The calendar might say we have a couple more weeks until summer is officially here--and Mother Nature definitely can't decide if summer is here--but I've been on Summer Vacation for two weeks now, so that means lots of extra time with Barley and Rye.
For the most part, that means a lot of time in the backyard grilling and playing.
|Rye hopes there's a hot dog on this grill for her.|
It also means that our schedule revolves around the Pirates schedule. We plan our evening walks around the time of the first pitch (and sometimes take extra evening walks when things are not going well).
Summer also means that there's plenty of time for walking. Sometimes walking the two girls goes really well.
|Look at those loose leashes!|
But summer brings on a whole new load of issues for reactive dogs, especially when it comes to kids and bikes. When we chose Summer Safety as our topic for the Positive Pet Training blog hop, it was the perfect opportunity to reflect on how we'll get through the next few months.
We live in a touristy area, so in addition to having neighbors enjoying their own summer vacation, we also have to navigate a world full of people enjoying our beaches and wineries while they vacation. In order to survive summer, we have to remember to keep three key factors in mind before we leave the house for walks.
Barley's been training for a long time, so we've cut back on the amount of treats she gets significantly, but when extra triggers are around as more kids are out of school and more people are enjoying the longer days, the treat pouch stays filled when we head out the door. I watch her for signs of stress or excitement--like perked ears and a stiff tail--and we play different focus games when she starts to quit focusing on me and I don't hesitate to dish out the treats. Keeping Barley's attention on me to keep her and the neighborhood dogs, kids, joggers, and bikers safe is far more important to me than whether she gets a few extra calories or not.
|Did you say treat?|
Have a Plan and Stand Up for Your Dog
I've written before about how important it is to have a plan when you have a reactive dog. This becomes even more important in the summer, especially since we live in a small town where kids still run between each other's houses and yards all day long without parents out in the yard at all times. Rye is very shy with people, but when kids ask to pet her, I usually say "Let me have her sit first" and give her lots of treats to help her learn kids are good. At times, though, the same kids want to pet Rye when I'm out with both dogs. Recently, a little boy who likes to give Rye sticks when he sees her was on the next street over with a friend and he said, "Hey! I know that dog!" and started to walk over to us, but Barley started tensing up the closer he got and I had to explain that my big dog was scared of kids, so Rye would have to say hi to him later. He ran back over to his friend and we waved goodbye. In Rye's obedience class, our trainer had us rehearse responses to "Can I pet your dog?" so between that and having lots of practice warding off people with Barley, I'm well versed in saying no. We've had similar conversations with people who have asked if their dogs could say hi (always followed by a "Thank you for asking!"--bless those people who don't just let their dogs come up to mine). Knowing how to handle being approached by friendly strangers before we even head out the door helps me keep both girls safe, happy, and confident on walks.
|Barley likes to go to the woods so we can live deliberately--without kids.|
Know Your Limits.
A few years ago, I came across a quotation from Suzanne Clothier: "Being realistic about what a dog can and cannot do is an act of love." Being realistic about what I can and cannot do is equally important. I've recently accepted that on weekday evenings our neighbors will be out walking their dogs after work and taking advantage of the fact that it stays light until almost 9 p.m. and I cannot safely walk both dogs with that level of distraction. We do a walk with all three of us in the morning when I know the other dog walkers who are out--and I know they will respect our decision to cross the street or to sit and wait for them to pass if one or (most likely) all three of us are having a meltdown. They'll smile, they'll wave and say hi, and they'll keep moving while I try to keep the girls under control. I've also accepted that there are certain trails we will not be able to visit all together this summer--with two excitable herding dogs, I just can't keep them both from trying to visit bikes, joggers, and squirrels and keep all of my limbs in tact, so we'll have to have plenty of solo adventures. I'm actually looking forward to that--Barley has picked up on some of Rye's naughtier walking behaviors, like lunging at squirrels, so having one-on-one time to reinforce her good dog behavior is important as is having time to help Rye learn that squirrels really aren't all that exciting. Rye and I have already had several successful solo evening walks in our neighborhood where we've started building more value for our "what's that" command and Barley's had a few adventures to remind her that she's always my best girl. The mental training for myself in realizing that there are things I just can't do has probably been the biggest key in our summer safety training.
Summer can be a daunting training task for a reactive dog, but we're choosing to embrace the challenge and really reinforce the reaction to distraction practice we work on all year round. The girls had a chance to really test their training during our recent road trip to Vermont, so be sure to check back later this week to see just how well these three elements have helped us navigate the world!
We're linking up with our co-hosts Wag 'n Woof Pets and Tenacious Little Terrier for the Positive Pet Training blog hop, which begins on the first Monday of the month and lasts all week. This month our theme is Summer Safety, but we encourage any positive training posts. Be sure to check in and see all of the other great blogs joining us this month.