With the weather starting to cool off, more of us head outside with our dogs to enjoy the crisp air. Living in Florida, we are running outside giggling with glee when we get anything close to 70 degrees. Yesterday evening we took advantage of the nice cool air to do some filming, exercise Cairo’s leg (it is all healed up and doing great!) and introduce Siren to walking etiquette. We do quite a bit of training on walks. Everything from training not to pull, not to criss-cross in front of the humans, bikes or strollers, stopping and pausing at intersections and a host of other things that they will need to master.
Siren is only 5 months old, so her walks are not long. We do not go over a few miles with her at this point and neither she nor Cairo (who is 1 year old) are ready for running, as their growing bodies are not ready for such rigorous activity. I bike with my dogs (this is Rama’s favorite thing to do outdoors) but not until they are over 20-24 months and have had hip/elbow x-rays done. This is not to say they are not allowed to run and play. They need to run and play and let off steam, but long-distance biking and running with them at a young age can cause damage to their still-growing joints. It is too much heavy impact and repetitive motion. We want everything to develop solidly and properly.
Observe how in the photo above Cairo’s lead is taught. This was right before I stopped. I’d gathered up the slack so she would not careen into the bicycle in front of us and I am preparing to stop. When the lead is not loose, we stop. Eventually she will learn that pulling gets her nowhere. Now I do believe that dogs should be able to have free walking time, to sniff and play and just be dogs. I give this a word so that the dogs know that it is ok to walk somewhere other than my left side. “Free” or “ok” can work, or whatever it is you want to use. It is unfair to expect a dog to work the entire length of your walk with no breaks. For example, heeling for 30-40 minutes is no fun. Your dog will grow bored of it. Practice your Heel for a few feet, release your dog and let them enjoy themselves. A few minutes later, practice something else. As much as walking is a stress-reliever for us, it is also so for your dog. They need to get out and be curious and have fun, too, so make sure you pepper your walk with bits of training instead of making the whole thing tedious and no fun for them.
The sun bathed everything in a lovely orange glow as it sank below the tree line. I love this time of day, especially when it is cool out. Sometimes when we are done with our walks and we must head home to get kids bathed and in bed, I wish I could set out on a longer walk by myself after everyone else is down for bed. It never seems like I can spend long enough outside when it’s cool out. I have observed that several folks hike at night. I have never done this but I would worry about missing something unless the moon was bright enough to illuminate all the sights I’d want to see.
Siren just came back from a week away with the handler. While she is still too young to show, she needed to get out and about with different people and get accustomed to how it all works. I am home most of the day and it is only natural that the dogs get very attached to me and used to me being there all the time. Siren needed to be handled by some other people and to learn what life is like for a show dog on the road. She got some socialization, some training and I got reports on how she was doing. She did very well and I see a bit more confidence in her already. While dogs typically go through fear periods at different stages of their development, it is very important nonetheless to expose pups to a myriad of sights, sounds and experiences so that they become solid in all situations. Sheltering them from things they may be afraid of not only intensifies the fear but can cement it in the dog for a lifetime. Working on things like this with a young pup is much easier than trying to work it out of a full grown dog.
While we missed her, it was a good thing for Siren to expose her to different things and people. Watching her on our walk yesterday it was obvious she grew during that week. She’d missed her buddy (Cairo) and I think she missed us, too. She’s been happily following everyone around, licking everyone and wiggling so much you’d expect her litttle butt to fly off! We did a little shy of 2 miles yesterday and here she is shortly after we got home:
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