Category Archives: Out and about

Tire games

Today was our final day for practicing Recallers games at Cedarbrook Stables. We had a few great moments, especially with Crate games. I threw a tire jump into the mix, putting it between the crate and me and calling him to me. He had a few distracted moments, where the smells of the arena drew him away, but for the most part he tugged and played with enthusiasm.

Our next step will be dropping into Ann’s rally class, where we’ll work the Recallers games in a different arena, with more dogs and people as distractions.


Becoming the ‘cookie’

Yesterday, Zeke and I rented Dog Smart’s agility room. At first he was nervous, sniffing the equipment with cautious interest. All those DOG SMELLS! I played some easy games with him; Collar Grabs, Call onces and then crated him. After a few minutes rest, I played Crate games with him. He visibly relaxed as we played, working within a familiar structure.

I brought out the tattered playground ball that drives him mad with desire. Would it retain its allure in this new and scary environment?

Darn right! I was so excited to tug with him, to hear him squeal, growl, and tug like a crazy thing. It was nice to have more room to dance about without running into the furniture.

Just as we were about to leave, he showed interest in a thick brown disc on the ground. He started to nudge and grab it. I picked up the plastic chocolate chip cookie and tossed it frisbee style. He leaped and grabbed it with his mouth and paws. At first he couldn’t get a grip on it, but he got better the more we played with it.

He stayed close and dropped it at my feet. Offering a cookie to his ‘cookie’!

Push me!

Alright this is starting to get out of hand… first biting and now pushing?
C’mon mom, we’re just playing!

I’ve continued to play the ‘hide and seek’ game and Zeke’s getting the game and has stopped biting. Whew. That’s a relief!

I’m really liking the pushback game…a little oppositional reflex number.
Today I had Zeke out at a little park when I spotted a lady with a porty approaching. He hadn’t seen or scented her yet, but he locks on pretty quick when he does and he was physically pointed in their direction. I knew it was only a matter of seconds. We were in a new environment and I’d already noticed he wasn’t taking tasty treats; there was just too much to smell, see and pee on. To attempt a name call was inviting failure.

Just in time, I remembered the push back game and he raced me to the car!

Fourth Out and About

Our last out and about class, led by DogSmart’s owner and head trainer, Alice Fisher, was held in Southlands where the placid car traffic was spiced with plenty of pedestrians, horses and dogs. A magnificent pair of bald eagles perched high in a Douglas fir, their screams skittering across the October sky.

Zeke worked a bit closer to the other dogs and handlers. We took it slow and easy. The most important concept I have taken away from this class has been to go… even… slower.

I used to think he needed short quick exposure to different places, in order to get more comfortable. I had been advised to load him up in the car, take him to a mall parking lot, park or other public place, let him out and briefly work him for a few minutes, and then put him back in the car and go to another place.

Doing the opposite is working much better for us.

When I take him to a new place, it’s best to go slow. Open the back hatch. Wait. Open the crate. Treat for any kind of calm behaviour. Wait. Breathe. Let him out. Treat him for reorienting to me. Return him to the crate. Rinse. Repeat.

Yesterday, by using that strategy, I watched his circle of comfort expand wider and wider, like ripples on a pond. We’re not covering much ground physically, but psychologically, I think we are. Besides, I don’t have to go looking for changes in the environment for him to experience, because they’ll surely come to us.

As we were working in a grassy area on the street corner I noticed Zeke’s head turn with ears pricked forward. A hedge blocked my view of what was coming down the street. Seconds later, an off leash dog rounded the corner and came bounding towards us. Yes, Zeke growled and lunged, but he followed me as I turned away. Fortunately, the dog owner was able to call her dog away.

Zeke observed many other things without reaction yesterday, including a pair of horses and their riders walking by. What a good boy!

Third Out and About

Yesterday the distraction levels were increased as was our proximity to the other dogs in the class.
Zeke worked very well. We practiced loose leash walking, various simple tricks and obedience skills, played a bit of ball, (we attempted tug, but he had little enthusiasm for it) Alice approached, talked to him and tossed yummy treats. From her point of view, he may have looked a bit OVER interested but she didn’t say her toes were curling, so that’s a good thing.

There are three other dogs in the class. At one point, when the little Shih Tzu worked closer to us, I thought I saw the beginnings of a play bow in Zeke. He seemed quite taken with her. The big boxer gives Zeke ‘the stare’ quite frequently, but he doesn’t seem to notice much. We keep our distance. The barking poodle gets his attention but the crow flying low overhead, got the growl and lunge for the day. Zeke’s always been ‘birdy’.

This was the first class where I felt able to work the whole hour. I didn’t crate him at all, although we had it set up.

I noticed on the video,

Out and About

(Thanks, Sharon!) that I feed him in front of my left leg. I don’t intend that, but that’s the result when he moves forward into the food. I would also like to try to stand up straighter. I’m not bending at the waist so much as at the shoulders and neck.

When I first get him out of the car, I tend to do a lot of quick activities, perhaps because I feel nervous and want to keep his attention on me. I think I’m falling back on that old theory about having to be the ‘most exciting thing in his world’ Good luck with that.

Next time I get him out for the first time, I want to try being more still and asking him for more quiet activities such as just relaxed sitting. Also, maybe put him back in after a minute or two, and then repeat, so he’s getting used to the area, but still staying safe.

It’s our last class next week.

Second Out and About

Zeke and I had a great training session at the Rose Garden in Queen Elizabeth Park. The weather was more mid-August than end of September; hot and sunny with humidity that felt chest deep. There was a lot of activity around us, including tennis players, bicyclists, running children, wedding parties, gaggles of sight seers and inquisitive dogs dragging their handlers to investigate us more closely.

I put his kennel under a tree along with the training bag, so we had a safe retreat whenever we needed one.

He stayed under threshold throughout the session, and although he did get a bit aroused a couple of times, he was able to collect himself and in the final ten minutes was offering me looks when dogs barked. Usually, I have to cue him to Look. He was also calm enough to play a bit of ball and tug with the cow-snake. What’s a cow-snake, you ask? That’s a snake tug toy into which I put a ‘moo’ noisemaker.
It’s one of his favourites.

Alice did a great job of managing the environment, as much as that is possible in a public park. The other dogs in the class provided just the right amount of distraction, which she monitored carefully.

Post class…

Well, the weather improved. And Zekie has too! The cemetery turned out to be a perfect place for us to practice ‘Look at That dog/jogger/neighbor” and loose leash walking. It was parallel games on a grand scale. Alice kept the rest of the dogs and handlers a nice safe distance from us. Zeke stayed under threshold and while he was a bit worried when the group walked close by our car, he willingly moved away and stayed with me.

On the video, which my friend Sharon kindly shot on my FLIP, you can see us wandering through the cemetery. Add spooky music and it could have a whole different feeling.


September 17, 2011


First out and about class

Agate sky,

swaths of mist veil the landscape

fine lines of rain scratch the air

And I’m about to take Zeke to the cemetery.