Friday, April 24, 2015

Facing Our Fears

This week hasn't been bad--we met our daily goal of 3.1 miles per day and then some--but it's felt hard. I don't really know why. It could be a normal response to our big week last week. Maybe it's because we started out the week with a loss of magic. Maybe it's the weather--our sunny "warm" days were replaced with dreary cold ones again; we even got caught in a hail storm on Wednesday. We didn't have any big days this week. In fact, I can't really think of anything memorable to report about our walks for most of the week.

On Saturday, it was warm enough that I didn't mind letting Barley splash in the lake a little bit. (I know some of your dogs have been swimming for weeks--but growing up my mom wouldn't let us in the water until it was at least 80 degrees out and I can't get that message out of my head when Barley tries to play in the frigid lake when it's only 60 out!) Barley doesn't like to get wet, but she likes to chomp at the water and then growl when she can't get ahold of it. Watching her jump back in surprise when a wave gets her toes makes me laugh, so we spent a while just walking back and forth along the little strip of beach.


Our big accomplishment of the week has nothing to do with walking. Our big accomplishment was facing Barley's arch nemesis, the dog that attacks our French doors.

After a morning of splashing in the lake, I wanted to sit outside and read while we still had sunny warm weather. I only had a couple chapters of my book left, so I thought it was a good afternoon to be outside. When Barley and I try to relax outside, I take a mat out for her, lots of treats, and a Kong or some other big stuffed snack to keep her focused on cleaning it out rather than looking for the devil dog. We did a lot of mat work in reactive dog class, so when we run the risk of encountering our less-than-neighborly neighbor dog, the mat helps keep Barley calmer.


Shortly after finishing a chapter, a high pitched yapping announced a party crasher. Luckily, I'd made sure I had enough of the long lead left to sit on the leash in addition to having the loop around my wrist, so there was not chance of a surprise that would pull the leash out of my hands if I was really into my book. Barley hopped up off her mat, so I got her attention by tossing a few treats on the patio and telling her to "Find It." I saw that the dog was on its tie out, so I relaxed a little and started focusing on keeping Barley's attention off the dog.

Usually, when the devil dog comes out, we go inside. I know that trains the dog that when it comes charging out--loose or to the end of it's tie out--we disappear, which just encourages it to keep charging out and yapping at us. But it's easier. Keeping Barley calm and focused with that dog is tough. She wants to lunge and bark back at it. We have to do our mat work, work on "what's that," and find treats on the porch. Going back inside requires less work, so it's usually the choice we make. Every aspect of being out in the world with Barley--from class to the vet to a park--requires a lot work (don't get me wrong, it's worth it, but it's tiring), so at home when we have the option to go inside, it's tempting to take it. 

This week, though, we worked on training through the problem and I think both dogs were better for it. We moved her mat from the grass up onto the patio, so there would be even more distance between her and the dog--as well as me and the patio furniture so the dog wouldn't be in her direct sight. I still had to be diligent and give her regular treats to reward her for staying focused and down. In most situations, we can go several minutes between rewards now, but with major triggers like this dog, we have to reward often. 

Barley never got into a more relaxed position, but she did quit popping up off her mat. When the little dog saw that we weren't going anywhere, it went back to sniffing it's yard--even though every time it looked up and saw we were still there, it started yapping again. Eventually, the neighbors took it inside and we went back to enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.

A celebratory jump during our walk.
It felt like a victory and we celebrated by taking a nice walk to the quiet end of our street where we rarely have to deal with other dogs. We're feeling well rested after a 25.59 mile week, so we're hoping for at least a couple bigger days of walking this week! Happy FitDog Friday everyone!




24 comments:

  1. A 25.59 mile week! Congrats you deserve a rest, keep up the good work :)

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  2. Good job Barley. You right though - to get through issues, they actually have to face them - tough to do when all you want is to relax.

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    1. Yes--it's not always the most appealing way to spend time, but I know it's important to work on it. There are days when we just don't have enough time to do that or I haven't brought treats out because we weren't planning to actually sit outside and enjoy the fresh air when we went out for a potty break, and I never can convince myself to go back out after we go in to get snacks--but when we have the tools and the time, it's something that we're going to try to work on more often :)

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  3. Good job on surpassing your goal and working on some good training.

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    1. Thanks! It was a productive week!

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  4. Yay, Barley! We have a similar nemesis who the owner likes to let play in front of our complex off-leash. Which is a stupid idea on so many levels. There's tons of traffic right there.

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    1. It makes no sense to me, either! The road their house faces isn't too busy, but there are train tracks and many much bigger dogs around and a really busy road just a quarter mile down the street. Maybe if they stayed out with the dog and it had good recall, I could understand it in their yard--but they just let the dog out and head back in.

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  5. Hi Y'all!

    'Cause of the gators I have to do all my swimming in the winter. We have big thick coats to protect us from the icy water.

    Y'all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

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    1. Oh dear! I'm terrified of gators after growing up in GA! I don't think I'd even let Barley stick her toes in the water in the south any time of year because I'm too scared of what might lurk in there!

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  6. Way to go! We all have those days when it's easier to just avoid the trigger, and that's okay too, but it sounds like you made some progress this time.

    Also... I love reading outside. Isis used to wipe her muddy soccer ball on all my books to get me to keep throwing it to her while I read.

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    1. I love reading outside, too! And listening to baseball games outside. Barley doesn't really like being outside if she's not moving, so usually Soth is my relaxation buddy, but Barley's toes were still a little wet from splashing in the lake, so I decided she needed to sun herself until she dried :)

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  7. So let me get this straight, your neighbor sees you out in the yard and then ties out an ill behaved dog which ruins your time out? You are a nicer neighbor than I because I would be yapping back at them....lol. It is great that you made the most and got in some training. I am sure you handled it better than I would have. :)

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    1. In all fairness, their backyard butts up to the "yard" at my apartment and they have a big shed that blocks them from seeing us if we're in the yard when they hook their dog to the tie out. But they don't stay out long enough to see why their dog is parking or to work on training it not to park. It is exhausting--but they're also very old, so I think we've got different ideas on training dogs.

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  8. Go Barley! And great walking week! Spring will be here to stay soon, I'm sure of it!

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    1. Rumor has it that it will be in the 70s by Monday!

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  9. You both did great. I totally understand the urge to retreat, especially after you've had a tough week. I'm glad you were able to get outside and enjoy some fresh air and relaxing (mostly). My mood definitely has gone downhill too due to the return of cold weather.
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

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    1. I think the cold is definitely responsible for this week being tough! It's one thing to walk in 40s and grey weather in February--that's like a treat--but in late April it's a total drag. One day, I knew we only needed 1.5 miles on our 2nd walk to meet our goal for they day, but I kept looking at my watch every 30 seconds to see how much farther we had to go. Usually, that type of mileage is nothing, but it was a total chore last week!

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  10. Great job on the training! I know it's easier to retreat, but you made some big progress! We love mat training and stuffed Kongs too!.

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    1. Mat training is delightful! It's been awhile since we've worked on it with other dogs nearby, so we need some refreshers, but it was a great starting place for the stressful situation!

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