Monday, March 4, 2013

Dog Walker Shaming

NOTE - Finnegan is filling in for the actual dog walkers.

Here is a topic dear to my heart for oh so many reasons.  It is multi layered. Stay with me, the ride may get bumpy.

 I am fond of the following saying "Maine, the place dogs should be."
 Why wouldn't dogs love it here? We have woods, ocean, lakes, streams, rivers, smells, wild life, and lots and lots of places to run. 

But guess what, in the immortal words from Close Encounters "We are not alone." The Internet  connects. I am hearing stories from outraged trainers, owners, service dog owners and even people who never owned a dog about wild packs of dogs in public places, off leash, being dangerous and out of control.

Picture this if you will. You are heading back to the car after an hour plus wonderful off leash romp with your dog. Your dogs are tired and just as you are getting in the van, a dog walker opens the door and lets 8 super happy excitable dogs out of their vehicle and they come charging at yours.

What do you think might happen in a scenario like this? 

That is right, we are so not alone. We share the trails with other dog owners, and not all are off leash.
We share the trails with people who don't like dogs, and people who are jogging, biking, ski mobiling , four wheeling,  hunting.

We share the trail with families with kids and babies.
We share the trail with friendly dogs and not so friendly dogs.
We share the trail with friendly people and not so friendly people.

The list goes on.

We share the trail with people who were friendly until they continuously  come upon groups of dogs with professional dog walkers.  Most loose in the parking before they even hit the trail. 

This my friends is recipe for not only disaster, but leash laws.
If we don't self govern ourselves, then it will be done for us.  Leash laws and even dogs  banned from popular areas are just around the corner.

I have a few  questions for those of you who hire people to walk your dogs.
How well do you know your dog walker and what is going on when you are not there?
Have you authorized off leash excursions?
Do you know how many dogs are with your dog?
Have you ever looked in the vehicle to see how safely (or not) the dogs are being restrained? 
Do you know how much if any training these dogs have had?

So what do we do?

Speak up, take video, take names and call the Cops or Animal Control Officer.

Please note - this blog is not intended to bash all dog walkers who have dogs off leash.  This blog is intended to draw attention to an ever growing issue that has affected me personally over and over again. 

 I know very few people who could safely handle 8 dogs on or off leash at once --- myself included.

With much thanks to Liz Langham of Tree Frog Farm for sharing the gang bang story.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Prelude to a Kiss

Boring is the New Awesome

 Finn Cam
Meet Sophie!  She is the first ever recipient of the Gooddogz Training "Boring is the New Awesome" award.  My hope is that this high honor  will become more and more common. Those of us with dogs with issues crave for the day that we can just walk down the street and nothing, and I mean nothing happens.  Oh the awesomeness of nothing I say.

Sophie  was a referral from Mississippi. She came to Maine Via the over crowded no kill CARA shelter where my dog  Beck hails from.  Sophie and her Mom Mary trekked about 90 minutes plus each way to come and train with me,  even though I suggested other trainers closer to their home. It is winter in Maine ya know.

 They had a total of five sessions over the course of about 2 months.  3 in the back room of Pet Quarters in Windham, and 2 in down town Freeport.  Sophie had intense reactivity to both dogs, people and noises and was very reactive when in her house even though basically there was nothing there except a lot of new things to get used to.   Mary took her to a well known trainer shortly after taking her home and the dog barked and lunged for an entire session. The other trainer was quite upset that a rescue would adopt this dog out.  I am not saying I am a miracle worker and I offer that the dog the other trainer met was wound a lot tighter than the dog I met who had yet to trust and bond with her human. But still--she has come a long baby!  I am nearly as proud of them as my kids that  I gave birth to,  and in a sense, I did.  Dogs who don't fit into our world don't have many options if you get my drift. 

Without getting into Sophie's history, we can start with the part that before being relinquished for chewing, she lived with several other dogs that beat her up.  She has little or no vision in one eye due to a doggie house mate biting her, and she spent several months at CARA where she had no a chance of being adopted.

So what did we do that was so magical? Well, some basic obedience, a  lot of look at that, BAT and making her feel safe. BAT (Behavior adjustment training works. Really it does.   For many of us, BAT is a way of life. We stop putting our dogs places that they can not handle. We listen to what our dogs are trying to tell us and we give them options.  "Hey dog, you don't have to go forward, you can retreat. Trust me, I got this. "

My last session with Mary was so boring in fact that I took my reactive dog out of the car.  We both did BAT and then parallel walked. Beck was not quite the (boring old aging) rock star that Sophie was, but he still made me proud.  Beck is a much more difficult and complicated dog than my last reactive dog Charlee but with the help of newer super dog friendly techniques, he can go out and play. Oh how I wish LAT and BAT were invented when Charlee  was younger.

So back to Sophie. I got this email today. Honestly, my heart is very full tonight.  Not only are they doing really well, but Mary is sharing what she has learned and is out there giving out good info and helping other dog owners. Love it.  Best to you and Sophie Mary.  I am Thrilled. Thrilled I tell ya.  This is  one of the  best emails I ever got from a client. 

Sophie the Gooddogz Poster Child

I have to tell you our latest tale: Sophie and I were taking a walk on the loop at the lighthouse today (pre-snow) and saw a woman with a beagle walking in the other direction. I thought about seeing if Soph would be ok walking past (she's been really good and the street is pretty wide), but when we got closer, I realized the beagle was getting hyper and pulling on the leash. Too much for her to react to, so we scooted up a side drive and did several "friend" treats. Sophie sat at my feet and calmly turned around to look at the dog and the woman said "wow, you're dog is so good." I told her the Sophie story. Turns out, Henry the Beagle is from Louisiana and is great with humans but majorly reactive to other dogs. I told her she should like Gooddogz on facebook (her name is Susan, in case she signs up soon), all about BAT, that you're the best trainer in the universe. While we talked, Henry and Sophie both sat calmly (about as far apart as Sophie and Finny, when we started them parallel walking). Susan said he's never that good with other dogs -- must be because Sophie is so calm (!!!!) Who knew Sophie would EVER be a role model??? Just had to tell you. Mary PS And the other day we were at the lighthouse and she suddenly barged in front of me and sat down, wanting a treat. I couldn't figure out how come... until I realized people were walking close behind me -- and she was telling me it was time for me to do "friend" -- who's training who?


*  update!  Mary just reminded me that Sophie had been returned by a Maine family for barking.