Trained to Impress

There are so many reasons to train your dog.  Whether you just want a friendly and relatively obedient house-pet, or to be able to compete in dog sports, all signs point to training.  A well-socialized, obedient dog is more pleasant to live with.  You can bring that dog to so many more places and activities than you can bring the hell-hound who drags you down the street every time you try to take him for a walk.

And here’s another reason.  Your dog is a representative of his species, and his breed.  It isn’t your imagination – your dog is being judged.  How many people have let a single bad experience with a dog of a recognizable breed (or type) influence their forever opinion of that breed?  It’s easy enough to do.

I know that all German Shepherd dogs aren't angry-clawing their way out of their yards. But I wouldn't want to meet this one on the street.

Public opinion can be difficult to deal with.  I know quite a few people with Rottweilers who find that people walking towards them on the street will cross the street to avoid them.  These dogs that I know, in particular, are big softies.  Given the opportunity, any one of them would come up to you and present his or her bum for a nice scratch session.  These owners ‘get’ it.  They are ambassadors to a breed that is labeled ‘tough’, and the amount of work they put into the training of their dogs shows it.

In the past few visits I have made to a dog park near my home, I have had a nearly identical conversation with fellow dog owners, and it is really disturbing.

“There’s just something about boxers, you know?  I just don’t trust them.  They seem to be playing nice, and then all of a sudden they’re in attack mode.”

“Yeah, I try to keep my dog from playing with them when we’re here and they show up.”

"Who, me?"

Sorry, are you talking about boxers?  Boxers, those goofy, playful dogs – the ones who like to wrestle and run around and play?  Boxers like the one on my street, Abby, Gwynn’s favourite wrestling buddy.  Abby, who sits on her front lawn, leash-free, while her owner brings the recycling bins to the kerb, and waits for permission to come across the street to visit us on our walk?

Most of the boxers I’ve met at this park (and any other) play so nicely with other dogs.  They love to wrestle, making them a perfect playmate for Gwynn.  If their owners call, they come at least as often as Gwynn does when he is called.  If they are playing too rough, their owners re-direct them.  Like any dog owner should do if at a dog park.  Gwynn sometimes needs intervention in play as well.

Most, but not Mocha.  Mocha the 1ish year old Boxer doesn’t get it.  It’s like she doesn’t speak ‘dog’ – she doesn’t pay attention to the ‘go away’ and ‘back off’ signals that dogs give off.  She wrestles too hard, she pushes buttons, and she instigates scuffles.  Her owner claims she is perfectly trained, but she has zero recall/obedience at the dog park.  When she gets too excited, too pushy, too MUCH, he does nothing.  No redirecting, no break time, no ‘let’s go for an on-leash walk for 10 minutes and come back and try again’.  She focuses a lot on smaller or weaker dogs, and harasses them to no end.  She runs wild, and yes, the dog park isn’t as fun while she’s there.  I don’t run into her often, and am usually in the lucky position of already heading out when she’s coming in.

Her impact is being felt.  The people at the dog park aren’t talking about their wariness towards Mocha the poorly trained and poorly socialized Boxer, owned by that jerk who doesn’t follow dog-park-etiquette.  They’re talking about how they don’t trust Boxers.  No differentiation between the Mochas and the Abby’s of the world.

So – train your dog.  Train him to make a good impression.  You want people to talk about how much they love Australian Shepherds after having met your Aussie – not about how they hate those jumpy, barky, over-energetic terrors.  Pure-bred or mixed breed, your dog gives people an impression of all dogs.  And don’t forget to pick up after that obedient dog, because otherwise, you’re giving all us dog owners a bad name too.

Rules to live by

I think it’s great when a whole family piles out of the car with their dog (or, even better, walks the three blocks to the park), ready for a few hours of fun in the great outdoors.  The amount of time children spend not-playing-and-running-around is something I find disturbing.  Any family time spent in the great outdoors is a huge plus in my opinion.

However – the dog park is for dogsOn a gorgeous sunny spring day, it might just have 20+ medium-to-large sized dogs running around and wrestling and chasing a ball and sniffing things.  They are excited.  Super excited.

You then put a kid (short, high-pitched, very energetic person) into the equation.  Given the choice, I would require people to be over the age of 10 if they’re going to be inside the fence.  The ones who are well behaved and pleasant are far outnumbered by the ones causing a ruckus.

We’ve had some great weather, so everyone’s emerging from winter hibernation.  Forgive the rant, but I’m about ready to explode, and I need to vent.  Blame it on having been stuck without my dog-walking time for the past week, due to a nasty ankle-roll that still has me hobbling.  We’re back to making trips, but my ankle still hurts too much for me to do much more than walk to the dog park and back.  If I could go somewhere else, I would.

In the name of not making me angry, some rules – for parents, for people under the age of 15, for whoever finds themselves at a dog park:

ONE: Don’t run.  Don’t run screaming, giggling in your high pitched voice,  waving a toy (or something that could be seen as a toy) over your head, don’t run at all.  Go outside the fence if you need to run so badly.  Do you know what an excited dog does when they see running?  They RUN.  A dog running after a child could easily catch that child if they wanted to.  They probably don’t… it’s just a game to them.  Having a dog chase them at high speed makes kids yell in their high pitched voices, and run more, making all the dogs in the area worked up.  So, when I yell across the dog park at your screaming kid to “STOP RUNNING”, don’t give me a dirty look.  Watch, as your child obeys the order, and the three or four dogs that were chasing him (leaving a good 10 ft space) stop running, and wander off.  Yes, I should have been able to grab Gwynn and make him stop following that kid (and yes, the other dog owners too), but I’m still lurching slowly around like Igor from a badly rolled ankle, so anything I do, I do slowly.

why are we running? Doesn't matter, I like it!

TWO: If you wave something excitedly over your head, dogs will try to get it.  Especially if you’re squeaking it while trying to get your own dog’s attention.

THREE: Kids like sand.  But this is sand in a dog park.  It has only been open for about 6 months, but it is still Dog Park Sand.  Please stop your kid from rolling in it.  Please?  Not only is it unhygienic, but a kid lying (or sitting) on the ground is in a position to get hurt if a pack of dogs come running through.

dogs who are not paying attention to where you are...unless you're running, that is.

FOUR: If your child is scared of dogs, DO NOT bring them into a dog park to cure that fear.  It won’t cure it.

FIVE: Don’t give your child the leash, don’t let your child leave the dog on leash in the park, and don’t let the child pick up the dog.  If a small dog is a bit anxious of bigger dogs, you can bet he’ll be more anxious when the other end of the leash is held by a very excited little girl.  If that little girl then picks up her fuzzy bundle (holding the anxious, squirming dog at large-dog-face-height), those dogs will think that dog is super neat.  When you see your child hysterically screaming for help while holding Fluffy up and being surrounded by young large dogs trying to jump up to meet Fluffy, DON’T just stand 20 ft away, laughing.  There are so many issues with this situation.  Where are the big dog owners?  Why aren’t you helping your child?  Yes, your kid shouldn’t have picked up the dog, he was fine on the ground until she shortened his leash so he couldn’t go anywhere, but now it is your problem.  Why did I end up holding your dog so that the little girl could escape the four dogs (thankfully NOT Gwynn) trying to investigate her small dog?  EDUCATE your CHILD in dog safety.

SIX: Not just for children, and I actually think the worst offenders are the adults.  Don’t give my dog a treat without my permission.  I don’t understand why you think this is a reasonable thing.  It IS NOT.  What if that strange dog has allergies?  Not to mention that you just rewarded him for shoving his nose in your pocket, jumping up and barking.  And, lady who gave Gwynn two whole chicken-jerky-strips (probably the same brand as got him terribly sick in the fall) – seriously, I will BREAK YOU.  You have no idea the wrath that is currently hobbling double-time towards you, and no, you don’t get to act all ‘wounded innocent’ because you ‘didn’t know’.  Of course you didn’t know, you didn’t ask.  Of course he likes it, he’s a dog, and it’s food.

All I ask is that people teach their children how to behave around dogs that are not their own.  Do you have any rules you think should be initiated for people in general who are at the dog park?

A Prickly Situation

There is no time quite like the time spent in a park at night.  Or, for that matter, in a park at 6pm, when it’s pitch black out.  I understand why they don’t bother to put lights there – after all, it’s at least 3 km of densely wooded creek-valley.  Putting lights in would probably do more to attract an ‘unsavoury element’ than it would do to make me feel less like foolish little Red Riding Hood (not the psychotic version I wrote about earlier, mind you) heading along the creek and through the woods.  Ms Hood would probably have been considerably safer with two dogs at her side.

Apart from the inability to see what’s happening in the woods, the disadvantage of being in the woods at night is the simple fact that you can’t really see the dogs all that well.

When Gwynn ran up beside me and started chewing at his leg, I assumed (rightly, and completely wrongly) that he had a bur on his leg.  Well, he had burs, certainly.  On his leg, not so much.

Like this… only this is about 20 minutes after I started taking burs off.  I wasn’t mean enough to try and take his picture when all of the fur on his face was being held down over his eye by a giant mass of burs, as my pirate-like pooch wound anxiously around my legs, rubbing his face against my pants (pressing more and more fur deep into the burs), while I tried desperately to hold him still long enough to get ahold of the mass.  20 minutes sitting in the middle of the dark woods on the path, and I was finally pretty sure that he wasn’t in danger of eye damage.  I waited until he could see out of both eyes to give in to my bloggy self.

Meanwhile, Sadie was jealous of all the cuddles Gwynn was getting (not a cuddle, more like a half-nelson to hold the crazy dog still while I cleared his eye), so she kept trying to squish herself between Gwynn and I.  It’s really helpful to the situation as a whole – the dog I want to have close to me trying desperately to get away from the madwoman pulling at his face, the other one trying to steal all the ‘face pets’.

I got as much as I could get without actually being able to see what was there, pressed the rest of them back so that they were keeping his hair out of his eyes, rather than holding it over his eyes, and left it until home.  All that rubbing his face into my legs had left enough fine strands of bur in my jeans that I was twitching and itching and scratching all the way home.

Alarmed by the Park

I’m beginning to suspect that my park – my beloved close-to-walk-to park, with its brand-new dog-off-leash area – is not the greatest place to go… at most hours of the day, and all hours of the night.  These are things that were there in the summer, when the sun wasn’t setting until 10 pm, and it was bright out well before I emerged to walk the dog in the morning.  But somehow, more ominous when it’s black-out between 5pm and 7am.

It might be the gang-related graffiti that has cropped up recently.  A question I would love to ask the guys from gang X … is my park some kind of boundary line?  I know that on one side of the creek is Toronto, and the other side is Mississauga… is that your gang-line too?  Also… did you notice that the theoretical gang Y hasn’t been defiling my park with un-artistic and unimaginative graffiti?  Dear Gang Y – you could totally ‘show Gang X who’s boss’ by going out and scrubbing all their spray-paint away.  That’d learn ‘em.

It might be the parkers.  They’re even out in the morning!  Why are you in the parking lot of the dog park at 6 in the morning if you don’t have a dog?  I barely come to the dog park at 6 in the morning, and I have a dog.  Why do you just sit there in your car for a bit and then drive away?  And, to that other guy, why did you keep getting out and wandering through the parking lot?  My car’s locked, by the way.  If you feel the urge to park, at least go to one of the three other parking lots… they’re less in-use.  I’ve been told two possibilities for these lurkers.

One, that there are drugs involved.  I have trouble believing that anyone’s out at 6am hunting for a dealer in an empty park.  They’re all sleeping off the previous all-night-bender, aren’t they?  But maybe that’s what they want me to believe.  However, I do acknowledge that drugs are a good explanation for the late evening parking-lot lurkers.

I like PDA as much as this guy likes green eggs and ham. So, would you not, could you not PDA? Especially not in my park.

The other is rather offensive, and pretty much everyone that suggests this option uses crude and homophobic language.  However, my non-homophobic dad confirmed that this is one of the reputations my park has.  In the least crude way possible… apparently this park in particular is a place where gay guys go to pick upIf there’s hanky panky going on in the park, I doubt it’s limited to boys who like boys.  But at 6 am?  Doubtful.  Also, go to a bar or a coffee shop, or gym or class of some sort to meet people.  You deserve to meet someone who isn’t lurking in a dark parking lot… and then go somewhere more private than a big dark wooded area to be intimate.  And by more private, I mean less sketchy.  There are gangs and drugs there, you know.  Also, I don’t like PDA ever – not in a park or in the dark or in a car or in a bar, I do not like PDA at all.

It might be the late-night-walkers – and I don’t mean the people with dogs.  I realize it’s silly, but if you’re out in the park early in the pitch-black morning, or late in the pitch-black evening, and you don’t have a dog… or fall clearly into the ‘I exercise no matter what the weather/season/hour’ categoryI assume you’re sketchy or at least a bit deranged.  Also, why did you slow down?  Change direction? Walk directly into the dark woods not-on-a-path?  I heard a terrible story from a fellow dog owner recently – a friend of his was out walking one evening with her two malamutes, and she got attacked in the woods.  She’s fine… her dogs killed the guy, though.  Just a warning to any sketchy people who might read my blog – don’t mess with people walking their dogs.  I don’t know how Gwynn would react to an attacker (and am doing my best to ensure that I never find out – safety first!), but he is my biggest fan, and he bit a 2” oak dowel in half with ease.

It might be the campsites.  There isn’t camping in the park.  If I find your tent/shanty/lean-to, I will call the police.  I do understand that it’s likely that you are a homeless person, and I feel for you.  But you’re making my park scary.  Go to this link (free library internet!), the city will help you, but first you need to seek that help out.  Lurking in the woods makes me think you’re more interested in taking than asking for.

It might be the coyotes.  I’ve actually seen some this fall – the first time I’ve ever seen coyotes in the area.  And, while they are chickens when outnumbered, I’ve heard a good number of stories about them luring unsuspecting dogs into the woods where the rest of their gang is waiting.

Gwynn (and Sadie, when she joins us) has a light on his collar.  I have my headlamp(note – animal eyes glow bright in both red and white lights… the purpose of the headlamp is to let me see if there are animals other than my dog(s) in the area that might pose a danger… and to find poops in the dark.) and cell phone and a truncheon-like big metal flashlight (whose sole purpose is, yes, to bludgeon a theoretical attacker.), and a whistle.  And I make as many of my evening walks as possible with a buddy or two, using guilt, bribery and outright begging to get someone to go with me into the woods.  I would rather avoid going to parks in the dark, but the reduced daylight doesn’t reduce the length of time Gwynn needs to be walked (preferably with a bit of off-leash running around), much as I sometimes wish it would.

What do you do to keep you and your dog safe on your walks?  Do you go dogless into dark parks?  If you’re one of the people who randomly parks in the park… why?

Totoredaca Park Frenzy

This weekend, we went on a trip to Totoredaca Park in Mississauga.  The Australian Shepherd Meetup group had an event there – an Aussie Frenzy, in fact – and we wanted to be a part of it.  I love going to a dog park and knowing that we’ll run into a few dogs we know/like and that play well with Gwynn.

You can see Gwynn off in the background. He might not be fully aussie, but he always has fun playing with his half-brethren.

The park is HUGE, with a big field, a forested area, a small-dog area, and a fenced in field that is supposed to have agility equipment in it.  Well, this sunday, all they had out was one pretty boring tunnel, but apart from that, I have no complaints.

Aussies in Frenzy!

There is seating scattered all around, along with things for the dogs to sniff and explore.  It was ridiculously windy, so I’d imagine that, if you’re going in the winter, you’ll want to bundle up.  There are some sheltered areas for people to huddle in, if it’s really bad, but they aren’t ideal for being able to see your dog if he’s running around off in the distance.

boss, can i get off the bench yet?

In warmer months, they have a water spout for filling dog bowls.  Despite the unnaturally warm fall we’ve been having, they’ve already shut that off, so bringing water for your pooch is a must.

part of the open field area

We stayed there for about two hours, and from what I saw, all the dogs and owners were behaving well.  If a dog was getting too aggressive, it was called off and redirected, and, while most people were standing around in groups, no-one was ignoring their dogs.  Gwynn spent a good hour stealing a squeaky toy from another dog, and, once I found out that it was ok with the owner, he got to continue running around chasing and being chased by the yellow lab, depending on who had the squeaky dragon ball.

Afterwards, we swung by the petsmart, a less-than-ten-minute drive away from Totoredaca.  I’d count that as another nice feature of this park.

One thing I will warn about – going West towards Totoredaca, you pass the less-obvious parking area that’s on the north side of the park.  The west-side parking area is packed.  And likely to always be packed at the usual take-your-dog-to-the-park times.  The north-side parking lot has an entrance as well, and is just about empty.  Next time I go, I’m going to skip the busy lot and go to the north lot first.

Get more information on Totoredaca Park here: http://www.totoredaca.org/

Most of the pics I included were taken by other Aussie Meetup members.  They all have amazing cameras that let them get great shots of Aussies at high speeds.  So, if you see that a picture is a bit grainy… it was probably taken on my phone, with the settings unchanged from when Doodle was trying to take night-shots with no flash.  Not ideal, but it still gets the point across.

Damn you, Time Change!

Is anyone else having as much issue as me in dealing with the time change?  Fall Back is supposed to give you more daylight, but all it’s doing is giving me lack-of-sleep headaches.  I’m like a small child – I get cranky when my schedule is changed, or when I stay up past my bedtime.

I would have so much more time in the day if i could repeat three hours of it in an endless loop...

The time change does not actually produce extra time in the day.  The only thing that could give you more time in a day is developing a time-freeze-ray or time travel machine.  What it does do is make it a bit lighter out (for now… until it’s just as dark out as it was before) in the morning.  What it also does is make it much darker earlier in the evening.

I’d rather have a bit of extra light in the evening, when I’m going on a much longer walk with my dog.  In the morning, 99% of the people I run into are a) runners, b) walking their dogs, c) walking to work, or d) delivering newspapers.  The sketchy people are sleeping, because it’s 6am, and that’s what I’d be doing if I didn’t have to get the dog out for his morning perambulation and head to work.  To be frank, I don’t care if it’s pitch-black on my morning walk or if it’s kind-of-sort-of-light-out.  Because I’m not so concerned that the runners, dog walkers, people-heading-to-work, or people-delivering-newspapers might suddenly mug me.

In the evening, however, when I’d really like to go for a walk in the park, or go to the dog off-leash area, and plan to spend an hour or more outside, light would be nice.  Because sometimes that shadowy figure in the gloom is a fellow dog-walker, or a jogger… and sometimes it’s a kind of ominous looking guy (and yes, if you’re that guy who lurks in dark parks with no exercise or dog related purpose, hood up and baggy coat that could be hiding dangerous things…I judge you based on your appearance) who doesn’t seem to have a valid rason for being in the dark dark park.  I know, I know – judging people is bad.  But why is that guy walking through a park, why did he slow down when he saw me, and why did he veer off the path and into the shrubbery?  Well?!  Why???  If the park led somewhere apart from ‘out onto a spit of land where no-one can hear you scream’, it might be a different story.

It would be so much easier to be in the park in the evening without the time-change taking away what little daylight I had just a few short days ago.  It’s pretty much dusk by the time I get home from work, and it’s black by the time Gwynn and I walk to anywhere.

My final complaint about the time change is this:  I adjust poorly to changing time-zones.  On sunday night, I was in bed by 9pm(new time)… because my brain knew that it was actually 10pm.  And last night, both Gwynn and I were suffering through the last half of our dog class.  I want to pay attention, I tried to pay attention, I feel terrible that I spent that last half of the class yawning my brains out.  But, when the class runs from 9 to 10 pm… right after the time change, my brain was telling me It’s actually 10:30pm now!  Go to bed!

By the time we left the class a bit after 10pm (ELEVEN!), I had a killer sleep-deprivation headache, which, as of noon (ONE PM!) today, hasn’t left me.

Please, can’t we just leave the time alone except when crossing time-zones?

An Ode to Quinte

My previous post mentioned that we went to visit Doodle in Ottawa over the Thanksgiving weekend.  We decided to skip the muss and fuss and hustle and bustle of a big turkey day dinner and getting Doodle from Ottawa to home by herself… and back again.  Instead, we experienced the hustle and bustle and muss and fuss of transporting four adults, one large dog, and a van-full of stuff for Doodle’s slightly barren residence room on a 6+ hour drive to Ottawa.

Have you ever had that moment of epiphany?  The moment you look upon something, and think, “OH!  Now, I get
it… that is how it’s supposed to be.”  That’s what this was like.

On the drive, we stopped at the most extraordinary place.  A dog park… whose design and construction had been done with the enjoyment of both dogs and dog owners in mind.  It might seem strange to you that I find this shocking.  But, you see, Toronto’s dog parks are not made with enjoyment in mind.  They are made, against fierce opposition, in the least desirable parts of parks, using the fewest resources possible, and, from what I can tell, designed by people who aren’t really sure why dog owners want such places to begin with.  Local dog owners aren’t given the opportunity to give suggestions, and the suggestions they do give are generally ignored.  “Be grateful we even let you have dogs in public green-spaces” seems to be the motto.

We stopped at the Quinte Dog Park in Belleville, Ontario.  It is three fully fenced in acres of wooded parkland.  In low areas where the ground would otherwise be muddy, woodchip has been put down.  On higher ground, it is grassy or covered in pine-needles, depending on what kinds of trees are nearby.  It is big enough that the dogs pounding the ground don’t tear it up nearly as much as they do in smaller dog-areas.  There are benches scattered throughout the park, as well as fire hydrants – a feature I find hilarious.  Did I mention that there are trees in the park?  Trees = shade and protection from the elements.  For dogs, trees = squirrel-homes and the potential to chase squirrels… not to mention all the sniffing opportunities.

The park is located on the Four Seasons Road, in Belleville, Ontario. You should visit! You should donate! There are a number of fast food type places on the way, too - we stopped to pick up food on the way, and my family ate at a pic-nic table outside the fence while Gwynn and I frolicked amongst the trees.

The Quinte Dog Park has garbage cans spaced out along the fence line.  It also has boxes full of unused poop-baggies beside each garbage can.  I used my own doggie bags, because I had them with me – but making dog-bags available is brilliant.  People can no longer use the excuse of ‘I forgot my bags’ or ‘I ran out of bags’ to ignore their pooch’s mess.  And, while I can’t say I walked everywhere, I can say, I didn’t see any dog-poop on the ground.

trees!

It has a small bus-shelter type thing near the fence.  A simple shelter, donated by a construction company in the community, that gives people a place to stand if it starts raining, or just to get a bit of protection from the wind.

hilarious firehydrants!

It has a water cistern with a gravity spigot at the bottom, donated by another local company.  No installing expensive plumbing, just a simple tank that probably gets topped up every week or two by the company that donated it.

it hardly looks like a dog park!

It has a board with tennis rackets and a chuck-it hooked on to it.  Items I’m assuming were donated, for the sole purpose of a bit more intense game of fetch.

I think one of the main differences between this amazing dog park and the parks I find in Toronto is that the dog-owning community is allowed – even encouraged – to help maintain the park.  There is a donation box, and a dog park Association that finds contributors and helps maintain the park itself.  It was so clearly designed by dog  owners, for dog owners.  It has sponsors to help in the maintenance, instead of relying solely on city money.  It is purposely built and maintained, rather than being a side-note like so many GTA dog parks are.

I realise that I’m sounding very harsh on the parks in Toronto.  Some of them are quite good (Cherry Beach and High Park, to name a few).  The ones in my area (all new/newer construction) are… functional… “At least there is a dog-park” is about all I can say about them.  The grass lasts for about a month out of the year, leaving it muddy and unpleasant the rest of the time, and there isn’t a stick of protection between you and the north pole during the winter.  No shade in the summer, either.

Seeing the Quinte Dog Park confirmed – Toronto could do so much better.  Hopefully the City will take the challenge.

Gone for a Walk

In honor of Koly and Kelly’s K9 Kamp, the name of my blog, and the fact that this is something I do A LOT of, today’s post is about going for a walk.  It seems strange that I haven’t written more about this, but really, when you go on at least two walks a day, it becomes something mundane and not blogworthy.

However, the first week’s challenge in K9 Kamp is to walk a minimum of 60 minutes.  Gwynn and I were totally game.  I’ve been warned that this is the easy/warmup/practically-not-a-challenge challenge, but the fact remains – walking, I can do.

Gwynn hasn’t even missed out on swimming and dog-park time, since the nearest dog park is about a 20 minute walk away, and the nearest water I’m willing to let him go into is about the same.

I’ll admit, not all these pictures are from the same walk, or the same season… but they give a general idea of what a walk, for Gwynn and I, is all about.  I’m just not good at bringing out my camera or phone on walks.

For the challenge week, we made it out every day for at least 60 minutes.  I tried to increase my walking speed, but, to be honest, I have no idea if it actually increased all that much.  I tend to enjoy watching the scenery, and tend to slow down when I’m not thinking ‘walk faster than usual, walk faster than usual’.  We walked with Sadie for a lot of the walks, which certainly helped ensure that Gwynn got an extra bit of running.

So, without further ado:  A walkthrough of a typical walk!

Proper footwear is key.

given the choice, I’d be barefoot… this is the next-best-thing, though soon I’ll have to put them away for the colder weather.
given the choice, he’d be barefoot… and he is, most of the time. But the snow packs in between his pads and hurts him. He’s willing to tolerate the doggy boots, though I regularly have to go searching in the snow for that lost boot after a romp. I'd have shown a pic of him outside, using them, but the only time you can really see the boots in the deep snow is when I'm holding one in my hand after it's fallen off. Anyone else who's used dog boots, please recommend a better brand to me! I am very disappointed in the muttlucks. I shouldn't have had to add snaps and repair frayed edges in the first month of ownership.

We usually start off in the neighbourhood.

before I started walking Gwynn, I had no idea just how many people in my area own dogs. And walking with a dog is like an invitation to talk. Talk to people working in the front yard, talking to people who are walking the opposite direction, people who are walking in the same direction, people across the street, people in cars at stop signs. Everyone. And that’s not even counting all the people who are with their own dogs.

We like to go into the creek valley…

... though we have to be careful of coyotes, especially recently. This pic is from just after we got Gwynn's hair cut! he's so tiny!

To the dog park…

well... this shot isn't exactly the dog park... but certainly a field that they love to run around in!

To the beach…

especially now that Gwynn has learned to swim and loves to swim. He's such a scrawny fellow under all that fluff! This is a pic from just before his haircut, so fluffy!

Gwynn’s favourite walks are the ones that Sadie comes on.

They’re Sadie’s favourite, too, I think!

Check out Kol’s Notes and Peggy’s Pet Place for a recap of how other people did on the first week of the Kamp challenge!

One man’s junk is another man’s jungle-gym

Gwynn is good at going slowly through the sticks... if he's given incentive 🙂
the easiest way I've found to get Gwynn to go over jumps is to do it myself... monkey see, monkey do

In a perfect display of slacking on yard-work, we spent one afternoon turning our yard into a personalized agility course.  We took our mostly empty yard, and a variety of not-in-use bits of scrap, and turned it into our very own agility course.  It is pretty epic, I know.  If you ignore the fact that it looks a bit like the beginnings of a hoarder’s back-yard collection.  Then again, the fact that we had so much of this stuff just lying around is probably a good indication that we have issues with throwing things away. 

And, of course, once we’d run through it a bunch of times, we figured we should take some pictures of Gwynn in action, and also give some ideas on things you can easily set up in your backyard, without going out and buying things.

 
 
the piece of hosing was a bit short for him to walk through, so we practiced the 'crawl' command
 

we borrowed a table as a place to hop up... this is, by far, his favourite trick. He's now jumping up on random rocks in the path, picnic tables, and anything else he can find that he can get up on.

Those weaving sticks?  Those are actually marshmallow sticks… and a weed pulling device… and a crowbar…  The jump is lawnchairs (obviously), and a big piece of metal that mysteriously fell from the side of our house.  And the hose is the closest thing we’ve got to a hula-hoop, or tunnel.  The small plastic table was the equivalent of the platform a lion stands on in a circus.If you’re planning on doing something similar to this, Clementine boxes are great to start off as the supports for a jump – you can increase the height easily by adding boxes. 

 Gwynn has already done a bit of jumping in his training classes as well as over my previous attempts at building jumps for him, so I didn’t need to start off low.  Even starting off with an upright 2×4 plank will start your dog in the idea of jumping.  
 If you don’t have as many random poles as I do (or don’t want to poke holes in your yard), chairs, or planter pots, or anything, really, can be lined up for winding through.  This isn’t, after all, a professional and timed agility course – this is just for a bit of fun in your own back yard.  When you start off, leave a big enough gap for you to fit through, and lure your dog around the posts as you walk through them yourself. 

… does this remind anyone else of Calvin and Hobbes’ happy dance?

Having something that your dog can crawl through is a good way to practice the crawl command, or even start it off… even if it is an old piece of hose.  If you’ve got a kiddy tunnel, try bringing it out and getting your dog to go through it.  I think a used kids tunnel might be my next purchase (hopeful for garage sale season!), because that was Gwynn’s favourite thing when our trainer brought in the agility type stuff.   This entirely unrelated to obedience training is alot of fun, and gives you a new way to play with your dog.  The  other place I’ve found a use for some of his trick training is in meeting new people – it is hard to be scared of a dog that can wave at  you, or bows to you.  He’s charmed his way through a nursing home and a book shop with these tricks.

 

A final bow from Gwynn at the end of his performance