leave us. She'd hate to miss out on the deep conversations Soth and I were having.

Then on Tuesday, it snowed. Again. It wasn't super cold--the temperatures stayed in the 30s, but I just couldn't handle it anymore. So, we skipped a day of walking. I didn't feel too bad about that since I knew we had agility that evening, so she was still going to get to run off some energy.

Agility was great! There's a very large, very loud dog who comes to our class and he sits in a pen with his owner and they practice his reaction to distraction while we work. When he first started coming to class, they kept a sheet over the pen so he couldn't see out. He's gotten so much better that now he can watch the other dogs work. Barley's gotten better, too--when the other dog would bark, Barley used to get very anxious with her ears pinned back and her eyes wide. We've worked on our "what's that?" every class for weeks, and now she hardly notices when the dog barks. Usually, his pen is in the corner of the room where he's out of the way. This week, they had his pen set up right behind the tunnel. I was positive that when Barley came out of the tunnel she'd turn and go to the pen instead of coming to the jump, but she didn't even notice  he was there. I was such a proud mama!

Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse on Wednesday. Since I don't teach until the afternoon on Wednesdays, we usually take a nice long morning walk after I've done a little prep work for the afternoon. The morning started out fine--I graded several papers and then we took off for our walk. We had 3 miles of a lovely walk and then turned on the last road we needed to go down to get home. I saw a loose dog up ahead--one that we've never seen before--so I turned around to take the long way home, but the dog was faster than we were and it was on Barley before we'd gotten back to the end of the street. This wasn't the normal loose dog, either. Instead of just trying to sniff her, it grabbed her and wouldn't let go. Every time Barley slipped away from the dog, it went for her again. I didn't have my spray shield (I mean, thanks to the cold we've had the world entirely to ourselves for the last 4 months, so I've gotten out of the habit of carrying it). I'd taken my pepper spray off my keys when I handed them to the cashier at the grocery store to scan my rewards card the night before and forgotten to put it back on. There wasn't anything around I could use to hit the dog, so I just screamed. Thankfully, someone came outside to see what was going on--and even though he was wearing socks and no shoes, he jumped over the railing on his porch and ran across several muddy yards to get more people to help us. As soon as multiple people started coming our direction, the dog froze and then it took off in the other direction and I took Barley to opposite way as fast as I could. I have never felt so helpless in all of my time with Barley.

Luckily, Barley is physically fine. Once I got her around the corner, I gave her a quick once over to make sure she was ok to walk the rest of the way home. It looked like she was just slobbery and since we were less than .25-miles from home, we just rushed back home where I could get a closer look. When we got home, I got a damp washcloth to get all the slobber off of her and investigate more. There was no bloodshed and she didn't seem to be in pain at all, but I wasn't sure if there was any mental damage--I knew I couldn't stop shaking afterwards, so I was really afraid that this might really set us back a lot in our training. The first thing I did after making sure she was ok was to email our trainers to let them know we might be starting from scratch again--our first trainer (and our current noseworks instructor and agility classmate) is so wonderful and emailed me back immediately and said we'd work on whatever Barley needed to feel safe in the world again.

We took Wednesday night off from our usual post-work walk because I wasn't feeling ready to try the neighborhood again yet. Honestly, I'm still not.

Right now, I'm trying to assess how Barley's been affected by this. After work yesterday, I decided we should try a fun walk at the lake instead of sticking around our neighborhood. I wanted to make sure she had lots of positive moments on her walk instead of the constant barking of neighborhood dogs to distract her.

We had a great 3+ mile walk and it was in the 60s again, so Barley got to splash in the water a little bit. She was all smiles. We only saw two other dogs on the trail and we just pulled over and I gave her a bazillion treats and everything was fine.She was all smiles the whole time.
I was all smiles, too, because I didn't have to wear a jacket!

Today, I decided to see how she'd do in unfamiliar territory. I figured the more information I have about how she's responding to triggers, the better. At first she was pretty wound up when we got to a new park, Tinker's Creek State Park (Doggin' Cleveland #40). She started barking crazily before we got out of the car--and not her "OMG I'm so excited" bark--and she refused to sit and stay in the backseat, which is our routine anywhere we go--she sits while I get ready and then I let her out of the back door. Instead, she leapt into the front seat while I was getting our little walking pack on and she tried to slip out of the car. Then she refused to heel when we started walking, but before long I got her attention back on me and we had a lovely (but pretty muddy) walk. After she got over the initial excitement, she seemed pretty normal. She wouldn't "come front" and sit facing me so I could take pictures--she seemed reluctant to turn her back on the trail ahead of her, but besides that she seemed happy to be on an adventure. There were a couple off leash dogs, but I don't think Barley could see them over the tall grass along the trail, so we just sat and waited until they were out of sight and then went another direction to put more space between us.

Such a pretty place to walk!

She was not going to look at me, no matter how many treats I might have offered her.

We were both pretty disgusting by the time we got home.
We got in a little over 3 miles today, which puts us at 22.27 miles since last Friday and at 22% of our goal completed for the year. We're definitely gaining on it and if the weather keeps being as beautiful as it is today, we'll be caught up (and maybe even a little ahead) in no time! We're going to stick to parks this weekend, and maybe by Monday I'll be feeling brave enough to stroll in our 'hood again.

In addition to our adventure today, we came home to find a BarkBox on our front step! Barley was pretty pumped to dig into it, but she was patient enough to let me take a picture before she ripped into it.

She made out with some really good loot, and I think she's a little angry that I won't let her have everything that came in the box right this second!

Soth's also been loving the spring weather since he's been able to have the windows open and chirp at the birds several days this week!
He's cool with just chillin' it.
Happy Easter from me, Barley, and Soth!


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about that horrible dog attack. Nailah experienced something similar a few months ago and it really set her back on her training. It's amazing how one dog (and more so human) can ruin months of hard work. I hope Barley can get back to her classes soon and hasn't been to traumatized by that event.

    1. We get a week of noseworks this weekend for Easter, but we go back to agility class on Tuesday, so that will be the real test when I can see how she reacts around familiar dogs when they are running around the room. Our trainers are so wonderful and understanding, though, that I'm sure they'll do everything they can to help her feel confident and calm. From our few outings since Wednesday, it seems like I've been more traumatized than she is!

  2. Sorry to hear about the trouble you had. Loose dogs that don't know how to behave are one of my triggers too. Glad that Barley is okay and sounds like you're doing great on your mileage goal! Well done. Thanks for joining the Hop.

    1. Thanks! I don't like loose dogs ever, but usually I can manage Barley enough with some treats that she'll tolerate another dog sniffing her as long as I can get her out of there fast enough. This dog was not interested in sniffing; it was interested in chewing on my dog and that's something I've never had to deal with before. I'm just thankful my girl didn't get hurt!

  3. I'm super sorry to read about this. Off-leash dogs are so hard to deal with and it's so unfair to those of us who adhere to the rules and are doing the right thing by our dogs. I do hope Barley wasn't too affected by the dog. I'm also concerned about you, having experienced this myself, I think sometimes I set Delilah off because I'm anxious. :-(

    1. Thanks for your concern! Barley seems to not have been traumatized much at all. We spent the weekend afterwards going on super fun walks in parks instead of our neighborhood, so we both had a chance to relax on walks again. We haven't ventured onto the street it happened on yet, but we have been taking nice long walks in the neighborhood again without any problems and she has been better than ever in agility class! It definitely seems to have freaked me out more than her--staying calm to help your dog stay calm isn't easy, is it?