In the winter, our walks are purely for physical exercise. They are our chance to get out of our yard--even if it's only for 10 minutes--and stretch our legs. Most of our mental exercise is done at home inside through nose works, focus games, working on tricks. There are no distractions in our winter wonderland--no birds, no squirrels, no other walkers/joggers/bikers/skateboarders. It's just me and my girl and the occasional train.
In the spring, though, walks start to be physical and mental exercise--and for the first time in months a walk actually wears Barley out. Barley's the type of dog who can get hours of physical exercise, but if her brain isn't tired, she'll still find the physical energy to get herself into trouble.
In our neighborhood, we practice reaction to distraction at almost every turn. One night, we were just trying to get in a quick 1.5-mile evening walk before settling in for the night. We were on our way through the back entrance to our complex and I noticed a loose dog in the parking lot. A few people were out trying to catch it and a girl moved into the gap in the fence that we were aiming through to block the exit for the dog. Barley and I did a quick turn and walked the .5-miles back to the main entrance. Around the corner, we encountered a loose Yorkie--luckily, it was tiny and Barley didn't notice it from across the street and it was preoccupied with sniffing something, so we picked up the pace to get back to our apartment before that changed. Of course, the loose dog was still evading capture, which made our walk full of twists and turns as we dodged behind different buildings so the dogs didn't notice each other. Barley got lots of "what's that" practice and the interesting walking pattern we did to get back to the door kept Barley on her toes.
The parks are a much more fun way to work mental exercise into our walks. At the beach, sometimes Barley gets a little worked up when her toes hit the sand (I think she's sensitive to texture changes). She starts herding me and nipping if I move, so we get to practice the downs we've spent so much time working on when she gets worked up in agility.
|Barley's "I know I was naughty, but do I really have to down in the damp sand?" face.|
We also get to practice returning to heel. I'll let Barley walk ahead of me at parks as long as she's responsive and comes back to heel when I ask. Since we don't have to worry about dogs dashing out of yards along the trails, I can usually spot distractions with enough time to call her back to heel, so I don't mind giving her a little more freedom to sniff along the trail as long as she'll come back to my side.
|Look how smiley she is when she focuses on me.|
New things wash up on the beach at the lake regularly, so we get to practice various tricks as we walk along the lake. Sometimes we do balance work on random objects and work in a little distance work on our stays (only for a few seconds and only if there's not a sole in sight). Sometimes we practice "leave it" with the gross dead fish that wash up on shore. Other times, we work on building her confidence around birds.
|She'll happily "go table," but she's over smiling for the camera.|
|Birds were having some sort of feeding frenzy in the lake behind her.|
When we visit our deer friends, Barley also practices responding to commands. She has to sit and watch. She has to stay. She makes it look easy, but I imagine it's probably really hard for her to smile for the camera when she has deer so close behind her.
|We also got to practice her reaction to these turkeys.|
This week we got a lot of great mental work while setting a new record for the year with 32.99 miles this week (yes--that .99 is going to drive me crazy).
Soth also got a little outdoor time this week--on Monday we got up to a beautiful 78 degrees (if you haven't gotten there don't be jealous--we're back to grey and 50 degrees today), so after Barley and I took our evening walk, Soth and I went out on the back porch to watch the birds together.
|I call this look Serengeti chic. He's such a handsome little lion.|
He's not as good as his sister is at looking at the camera instead of the wildlife, but he's still pretty adorable.