The Dog Talker

Strangers often ask if I’m a dog walker and I usually just say yes to be polite and move on, but I feel that I am not just a walker but perhaps more of a talker, a dog communicator, because that’s what I do all day, communicate with dogs. Adventure Pup never just walks dogs.

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Every Adventure Outing is different and tailored specifically to the Pack. Every Hike we focus on things that will benefit the Pack as a whole, as well as the individual Pup. Every Walk we take is a learning opportunity, a chance for a Pup to grow mentally and emotionally. Every Dog Park Visit is a lesson, never just a game of chuck-it.

Each Outing we work on etiquette & basic manners, play brain games, and dabble in energy work, all while having the time of our lives!

Manners on the Trail, Sidewalk, and in the Park are very important. Adventure Pups practice sit, stay, and recall in order to respond appropriately to a variety of situations. Throughout our hike we practice random recall and “touch” (dogs recall all the way and press their adorable noses into my hand). We always practice stepping off trail whenever we encounter someone to prepare the Pack for any future situations such as horseback riders. We go far enough away where we can still see the passerby, but not close enough to distract the Pack’s focus on me. Treats are used, of course, but I have found just kneeling down and praising & petting the dogs works just as well 🙂 If I have someone that is easily tempted I will put them on leash, just in case. This constant practice gets the Pack prepared for when real danger approaches; deer, snakes, coyotes, or shifty humans.

Brain Games are not only fun, but they help dogs work out their brains. Hide and seek is my favorite game to play. Sometimes if someone lags behind to investigate a smell, the rest of the Pack and I will hide behind trees or bushes and watch them sniff us out. It’s my favorite thing to see the seeker’s face when they find us! Just always make sure you can see your dog when you try this so you don’t end up searching for them instead. We also do a little bit of nosework, hiding treats, tennis balls, or sticks for dogs to sniff out. For this activity the Pack sits & stays while I hide the object, then I release them to sniff it out!

Energy Work is usually done in a low-key, calm environment, but sometimes we take it to the trail. Most of the energy work we do on Hikes centers around bonding, but we will also do some exercises to help improve circulation & movement, build confidence, and calm overly excited or anxious Pups. We use a combination of t-Touch, Reiki, leash guidance, and simple body language. Using these techniques has resulted in the Pack being more attuned with what I am doing and where I am. When I stop, the Pack stops. When I walk off trail, the Pack follows, without a single spoken word. The Pack stays within 20 feet of me, and if they go further I stop, and they return. This of course doesn’t work 100% of the time, but the more we practice the more positively the Pack responds.

We practice similar exercises on Neighborhood Walks & Dog Park Outings. Every Outing is an opportunity to learn & grow, no matter how much time we have together.

The Retractable Leash

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Last week I was sitting at my favorite food truck pod with my sweet Pup Link. People came and went with their dogs, sometimes coming over to say hello to my Pup. Each dog calmly came over to get and give a brief sniff and then they trotted away with their human. After about five dogs stopping to say hello, in walks a beefy pitbull. He was large and had a big smile on his face, scanning the area for dogs. He saw Link and immediately began walking toward us. Behind him was a small woman, gripping his retractable leash with both hands and being dragged across the gravel as if she was wearing roller skates. She grasped the handle of the leash and held her thumb tight against the leash lock, her other hand was wrapped up in the thin cord, turning white from the lack of blood flowing to it. She kept shouting, “Stop! Heel! Stop!” but the dog continued to drag her toward me. I stood up and asked, “Does he want to say hi?” The woman’s face filled with relief and she allowed her hands a break and let her dog have some extra leash to say hello. The dog calmed and they began to walk away, but then another dog popped into view and the woman was being dragged off again, this time she dropped the large plastic handle and it hit the ground, shattering into pieces and retracting itself all the way back to the dog, who began fleeing in terror into the parking lot, the broken plastic handle clattering behind him.

This is honestly not the first time I have seen this happen. Retractable leashes were  invented in order to provide control over the dog while allowing it more room to roam, but instead they tend to provide little control and absolutely no guidance. Your dog is able to walk about 20ft ahead of you, sniffing and eating whatever they find, wrapping around trees or poles, and hopping into the street in front of an oncoming bicyclist if they so desire. The inventor of the retractable leash has said, “It is usually desirable that the dog should have a certain freedom in running about, but it is difficult to prevent the animal from running on the wrong side of lamp posts or pedestrians, thus causing much annoyance to the owner, who is constantly required to adjust the length of the leash in her hand, and frequently the leash is dropped and the dog permitted to run away. The objects of the present invention are to obviate and overcome all these difficulties and annoyances due to the usual form of leash, and prevent the leash from becoming tangled as the dog runs about.” This directly translates to: “I hate dealing with my dog and just want to zone out while I walk him.” Her description is odd, considering the retractable leash allows more room to run about and go on the wrong side of posts and people, and you are CONSTANTLY adjusting the length of the leash. It is also very easy to drop, and even easier to break! 

The truth is, people only use these leashes because it is comfortable for them to hold. If you remove the large plastic handle you would be left with a thin cord that would slice into your hands, similar to walking a dog on a fishing line, and nobody wants that.

I always recommend a 6ft nylon leash. You can shorten it as much as you’d like, and no dog needs to be more than 6ft from you while on a leashed walk. You can drop it without the fear of it breaking or retracting after your dog. You can adjust your grip and hold the leash in a variety of ways depending on how you and your dog walk together. And the best part is, you are in control. Even if your dog is a puller, a flat leash provides the most control and support. I prefer the simple slip lead that tightens when the dog pulls, which usually prevents the dog from doing so. But every dog is an individual and needs what’s best for them AND you. Try out a few options to see what’s best for both of you, but leave that retractable leash on the shelf!

 

*When researching retractable leashes I discovered that there are A LOT of injuries to both humans and animals when using one of these leashes. I know when the handle is dropped it could retract and injure the dog, but I had no idea how many issues this leash actually had with injuries. They’re even illegal in some areas because of the amount of injuries! Here is a link to the Animal Hospital of North Asheville, if you’d like to read about the potential injuries causes by retractable leashes. Whatever you do, don’t Google Image search it!

I borrowed the image fromDogTime.com, which also has an informative article about retractable leashes 🙂

What You Talkin’ Bout Human?

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When you bring home your first Pup you do whatever you can to set him up for success: spoil him with toys & treats, get him the best dog food on the market, and help him learn basic commands so you can show him off to the world! The toys, treats, and food you pick are all very important to your Pup’s health and well being, and we all know training is essential! The words you use to train your Pup are very important, regardless of your training techniques. Dogs love consistency and ease, so it is important to be on a routine and to be direct with your pooch. It’s a neat party trick to train your dog commands in German when it’s not your native tongue, but what happens when you leave your Pup with a babysitter and they have no clue how to sprechen sie Deutsch? It’s nice to have a dog to chat with while you’re out on a trail, but once you start gabbin’ your Pup starts to tune you out, then when you need him to pay attention he’s already started ignoring you. The easiest way to train your Pup is to find a balance between the words you would normally say and words that are universal in the dog training world. Below are some examples of verbal cues Adventure Pups use in the day to day.

  • “Here”- come here
  • “Sit”- sit
  • “Stay”- stay
  • “Free” or “Ok”- to release from a sit or stay
  • “Down”- lay down
  • “Off”- don’t jump up
  • “Leave it”- walk away from what you’re doing
  • “No bite”- do not bite
  • “Gentle”- play more gently
  • “Easy”- play more gently
  • “Hey”- heel
  • “Yes” or “Good”- to mark desired behavior
  • “Ah Ah”- do not do that
  • “Load up”- get into the car
  • We try to save the word “No” for extreme circumstances when other verbal cues don’t work, such as preventing a fight, eating something they really shouldn’t, or approaching something dangerous.

We’re pretty straight forward in our verbal cues, but we have made some adjustments in order to better fit with our natural vernacular. I have personally never used the word “heel” in my natural speech. What are some of the verbal cues you share with your Pup?