Reactive Chronicles: Week 06/18/19

This week Odin was very high energy as he was on bed rest due as he was neutered last week.  His vet said that walks were okay, but any other activity was highly discouraged until he was fully healed.  

6/18/19

Today was a great walk. We left the house with some deli Turkey as Odin’s high value treat. He has been a little more pull-y than usual but I think that is because of the activity restriction. He has been very bored and is very excited to go out on his walks. About half way through our walk, I saw a guy approaching walking his dog towards us on the opposite side of the road. Luckily, Odin had not seen the dog and there was a car up ahead that would be able to block his view of the oncoming dog. Once we were behind the car, Odin did hear (or smell) the other dog and got a little excited but his default reaction was to look at me! (which equaled tons of turkey for him). We walked past the car and I told Odin to look at the dog that was walking away (and far enough outside his threshold). He happily looked and then looked back at me. No fear or frustration. We continued our walk and we shorty after we were joined by two people walking behind us. Odin got very interest in a storm drain (we checked and there were no red balloons inside) and he very nicely let the people pass us.  Next we saw a kid riding a bike with training wheels in the middle of the street. Ringing his little bell, as happy as can be. Odin looked at the boy, tilted his head in curiosity, then looked right back at me. I was a proud mama!

6/19/19

Another great walk today.  Odin sometimes get too distracted and frustrated by people that he can see and wants to meet.  This can sometimes result in a reactive episode.  We often walk by a woman in a green sari and man in white turban.  Odin is obsessed with them and very much wants to meet them, which sometimes results in him becoming frustrated and reactive.  Overtime, they have become weary of Odin.  Today, however, Odin did great while the walked passed us across the street.  Odin was able to stay engaged with me and even did an Orbit while they were walking past.  I am very happy that Odin was able to perform some tricks while they passing.  Not only did it show how well he is managing his reactivity but also, I want to show people what a goofy, smart, and attentive dog he is (not the screaming teenager that throws temper tantrums when he becomes reactive.)  A couple of blocks later, Odin was tested with and extreme challenge!  A white cat wearing a bell darted across the street up ahead of us.  Odin stared at cat and pulled towards the cat, but he was responsive and checking in with me.  “BUT MOM!  Don’t you see that cat over there?!”  He continued to slowly walk with me and past the cat.  However, the stilly cat started following us (Thanks cat, you were not making this easy for us) But Odin did very well and kept moving.  He would check behind us to keep an eye on the cat every time he heard the “ding, ding” of the cats collar.  Once we reached the end of the block, the cat stopped following us and Odin was bored with the cat.  Coming to the end of the walk, there was one last challenge.  Two dogs were crossing the street a head of us at the T-intersection!  Before Odin had registered what he was seeing, I turned and said, “Let’s go” and we proceeded to back track.  His U-turn was perfect and his amazing, beautiful, engaging eyes were staring right back into mine.  He had no worries about what was behind him.  We were focused on each other.  Once we were a good distance away, I had him practicing his focusing/calming behaviors.  He was able to perform his “chill” and relax on the sidewalk while the other dogs were in view.  Once they crossed the street and proceeded to walk away from us, we finished our walk.  It was a great day.    

6/20/19

Today’s walk was very boring.  No other dogs were out, no silly cat with a bell.  It was overall very uneventful.  Minus the one bark, Odin let out when he saw a stroller come out behind a car.  Once he realized it was not a threat, he looked back at me.  I was relieved that he only barked once (probably more of a warning bark) and had no other signs of discomfort. 

Reactive Chronicles: Week of 6/11/19

This was written a handful of weeks ago…. Back at the beginning of June.  I was debating whether to post the Reactivity Chronicles, or whether to keep them just for myself.  However, as I have been writing them, I have noticed a change in my mindset and feelings around Odin’s reactivity. I hope this helps some other reactive dog parents.

 

This was the last week of rain, and I will be greatly missing it.  I hate being wet and cold, but I love that when I take Odin out on walks, that we will be the only ones out.  Most people opt out of walking their dogs in the rain.  However, for us, rain is the perfect condition.  Now that summer is quickly approaching, more and more people are starting to take their dogs out.

During the winter/spring, I am able to let my guard down while walking Odin.  It is very unlikely that we will run into another dog.  I think I got too comfortable with this and was not ready when I took Odin out for a walk earlier this week.  We passed three dogs and all of them Odin got severely reactive towards.  I think he too had gotten comfortable with not seeing other dogs while out on walks.  It was as if he had forgotten all of the progress we had made last summer and fall.  It felt like we were starting back at square one.

I was very lucky that this was the same week we started up our Reactivity class.  It was nice to be able to practice with Odin in a parking lot with another dog in a controlled environment.  This made us more prepared for future walks.

During our next walk, we got lucky enough to be on one side of a four-lane road and another dog was across the street heading the same direction as us.  This was perfect for a training opportunity as I wanted to start slow with Odin and the distance between the two dogs was ideal.  There was no concern about Odin going over threshold, yet the dog was just close enough to hold his interest.  We jogged up and back, keeping Odin parallel to the dog across the street (the owner must have been super confused as to what we were doing).  We practiced focus work and relaxing while the dog was across the street.  He did incredibly well.  Then, another dog turned the corner up ahead and the dog and his owner started walking ahead of us in the same direction.  This was perfect!  The difficulty was increased a smidge, and he was still able to focus and heel and not react.  As a reward, we ended the walk at the dog park where he ran around with his friends. 

It sucks that we took so many steps backwards, but it was nice to see that we were not starting from scratch.    

After writing this, I thought it might be a good idea to start making a habit of writing about our walks.  Writing about our walks makes me look back and reflect on things that we need to work on and helps me to see the improvements he has made. Sometimes we are so focused on the negatives and challenges we face, and forget to celebrate the small victories and successes we have.  I have been writing these for about 2 weeks now, and I feel infinitely better about Odin’s reactivity and our daily walks. These entries give me hope and help me to see the good days, when the bad ones become overwhelming.

 

So here, I start the Reactive Chronicles:

 

06/11/19

Huzzah! Odin made it past two dogs at once! It was with the help of chicken breast meat, but whatever, one small step at a time. Since summer started we are starting to see more people out in the morning due to the weather. Today it was easily 70 degrees out at 6 am when I took Odin out for his walk. I am needing to take him out in the mornings as it is not cooling down fast enough in the evenings (96 degrees at 8 pm).  

The two dogs this morning were the two annoying black labs that live in a corner house backing up to the open space. The dogs themselves aren’t annoying, it’s more their situation that is. They have a metal bar fence. So the two dogs can see everyone and thing that walks past their house. They are not thrilled about passersby’s and throw a barking fit when they see anyone/thing coming. When they were approaching, I was expecting the two dogs to see Odin and start barking (which creates an instant reaction from Odin). However, they didn’t even seem to notice Odin. Odin did great while they passed and we moved around in an odd pattern to keep him both interested in me and prevent him from focusing too hard on the other dogs. Chicken has become a godsend for his reactivity (but a damper on my wallet).

06/12/19

Almost, he almost made it past the other dog across the street this morning without reacting. When the dog was approaching in front of us (a medium sized, 35 lb. terrier) I got prepped, armed with lots of chicken in my hand. I told him to “look” he did. He saw the other dog and quickly looked back to me. I gave him a treat and we started walking again. Every two steps, I would ask him to look, he would look back at me, “Yes!” and treats. Once the dog across the street got behind a car across the street, out of view, I got greedy, I was too slow with the treating and didn’t treat while the dog was behind the car. The dog made it past the car and Odin whined and then reacted “WOOF! WOOF!” But it was only a couple of barks before he calmed down and focused on me. Not too shabby. Next time I will need to be faster with the treating. The young blonde girl across the street smiled at me and gave an expression of it’s all good” on her face. I greatly appreciate when other handlers are understanding of the situation. It makes everything easier and like everything is going to be okay.

Reactive Road Trip: Mendocino County

So a little over two month ago, Odin, Derek, and I went on a small road trip up the Northern California Cost.  We rented a house in Manchester, CA (located in Mendocino County) and were surprised to find that there were many state and regional parks that were very dog friendly.  I was hoping that since we were going on a weekday (we left Thursday night and were driving back Saturday) that there would be less people and dogs.  I was right and we had a blast. 

First off, the house we rented had private access to Irish Beach.  We went down to the beach Friday and Saturday morning and had the entire beach to ourselves.  We could see miles down the beach and there was no one else around.  This was great.  We walked up and down the beach, throwing Odin’s toy in every direction.  He had such a great time.  He was free to sprint around and we were able to put our guards down and enjoy this time to its fullest. 

 

There were very few tourists/hikers at all of the locations we stopped at.  I think we were far enough north that not too many people ventured this way.  We were north of Elk but about 40 minutes south of Fort Bragg.  The towns in the area are very small with populations of less than 100 people in each town.  I think this location is ideal for reactive dogs.  Lots of dog friendly places with no dogs (although this could have been due to it being a weekday during spring).

 Recommended Parks for Reactive Dogs:

Here is a list of a couple of places we stopped at:

·         Point Cabrillo – Cute little light house at the end of the ½-mile trail from the parking lot.  There were very few people at the park and NO DOGS!  The pathways also provided great visibility so we could see all oncoming traffic on the trail.  There was a small bay next to light house were a handful of harbor seals were floating and sunbathing in the water.

·         Russian Gulch State Park – The Park has a handful of dog friendly trails and provides a great view of the Russian Gulch Bridge.  Beach access is also dog friendly (on-leash only).

·         Mendocino Headlands State Park – We drove through the park and stopped at a handful of the turn-offs.  The trails at this park are very close to the edge, so be careful and overly observant of your dog’s movements. 

·         Gualala Point Regional Park (Farther south down Highway 1) – Although we ended up not hiking through the park, while we were in the parking lot (20 min), we did not see any dogs.

As we headed south from Manchester on Saturday, we noticed that the more south we headed, the more crowded the parks become. 

The following is a list of the more crowded parks that should be avoided by reactive dogs:

·         Dillon Beach

·         Point Reyes National Seashore

·         Salt Point State Park

·         Doran Regional Park

I would highly recommend Mendocino County as a vacationing location for reactive dog owners.  There were plenty of parks to explore and trails to hike. We only saw one other dog our entire vacation. Has anyone else traveled here? What dog friendly things would you recommend for a reactive dog?