Monday, March 27, 2017

Quality vs. Quantity

Long-time readers of the blog know that for years, Barley and I have been focused on quantity when it comes to our walks. For years, we've set goals to walk 1000+ miles/year. We could focus on quantity because everything Barley and I do together is quality time. Whether we're snuggling on the couch, going to class, or taking a walk, as long as we're doing it together, Barley and I are happy. 

Rye, though, is a whole new story. Patience has never come naturally to me. Barley is eager to please,  so even when we've had training challenges, they don't seem like work. Rye, on the other hand, is much more independent and she has the attention span of a gnat, so patience is essential for working with her. She's ridiculously smart, but if something more interesting than whatever we're working on comes by, she'll walk away from me and go investigate. 


It's taken four months for me to figure out that we need to focus on quality instead of quantity with Rye. Rye's life is much different than Barley's was when I first got her. Barley and I lived in an apartment without a place for her to run; with Barley being reactive, dog parks were out of the question. Long walks were essential for getting her the exercise she needed every day. Rye has a fenced in yard and a sister to play with. There are other ways to exercise her without needing to take long walks.

Now that the days are longer, it's easier to get both dogs out for solo walks instead of having to walk both of them together just to get a little walk in. Barley and I are still getting in our nice long walks every day. But Rye and I often don't even walk a full mile together. 

Instead, we're focusing on having successful walks where I don't lose my patience. We've grabbing a stick of string cheese, walking until half of it is gone and then turning and going home while we still have plenty of cheese left. 


Some days, she heels nicely beside me--or at least stops dragging me down the street--and we take a nice long walk. Other days, Rye loses her mind over every squirrel, every barking dog (even if they are inside), and cat we see, so I need a lot more cheese to keep her attention and we only make it to the end of our street before we have to turn around.


This change of mindset is really helping me enjoy walks with Rye. She's starting to spend more time checking in with me. She's having smaller reactions to the yards where we've seen dogs because I'm prepared with the high value treats and get her attention before we even get to those yards--or we don't go by those yards if our string cheese stick looks like it's running too low to walk by a second time on our way back home. 

Every now and then, she walks so nicely and doesn't need the full stick of cheese that we go back home, reload our treat pouch, and get Barley to finish out the walk with us. Barley's enjoying walks a lot more now, too, since Rye isn't tugging me in every direction except the one we're supposed to be going in. 


14 comments:

  1. Excellent strategies! :) And excellent discipline. I always mean to turn around when the treats reach the halfway point, but the reality...

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    1. I know that struggle! I had been filling the pouch with a ton of treats and then trying to ration them for a long walk and then she wasn't getting the treats consistently enough for anything to really stick. Now that the weather is getting nicer, forcing myself to turn around when we get to the halfway point is even harder!

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  2. I'm glad you're starting to figure her out! I know it isn't always easy!

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    1. She's definitely more mysterious than her sister!

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  3. Those are excellent strategies! I'm glad you're working through her walking issues! Loose leash walking is so challenging and it's my least favorite thing to train!

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    1. With Barley, it was so easy because she's never pulled, so I just had to teach her where I want her when she needs to heel, and every now and then we need a quick refresher like when the squirrels come back in full force in the spring. With Rye, she's much more interested in the world than she is in staying with me--she's PERFECT at heeling in class, but the second we get outside, she's like "I am a wolf! Let me free!"

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  4. Rye is still a baby. She sounds a lot like Storm. When she was young, Storm would bark at newspapers left in a driveway as if they were a great intruder. That improved with age and when we got her into Hunt Test training. I think that kind of structured training, like the agility training you are doing, can really benefit the amped up dogs.

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    1. The first two months she was here, Rye barked at the neighbor's trash bags when she'd put them out at the end of her driveway. She's since figured out they aren't a threat. I'm hoping we can get into a formal agility class soon--but the intro classes are hard to get into these days!

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  5. Great job figuring out what you needed to do to make things work with Rye. I imagine one day you'll be doing those long walks with both dogs!
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

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    1. I think that goal will probably take a little longer! It's so hard to reward when you have two dogs with you--and without regular treats Barley's been starting to revert back to some of her old reactions, so she's benefiting from solo walks and reinforcing good behavior again.

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  6. Thank you for this post. I'm going through the same thing with my second border collie. With my first BC, we had to walk 7 to 10 miles a day until she was two to keep her mellow, but she wasn't reactive on leash so we didn't have to focus as much on the quality of the walks. My new BC wants to herd everything and everyone while on leash, so I'm slowly accepting the fact that we may only walk a block at a time. It's definitely an adjustment!

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    1. It's amazing how different two dogs can be! Even when we don't have distractions around, Rye is not fun to walk because she's constantly pulling and jerking around on her leash, so it's definitely been a learning curve for me! It's nice to know I'm not the only one having to make that adjustment--good luck!

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  7. You would lose your mind walking with us! Mom isn't into "organized" walking. We learn it in school, and Madison is working on her CGC now, but normally, we are allowed to go all over while walking. We do know to come back and walk in an orderly fashion when we approach others, or in crowded spaces, but normally, Mom likes to let us go all over and explore. Luckily, most of our walking allows us to just be us and do whatever as we rarely run into anyone.

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    1. My nephew pups think walking with me is like going to boot camp! Barley doesn't have to heel nicely the whole walk--she's allowed to wander to the end of her leash and sniff as long as she comes back to heel when asked and never pulls. Rye hasn't earned that privilege yet because from the moment we walk out the door she's pulling so hard her front legs aren't even on the ground and she has no focus to keep her from reacting to other dogs and squirrels--once she gets that down, she'll get more freedom, too.

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