09 September 2008

In today's episode, we find some dogs that wear backpacks in the forest.

So we went for a walk in the forest today. Monday's my day off, mostly out walking in the forest on a Monday morning are gray haired ladies in capri pants with fanny packs that hold water bottles. At least in this forest. Do you ever see ladies like this? Maybe your forest different. Some of them hike with ski poles. They travel in packs for safety. Since sometimes other forest walkers can be on the creepy side. No Not Me! I fall somewhere between gray haired ladies and creepy forest dwellers.

I kept the dogs on leashes until we got to the part of the forest where there are fewer ladies out on their lady hikes. Once we get to the more foresty part, yeah, there might be deer to chase but less chance of running amuck into a gray haired lady posse. Do not want to be responsible for tipping over a gray haired lady in a fanny pack, ski pole propping her up or not.

So we get to the running amuck trail, and off they go, up and down the trail ahead of me then behind me then ahead of me then behind me then ahead of me to the side of me and ahead of me. Through poison oak, ferns, mud and redwood bramble. They are fast. At the top of the hill, near the spring box full of goldfish (it's a weird kind of forest, guys) I hear a loud voice command, "DOWN." Like Wow. Super commandy. Dog trainer?

I call my dogs. Something about that commandy voice is a danger will robinson business meaning voice. "DOGS!" Don't see anything yet, but small dogs are really happy to run back to me, and I see why as I make it up to the clearing. There's a lady with 2 german shepherds, on leashes, in downs. They look like maybe not regular pet german shepherds. They both have on backpacks, and big prong collars plus some other kind of chain collar plus those big heavy leather leashes that have a bunch of extra buckles. European perhaps? Europia?

Lady looks at me, and goes,"Whoa. I thought those were a bunch of forest creatures." She is tall and has nicely arranged blonde hair and is like if you were to commission an aryan statue of a lady german shepherd trainer, use her as the model.

For a second I think, Yes! My dogs have just been mistaken for forest creatures! This is a pleasant thought. Not sure why. Forest creatures! Like squirrels! Gnomes! Fruit bats!

But then I'm like, "Dogs come HERE!" Because her europia shepherds may be on a down, but there are definite snarling noises coming form somewhat snarly looking mouths. I should add here, I LOVE german shepherds. If I could have unlimited dogs, I would include a german shepherd. Charlie's old dog, Jake, was one of my favorite dogs ever. But he also did bite work with the cop guys, and I have seen some intense german shepherd bitey action in my time and take growling german shepherds with multiple leashes and collars and backpacks super serious.

She goes, "I'm staying here. Don't let them near these dogs." She is super calm and looks like she has perfect control of her 2 giant dogs but her 2 giant dogs look like they thought maybe perhaps were going to have a forest creature snack not 10 seconds ago. I am like oh my god. Total Heidi Klum moment. The statuesque blonde Europia lady with snarling backpack dogs directing traffic in the forest clearing.

I'm attaching leashes licketdy split going, "Okie dokie, this is their usual running place, I'm going to just grab 'em here and go down over there and let 'em go again?" I sort of say this questiony because I want to make sure she doesn't say something like I AM ABOUT TO LET MY GERMAN SHEPHERDS GO TOO AND LET'S SEE WHO WINS THAT ONE. Also this lady is sort of like the boss here of the forest clearing all of a sudden. I will do whatever she says. I just am trying to keep forest creatures from being snacks.

They all just stay there, motionless, as we fast walk by until out of sight and I snap off my little thin, non chainy leashes and off they go, back down the forest hill. Running amuck forest creatures again, through the redwoods, no german shepherds in pursuit. Never saw the Europia lady again.

But what was weird was later on, back in the more capri pant section of the forest, I have them back on leashes and here comes another lady with dogs wearing backpacks. And one is a pitbull type and the pitbull type one is clearly what we in the dog training world like to call Reactive.

I know reactive, because Ruby was reactive. Did you know that? A reactive 12 lb dog. I spent years training Ruby to look at the thing that bugged her (any other dog that existed in the universe) then at me then have a treat until that became the thing she did until she could walk somewhat near another dog then eventually walk on a leash among all dogs until she one day became a normal dog. She is 8 now. That took a long time. Was a long time I thought she would never be a dog who could go for a walk amongst other dogs. Be at an agility show, all those other dogs? Still amazes me how far she's come. Like can't get too upset when she melts down in Snookers when I think about how I never even was sure she'd be able to just go on a walk around my block. Sit near another dog. Go to the beach. Is hard and sad to have a dog like that.

I think that's what this lady thinks with her dog. Except she is trying to train a big pitbull that weighs WAY more than 12 lbs with the same problem and she has another big black dog and they are both wearing backpacks but she is no Heidi Klum. She is small and wears a bandana on her head and she is having a helluva time controlling the now totally freaking out dog. Who is freaking out in a pretty scarey way.

We're on a dirt path in a forest I should add. One side a cliff down, one side a steep hill up. I know when I was desensitizing Ruby, the best thing was other dog just marched by us ignoring us and was gone in a flash. Didn't stop, pause, backup, just walks on. So I am super cheerful, Lindsey Lohan checking out of Malibu rehab on a sunny day with new Louis Vuitton on her arm, "Come on dogs! YAY!" You guys, my agility friends, know that YAY! We say it all the time. YAY! Good dogs!

Bandana head girl at this point is wrestling pitbull on the cliff side of trail. Like it is making frantic screaming noises and she is sort of on top of it, trying to keep it from launching ballistic into small dog group trotting by. Big black dog sort of standing there, looking more baffled than anything. At least she has one good dog. My dogs definitely getting the whole forest creature snack potential opportunity vibe again and marching right by not even looking at pitbull listening to the YAY! and Otterpop does the hand target she is trained to do when she sees something that scares her, and Ruby bless her feral little heart, acts like she was born to do this and has her whole life.

So hey. Not sure what Cesar would say about this. German shepherd lady, not sure what your dogs' trip is, but you seem to have a system to handle it.

Pitbull lady, your hair all cute in the bandana. Here's what I did.
Dog Training Jargon Starts Now!
  • Started with Ruby all by herself on a walk, with a pocket full of super treats. 
  • Let her look at a dog, then back at me and used a clicker and clicked her for picking to watch me and get a treat. 
  • When she could do it far from other dogs, got her closer and closer and just kept doing it. 
  • Everywhere, all the time. 
  • For like a year. Or two. Or more. Was kind of a huge project. 
  • I know there's a book, Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt, that has way better tactics and exercises. 

And I know my evil, snarling attacking tasmanian devil on the end of the leash only weighed 12lbs. And maybe some dogs never snap out of it, or maybe not enough. I know Ruby turned into a Sister Mary Ruby finally and is on her way to being Ruby Best Dog someday. But I feel your pain. And thanks for being a damn good dog wrestler.


vici whisner said...

You definately lead an extrodinarily exciting life. Thanks for taking the time to illustrate your words. I know that it is time consuming but boy is it fun. :)

Jules said...

Also Click to Calm. Helped me work through this issue (sortof) with the Schnauzer pictured - fraid of people. Fun stuff. Go Ruby, Go. Go TSD!

Elf said...

It would've been challenging to get photos of those scenes that you captured perfectly with your courtroom drawings. Good thing that your forest creatures aren't the sort that like to go check out the other dogs' butts before they actually come.

Urban Smoothie Read said...

pacco loves running amuck in the jungle and chase down all the other small dogs too, but still didn't manage to chew them up yet.

Double S said...

Your Rottweiler friend here says that large reactive dogs that are out of control would be well-served with a lot of the Captain's Feral Dog Training Protocol, but with a Gentle Leader added in there for a certain amount of "now here this", should said feral dog decide to lose its cool.

Also, sometimes looking away for a click/treat is not enough for a big reactive dog. Sometimes they need to sit or lie down or engage is a more physical activity when they want to do their bitey mcbite stuff.

So glad that your crew did not become a buffet yesterday. Sounds like they had fun too!

Sarah said...

“Was a long time I thought she would never be a dog who could go for a walk amongst other dogs. Be at an agility show, all those other dogs? Still amazes me how far she's come. Like can't get too upset when she melts down in Snookers when I think about how I never even was sure she'd be able to just go on a walk around my block. Sit near another dog. Go to the beach. Is hard and sad to have a dog like that"

Thanks for sharing this; Ruby's story brought tears to my eyes. I spent two years trying to teach my 14lb feisty/reactive/freaky boy Barberry to not look at another dog, and did my best to avoid all dogs when out on walks, this did no good, he still would flip out when he saw any dog, but especially big dogs. Once we learned "look at that dog" things began to change! We still have a long way to go before we could walk past a reactive Pit Bull, but calm dogs are not too much to handle.