Paul and I took the afternoon off, loaded the dogs in the 4Runner and headed out to Bare Cove Park. They have a great set of dog rules for the park. Since most people actually follow the rules, the dogs you're likely to meet at Bare Cove are relatively well behaved and fairly social towards other dogs. Plus most owners either do have good control over their dogs, or they keep them on leash.
Brandy, as a "recovering reactive dog," is not the best behaved dog in the park, but at least I can take her there now without (usually) embarrassing myself! Likewise with Nico, our "recovering fearful dog."
We kept the dogs on leash to start, and chose a little-used "back" path rather than going down the main thoroughfare from the parking lot. With no one else in sight, we took the leashes off. Next thing we know, Brandy has found a really mucky swamp, and Nico's barrelled down the slope to join her. Yuck!
So back on leash for the two of them (especially since both were being just a wee bit slow in responding to my recall!). Obviously the recall cue needs proofing in unfamiliar areas. It's pretty reliable in our usual haunts but Bare Cove Park, which is a real treat for them, held too many competing allures.
So we walked two slimy but happy dogs along the path until we got to the cove part of Bare Cove Park.
There, the dogs happily obliged us by wading in the water, washing most of the swamp muck off (but not all, as we discovered when we got home!).
Paul and I had stopped by D'Angelo's for a couple of subs and chips for a "picnic lunch." So we sat down on the beach to eat lunch while watching the dogs play.
Except they didn't play. Instead, they stood right in front of us, staring at our food, with Brandy (of course!) adding some drool to the mix. Every now and then they'd lope down to the water (with some encouragement from us) and then come back up and drip all over us.
It's our own fault, of course. All too often we give them a little snack while we're eating, or the last bite of whatever we have since they're so cute and loveable.... and of course they're the pre-wash cycle for the dishwasher. (Did I admit that in public? Horrors!)
Some day I may even decide to tackle that particular problem ("begging" by standing close and drooling). There's an easy fix: stop giving them any food when you're eating or shortly thereafter. Within a week they should give up. Not sure the people could hold out that long, though, it's a long-held habit we're trying to break!
Anyhow, I used the "quick fix" of tossing treats into the grass around us for a "treasure hunt." With a couple of refresher tosses, that bought us a bit of space while we ate our lunch.
Then off we went back toward the parking lot. Nico was holding up well, dragging his back toes a bit and looking a little wobbly now and then but not trembling with weakness and he didn't "wipe out" the entire time we were in the park. (Thanks in great part to Julie Robitaille, who gave him a massage yesterday!) I think the break by the water helped, even though he wasn't exactly resting while we were there. Next time I'll bring their blankets to lie on!
The dogs were still offleash, and as we headed back toward the main thoroughfare I called to them. Whoops! Brandy saw another dog and went racing over to say "Hi!" While I'm no longer afraid she'll get into fights every time she tries to greet a dog (or vice versa), she's rude enough in her approach to other dogs that it's embarrassing to me. So there I was, jogging towards where my dog was rather rudely (as in "in your face") greeting another dog, calling out "Brandy! Leave that nice dog alone!" Nico, meanwhile, had actually come back when called (maybe he's not getting deaf in his old age after all?) and was standing near Paul.
Amazingly, Brandy broke off her greeting with the other dog and came to me. I said something about "Good girl! now you leave that really well behaved dog alone!" (The dog had stood his ground when Brandy so rudely intruded in his space, looking a bit uncomfortable but being polite about it.) The dog's owner laughed and called out "I wish he was that well behaved!" (or something to that effect). I called back that I thought he was a very good dog for handling a rude dog so well!
Once Brandy was back with me, I put her on leash again. But it probably wasn't necessary: she'd already turned her attention to the next interesting thing: crickets! There were dozens of crickets jumping and flying all over the little field we were in. Brandy watched them with amazement and then started trying to pounce on them. Paul got his phone out again to take some more pictures, but Brandy had lost interest again -- mostly because a couple of people with several dogs were going by.
Most of the dogs were small and stuck close to their people, but one large lab mix came up to say "Hi!" Unlike Brandy's full-tilt head-on race to say "Hi!" to the previous dog, this dog was very polite and proper about his greeting. Paul got a picture of Brandy and Nico with this dog. (His name is "Bruschi" -- "Brewsky," after the New England Patriot member Tedy Bruschi.)
After a few moments of polite greetings (even Brandy can be polite now and then!) Bruschi trotted off after his people. Paul and Brandy and Nico and I followed.
At one point, I saw a long-haired german shepherd up ahead and took Brandy off to the side of the road to start using a higher rate of reinforcement (clicking and treating for good behavior). I even took out the string cheese. Why? Because Brandy tends to have more problems ignoring German Shepherds -- especially long-haired GSDs -- than other breeds. At this point it could be a chicken-and-egg thing -- do I need to up the rate of reinforcement because she's more sensitive to GSDs, or is she responding to my reaction to the sight of a GSD?
So I'm clicking & feeding Brandy for being really good and looking at the GSD and back to me, or just looking at me, while they go by. Not a peep out of her, although she's more interested in the GSD than in any other dog she'd met so far.
And then the GSD's owner asks, "Does that clicker work well?"
My response, of course, was "Yes, very well!" At which point Brandy decided to interject her own opinion on the matter with a growl, bark, and lunge towards the GSD.
Talk about embarrassing!
I thought about saying "For example, without the clicker this dog would bark & lunge at every dog, not just yours...." but realized it was a lost cause at that point and chose to make a graceful exit instead.
The rest of the walk was a bit of a blur, mostly because I was replaying Brandy's little "explosion" in my mind. I remember a very polite Rhodesian Ridgeback who greeted Brandy quickly and then went on her way (following her person), which Brandy handled very well. And also a woman with two well-behaved dogs off leash and a third dog on-leash. I could see from a distance that the woman wasn't at all confident that the dog on leash would mind well, she kept "correcting" him verbally and with a jerk on the leash as he tried to get up from a sit. Something about the scene told me the dog was reactive toward other dogs, so I upped the rate of reinforcement with Brandy as we approached. Brandy was excellent, able to focus on me without totally ignoring the other dog, who was now lunging & barking a bit (gee, just like Brandy had just a while before!). The woman mentioned that it wasn't her dog, and she hadn't seen him act that way before. I said something about if his owners needed some help with him, my website was yourdreamdog.com -- that I worked with reactive dogs. Meanwhile Brandy's right by my side, happily chowing down on sticky string cheese crumbs. At least in this situation she wasn't an embarrassment to me at all.
Then we were back at the car. Did the dogs have a good time? I'll let Nico answer that!