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.