A Walk in the (Dog) Park

23 Feb

4. Walk the dogs more often

I should have expanded this goal to say something more like, “train the dogs to be healthier and happier.” First, I have two perfect dogs– one, a female mini Aussie named Luca and the other, a male Lab mix named Marco. Luca has intense energy and with all her shepherd intelligence, she can easily slip into overly-anxious or obsessive behavior. She definitely thinks that she knows what’s best and that independence is something I have to constantly keep under tabs. Marco, on the other hand, is easy. He’s laid back and highly trainable/obedient. However, he has some health problems, one of which being that he has no hips sockets and has had some pretty serious surgery to eliminate any resulting pain from his condition. He’ll never be an athletic dog but he can definitely run and play with the best of them.

Now, before I proceed to tell you how much time I spend training my dogs every day let me remind you:

1. That I am unemployed. 😀
2. There are numerous health benefits resulting from a close relationship with your dog.

Okay, confession time. I’m training my dogs all day in some form or another. We focus on them feeling comfortable and at ease in our home: not rushing to the door when they hear someone coming or feeling the need to follow me everywhere I go. They no longer dash out of every open door and they’re getting pretty good at not jumping on me or my husband when we come home. We practice walking for thirty minutes every other day to build trust and respect and they’ve learned to stay calm and enjoy exercise while listening to me.
I tell you all of this because I’ve tried something new and I want to share my advice but it’s important to know your dogs first and recognize that he/she may not be in the right mindset for it yet. So!

Before going to the dog park, here’s how I recommend you prepare yourself and your dog/s:

1.  Start taking them for walks and observe how your dogs respond to you. Do they listen unconditionally? Are they pulling you all over the place? If you don’t feel in control, I wouldn’t recommend tackling the challenge of the dog park just yet.
2. Try to bring your dog around strangers and other animals. Is he aggressive or extremely anxious? Does he continue to bark at them or refuse to let people pet him? If you observe your dog being unfriendly, it may be better to continue training for awhile.

If these behaviors are under control or totally absent, I think it’s time to take a trip to the park! Dog parks are helpful in training because they expose dogs to a variety of personality types and unfamiliar situations. Not only will the experience aid them in trusting you more, but it will force your dog into a state of balance. They’ll need to find common ground and set healthy boundaries with other dogs and they’ll also have an opportunity to learn. (My dogs learned that water is fun! No small feat.)

It’s not always as simple as walking in and unleashing to set all these benefits into motion, though. Like I said, I have an anxious and over-protective little girl so I had to do a little tricking to make everything kosher with her. Here are some things to try if you have a less-than-receptive dog:

1. Make sure you bring treats! Now, owner etiquette usually prohibits giving treats to other dogs without their owner’s permission but if you want to draw some attention and create common ground, open a bag of treats and watch the dogs gather around. This will give your dogs the chance to see you interact with the others in a familiar and positive way and will give them the clue that this is going to be a good experience. Also if, God forbid, a fight breaks out, a whiff of a treat will often distract the dogs from whatever is bothering them.
On this note, please don’t be alarmed if your dog growls or even “argues” (barking, growling, full-on focused) with another dog. It’s a very natural way of establishing the rules and dogs will work it out between themselves about 95% of the time. If doesn’t stop after a minute or so or it gets worse–treats!

2. Walk your dogs around the perimeter of the park. This sets a very physical and real boundary and it lets your dogs sniff and familiarize. You should see them relax almost immediately because walking with you is comforting (reminds them of something they know) and they’re getting the heads-up on who else is in the park. They can prepare this way.

3. Get to know the other owners. Not so much for social reasons but it definitely pays to pay attention to their behaviors. You can often tell a well-behaved dog from a bully this way. Do they stay close to their dogs? Do they ever call them out on naughty behaviors? Are their dogs jumping all over them? If so, you probably don’t want your dogs to play with theirs. It’s kind of like kids at a playground. If a kid is pulling his mom’s hair, he’s probably a brat.
Again, there’s some owner etiquette here. If you see someone’s dog misbehaving, it’s better just to get yours out of there than to tell the owner. It’s kind of like telling a parent they should discipline their kids better. Doesn’t usually go over well.

4. Bring water and bowls, if possible or necessary. Pretty self-explanatory. Don’t bring toys, though. Your dogs will not be happy when a boxer takes off with their favorite stuffed animal.

That’s all for now! I’m continuing to socialize my dogs and hope to add more tips in the near future. Also, pictures!



3 Responses to “A Walk in the (Dog) Park”

  1. Anna February 24, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

    Teach me your ways! No matter what I do, Albus won’t listen to me at all. He listens to Mark very well, but we are never home at the same time. How did you get your dogs not to rush at people and jump on them? Amazing!

    • Intrepid Girl February 24, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

      Hmm, well, two things need to happen. 1. You need to practice teaching him to sit and figuring out an easy command for that. Once you have that down and he consistently sits on command, move to phase two. 2. ( I learned this part from Cesar) If when you walk in the door, he jumps and won’t listen to command, you need to get him to submit. Do this by getting right in his bubble and give him the command to sit. Stand over him, right against him if you have to, and if he tries to move, move with him and stay right over him. Your presence should intimidate him and giving him the sit command should work a lot better. Make sure you enforce this rule all day too. If he gets in your personal space when he’s not welcome, repeat the submission routine. If you’re ever home before Mark and you hear him coming toward the door, try heading him off. Stand in front of the door as if to say, “I own this door.” If he tries to get too close–submission routine. You should see him calm down, lose interest, and go lay down. What you’re saying is this is my space, the door is my door, and the people who come through it belong to me. You can’t come in this space or near the people unless I invite you.
      Now, is he a puppy? Because if so, you may need the extra help of treats. Try to remember to take some with you when you leave the house and flash a treat when he sits. Eventually, it will become a habit.

      • Anna February 25, 2011 at 5:11 am #

        He’s about 2 years old, we got him from a shelter. Thanks for the advice! Your puppies sound lovely!

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