Tools for Managing Frustration Based Reactivity

Frustration is all about access. Your dog is frustrated because they do not have access to what they want (the other dog). This is very different from fear based reactivity. In fear based reactivity, your dog wants the trigger to go away and leave them alone. In frustration based, they want the opposite. They want the trigger to get closer. They want to interact with the trigger. If your dog has frustration based reactivity then increasing the distance between dogs can be seen as a punishment.

IMG_1158The methods that have received the best results for managing frustration based reactivity involve teaching the dog to turn and look away from their trigger before reaching/approaching their threshold. You are giving them access to something else rather than the approaching dog. The best way to do this is to reinforcing calm/wanted behavior with play or treats. For Odin, I alternate between playing tug and treats. It all depends on the situation. Sometimes treats work better, and other times playing does. Showing them that you can be more fun or cooler than the dog across the street can help them to be less frustrated when seeing another dog. They will think that even though they do not get to go see the other dog, they still get to play with you. But this needs to be done before your dog reaches threshold. Once they reach their threshold, they will not care if you have a 10 oz steak; their brain will be switched off and will not be able to break its focus from the approaching dog. Overtime, you should be able to decrease the distance between your dog and the trigger. Most dogs will learn to auto-watch eventually. This means that they will learn to focus/look at you when they see and approaching dog because they know that the approaching dog means that you will play with them.

Two other training methods/tool are vitally important in managing your dog’s reactivity:

Set-Ups:

Set Ups are very important for frustration based reactive dogs. Treating and managing reactivity goes much faster if you can arrange a set up with your dog. The decoy dog (controlled approaching dog) you are using will not act unexpectedly because they are a part of the training. You can increase and decrease the distance between the dogs at will. If you do not have a friend with a dog (or if your dog is like mine and is not reactive at dogs they know), then seek out a behaviorist as they will have access to decoy dogs. You can also use places like the parking lot of the vet or local pet store for semi-controlled set-ups. For the most part you will know that the dog and their owners will be heading into the store and back to their cars. You can have better control over the distance between your dog and the trigger rather than at the park.

Target and other toy stores sell life size dog stuffed animals that can be used if you really do not have anyone or anywhere to go to successfully practice reactivity. You can create the set-up by using the stuffed dog. Have someone stand with the stuffed animal across the street with it on leash and train the same way you would with a real dog. If you need to make it smell like a dog, bring it with you to a local training group or the dog park. Some dogs with really good noses are not tricked by the fake decoy dog unless it actually smells like a dog. It is important that you do not introduce your dog to the stuffed dog. This will ruin the allusion and you will not be able to use it as a training tool.

Learning an emergency U-Turn:

IMG_3892Emergency U-Turns are helpful for both frustration and fear based reactivity. You want to use this when you un-expectantly run into another dog (they come from around a corner or from behind a bush or any type of blind spot). This takes a while to learn, but it’s not teaching the dog that takes a while, it’s reprograming yourself to instinctively U-Turn in these situations. The key to a successful U-Turn is to do a quick pivot and keep you composure stress free. This really can come in handy and actually is a really good technique to avoid hard situations. Just this past week I used the emergency U-Turn twice in Home Depot. I pulled out into the main walkway without checking and almost walked Odin into a dog. The emergency U-Turn saved Odin from becoming reactive. He didn’t even notice the other dog because we pivoted quickly away from the other dog. I happily laughed and cheerily talked with Odin to keep his attention on me and then smothered him with treats. He had no idea what was going on but he knew he was great at it!

IMG_0036***Remember that all dogs like different reinforcements, so make sure to use one that you know your dog will find as high value. For recall we use a tennis ball for reward however while doing reactivity training, I generally use chicken or hotdogs. I think the smell of food is very helpful for him during reactivity training and a tennis ball is unable to hold his attention in these situations. Your reward may differ for each training or situation, so be pre-prepared to try out different reinforcements. I am always carrying a tug toy and an abundance of treats with me. Another technique I have read about is teaching your dog to play tug on command with their leash. This way you will never be without a toy to play with. You can’t really forget your dog’s leash while on your walk.***

Frustration Based Reactivity? What’s That??

My husband, Derek, was telling me about his day at work last night, specifically that one of his co-workers asked him about how Odin was with other dogs. Derek explained that Odin was reactive and to his surprise, the co-worker actually had heard of reactivity because his dog was also reactive! This was really refreshing as most dog owners do not know about reactivity (unless they have a reactive dog).

His story reminded me of the non-stop questions I had received when talking with friends/co-workers about his reactivity. This made me think that there isn’t enough information out there about reactivity. And those that had heard of reactivity did not know about the difference bases of reactivity. Odin displays both frustration and fear based reactivity. There was plenty of information in regards to fear based reactivity, however there was very limited information on frustration based.

So, in response to the little information I could find, I have created my own explanation of fear based reactivity:

42665237-A44D-4179-A6A3-3AD741D1B83C

Picture this, you are driving past Disneyland (with no intent of visiting) with your kid (or niece or nephew or some little kid). The kid can see the top of the Matterhorn and the entrance to the park. They can smell the popcorn and can hear all the sounds of joy protruding from the park. They get excited because come on, it’s Disneyland! They excitedly ask you if you guys can go inside the park. Sadly, due to unforeseen circumstances, you cannot stop (whether it be because of your schedule or monetary reasons). This makes the kid upset and they start crying and throwing a temper tantrum because they do not understand why they cannot go. All the other kids around them get to have fun and get to meet Mickey Mouse, but they are stuck in the car.

This is exactly how your dog feels when they have frustration based reactivity. They see the other dog (Disneyland) and due to their super noses they also smell the other dog. They want to play; the other dog looks like sooo much fun. However, due to unforeseen circumstance (you do not know the other dog owner, or you need to finish up your walk) you cannot let your dog go meet and see the other dog. So they throw their version of a temper tantrum. They do not understand why they cannot go to see the other dog (and you cannot communicate to them why) so they become frustrated with the situation. Instead of crying like a little kid would, they bark and lunge at the other dog.

E6EE0C7F-7F51-4EFF-B880-E0C0C207CE80

This is frustration based reactivity. And after a while of seeing other dogs (or Disneyland) time and time again and not getting to have fun, they become frustrated at the first sight of another dog. They know from past experiences that they cannot get to this other, super fun dog. So they throw their temper tantrum. Disneyland is no longer a fun place; instead it brings back the feelings of what they are missing out on.

Overall, frustration based reactivity is your dog’s arousal and stress of seeing another dog and not being able to interact socially with them. Leashes interfere with normal social interactions. Creates a barrier between dogs. They cannot greet each other which may create a stressful situation for your dog. That stress and arousal turns into frustration and prompts their aggressive behavior. Generally, frustration based reactive dogs do great with other dogs during off-leash situations. However, once leashed they become frustrated with their new barrier. In my next post, I will discuss how to overcome the pesky, unwanted behavior of frustration based reactivity.

 

New Job and New Schedule = New Training Routine

Tomorrow, I start a new job and I will be working a normal 8am-5pm Monday through Friday schedule. This is a lot different from my previous work schedule. Before I was working 13-hour night shift 3 or 4 nights a week. With this schedule I had 3 to 4 day weekends that were devoted to spending time and training Odin. My new schedule will give me about 1 hour of dedicated training time and 2ish hours of exercise per day. With this new schedule I will need to create a new training routine to ensure that I am providing him with the necessary training. By creating a routine, I will not be wasting my limited time on workdays figuring out what we will be working on day to day.

Creating a training routine will ensure that you continue with your training and will make it a part of your daily routine. It is easy put off training because you are tired from work and have limited time. Creating a plan beforehand will take the hassle out of training. Plan out your training for the week on Sunday and make sure you have all the tools you will need easily accessible. Motivation to continue training can be hard to come by, that is why I suggest signing up for a training course (either classroom or online) to use for structure and then add in fun training sessions on other days. I spend two training sessions a week reviewing what we learned and practiced in our classes. This means less for me to come up with on my own in terms of training material.

Below is an example of my training routine plan for Odin:

For each of Odin’s one hour training sessions I will start with a 5-minute warm up which will include going over things he already knows and has a strong foundation in, such as tricks (sit pretty, spin, etc). This will get him in mood for and ready for training.

From there the rest of the 45-min training will be focused on the following:

Monday – Fenzi Training: Bye, Bye Cookie. Hello Delayed Reinforcement

  • This is an online course provided by Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. The course focuses on getting your dog to work even when they cannot see their reward. It is mainly a focus building course with delayed reinforcement.

Tuesday – Intro to Agility (Classroom Training)

  • This is a 6-week training Odin and I will be taking at our local dog school. Signing up for local classes is a great way to continue with training, especially when you need help coming up with a training game plan.

Wednesday – Tricks!

  • On Wednesdays, we will be focusing on our trick training. There are a handful of tricks we are currently working on and building foundations for. Currently, we are working on Footsies, Handstands (muscle building only right now), and Obit. I use the App Puppr created by Sara Carson of the Super Collies. I find that the app provides great instructions on how to train tricks and there are a ton of ticks to choose from. The app also has regular updates where they add new tricks. It costs about $10 For full access to the tricks on the app and this includes any updates and trick additions. I think it is a great price for its value.

Thursday – Canine Conditioning and Fenzi Review

  • For this day, I will split the training time between conditioning using canine gym equipment and review the Fenzi training from the week. Canine conditioning is important to do with active dogs. It can help reduce long term stress and health issues due to high activity. I use FitPaws equipment and they have a handful of videos on their website that show how to effectively use their equipment. Since, Canine conditioning can only hold his attention for about 25 minutes, the rest of the time will be spent reviewing this weeks Fenzi Training activities.

IMG_2822

Friday – Agility review

  • We will spend our training time reviewing and practicing the activities/concepts we learned this week at training class. I have a handful of homemade agility equipment that I made out of PVC Pipe.
IMG_1818
DIY weave poles

Saturday & Sunday are free days with no plan. We can work on whatever we feel like. Usually, on my days off, I like to take Odin hiking or spend time training at the dog park. These are fun days and usually our training is less structured.

IMG_E1942

Everyday we practice and train for managing reactivity during our daily walks. Walks provide the best environment for reactivity training for us and we also do focus work while out on walks.

Overall, having a training plan and routine reduces your daily stress as you will already have a plan in place. You can hop right into training, rather than waiting time developing your training plan. Developing a plan will also help to keep you on track as you will have a daily goal to complete. Life gets busy, but by planning ahead and creating a training routine you will be reducing the chances of life getting in the way of your dog’s training.

Do you have a training program or routine for your dog? How do you keep yourself motivated when life gets in the way? I would love to hear about your experiences! Please comment below!

Reactive Road Trip – Lessons Learned

Although we did have a few reactivity issues, overall, I was very impressed with Odin’s behavior during the trip. It goes to show how much his training has paid off. When we took him to a beach in Carmel last year, it was nearly impossible to get him back and leashed up when it was time to leave. This time, he was very focused on me, recalled very easily, and allowed us to leash him with no issues! Although I do A LOT of training with Odin, I was concerned that it wasn’t going to be enough for him to ever be an off leash or public dog (especially with him wanting to meet every dog he sees). This trip was a nice reminder of how well he is behaved in most situations. For most of the time in cities while seeing other dogs, we were able to manage his reactivity and he heeled/listened to commands even in the presence of distractions.

This trip showed me how far we have come in his training. Sometimes I get worried about Odin because we can’t always do the things that normal dogs do. He has restrictions at the dog park which means he doesn’t get to socialize as much as we would like him too. And because of his reactivity, we don’t get to do a lot of things in public (i.e. going out to dinner, or bringing him to the local downtown area). During this trip, I could see how far he has come along and how much all the time spent training has paid off. I hope this can inspire some of you to continue along the journey of diligently managing your dog’s reactivity. This is something that does take time. There is no overnight cure for reactivity. It is a bunch of little baby steps forward usually followed by a step backwards. Keep going and be persistent in your training. If you would have asked me a year ago, I would have never believed Odin’s reactivity would have been managed this well. Yes, there is still a long way to go in his journey, however this has made me hopeful and it was the energizing boost I needed to continue with his training.

IMG_3017

Coming out of the trip, there are a handful of things that we learned that we need to work on in addition to his reactivity. The two big things we need to work on are (1) reduced barking when one of us leaves the room and (2) working on him settling/relaxing. Although no one complained about his barking, it was not something I was proud of. Every time one of us left the room, Odin would worry and bark. Also, while we were in the hotel rooms, he had a hard time relaxing and would be constantly looking for something to do (this included trying to steal the bathroom towels, toilet paper, and trash cans in the hotel room) even though we had provided him with plenty of chews/puzzles. In the near future, I will post how I will be tackling each one of these issues and hopefully if you run into the same issues while traveling, they can be used as a guide.

One of the biggest things that helped me with traveling with a reactive dog was all the planning I did ahead of time. I researched beaches, trails, and locations to ensure that we were taking Odin to places where he could be successful. Bring Fido (website and app) and All Trails were very helpful in facilitating this planning. Bring Fido has information on dog friendly restaurants, hotels, activities, and dog parks all over the US. I utilize this app quite often as it is loaded with information. I used All Trails to find local dog friendly trails and found ones that were labeled “low traffic” to help ensure that we were reducing the chances of running into other dogs. Also, I had given myself soo many activity options that if we couldn’t do something, we had about 5 other things to choose from. My Oregon Road Trip travel binder was jam packed with all this information and was one of the biggest reasons for our successful trip.

Overall, these are the pieces of advice I found most helpful while traveling with a reactive dog:

1. Be flexible

If you get somewhere and there are too many dogs/triggers and you know that your dog will not be successful, skip it. You may not get to see what you wanted but your experience will be ten times worse if you try to do the activity and both you and your dog end up frustrated. If your dog is happy and calm, you will be happy and calm and be able to create happy memories.

We had to do this a handful of times during our trip. We decided not to do the Mount Pisgah Summit or Cannon Beach because of the large amounts of dogs visiting these places. We made the decision to not stop at these places during the trip and found less stressful things to do instead.

2. Avoid the hassle and order in

For almost every dinner during our road trip we ordered in as we knew it would be hard to eat out with Odin. This made eating significantly less stressful which made everything more enjoyable. We made sure we had hotels with nice views so we could have cozy dinners in our room every evening.

This is a big stress saver for both you and your dog. Also, you can eat in your pajamas in bed. What could be better?!

img_3153

3. Travel during the off season and do activities during off times

Go when you know there will be less people. We knew that traveling during the rainy season in Oregon meant less people and less dogs. This was one of the main reasons why we had lots of the places we visited to ourselves. The Oregon Garden and many of the state parks we had all to ourselves because it was not the high season. It was colder for us, but it made everything about our trip more enjoyable as we did not need to worry so much about other dogs.

img_3377

Hopefully, my postings can provide with some value and hope in terms of owning a reactive dog. When I first found out that Odin was reactive, I thought we would never be able to do something like this. However, with the right planning and mindset, it can be done.

If you have any tips or advice from your experience from traveling with your dog (reactive or otherwise) please comment below to share your experiences with others!

Disclaimer: Odin has moderate reactivity and can be managed to ensure the safety of all parties. Not all reactive dogs will be able to go on a road trip and the ability of your dog should be assessed by you and your reactivity trainer.

Reactive Road Trip: Day 7 & 8 Update – Driving Days

I wanted to post this entry last night while we were in Dunsmuir, however the very sketchy Travelodge we were staying in had no WIFI in addition to the phone lines being down. Also, there was very little data coverage in the area so it made it almost impossible to do anything online. So here is the late post for Day 7. I included it with Day 8 as both days were rather uneventful. They were driving days and we did not really do anything exciting.

Day 7:

Today we are traveling from Newport back to Dunsmuir. Since we knew we would be driving for 5.5 hours today, we wanted to start the day off at the beach and play Frisbee with Odin before spending the day in the car. The beach was right below the Hallmark Resort and it was rather isolated. I watched the beach while we were packing and getting ready for the day and saw that the beach had very light traffic. I had only seen 1 person walking along the beach while we were getting ready. It was really nice being on such a secluded beach as we didn’t really need to keep an eye out for other dogs. We were able to put all of our focus into having a good time.

Little did we know that we had an audience watching at the hotel above the beach. The hotel’s breakfast area was located directly above the beach where we were playing. When Odin and I went to the lobby to check out, two families came to tell me that they were watching and were impressed with his tricks and Frisbee skills. Odin got many pets from them before we left. I was very proud of how he behaved in the lobby. He remained focused on me when we entered and approached the desk. Even after he had finished getting petted by the families he remained focused on me and was perfectly heeling while we left the lobby. All of the focus training we have been doing at him is paying off.

We had a long drive to Dunsmuir. We made a stop in Shasta (about 20 min north of Dunsmuir) to stop and play Frisbee in their local dog park. The dog park at Shastice Park was very nice and had a good amount of trees in it which was nice. We were the only ones at the park and we played until Odin stopped bringing the Frisbee back. From there we went to check into our hotel.

When we pulled into the parking lot of the very secluded Dunsmuir Travelodge, we instantly knew we were staying in a less than average hotel. The main check in area was in an empty detached diner and the guy checking us in was a little grimy. Once we had checked in, the front desk guy informed us that the phones and WIFI in the hotel did not work. Also the location had very little cell service and data coverage. It reminded us of something out of a horror film. Also it probably didn’t help that during the 5.5 hour drive we had been listening to murder and serial killer podcasts… But we did survive the night so I guess it was fine.

Day 8:

This was another uneventful day. We packed up for the last time and loaded ourselves into the car for the 4 hour drive home.

Overall, we had a very good trip. I was very impressed with how well Odin’s training and reactivity management was coming along. We still have a few things to work on which became apparent during the trip (ie. barking every time one of us leaves the hotel room), but all in all, it was a very fun and manageable trip. We had a great time and we were all a little sad that the trip had come to an end. Time to plan our next adventure!

Reactive Road Trip: Day 6 Update – The Oregon Coast

Today we left Astoria and started our journey south back towards home. Our journey along the coast started at Del Rey Beach. Nothing exciting here. It was a secluded beach, nothing too spectacular. We played a little Frisbee and after about 6 throws we saw a dog coming down the beach so we left.

ecoladayuse
View from Ecola Point Day Use Area

We were off to Ecola State Park which is located off of highway 101. We started our exploration of the park at the Ecola Point Day Use Area. There were two dogs in a car when we pulled into the lot, however we got lucky as the dogs remained in the car.  I hooked Odin up to his leash and we were off the explore the Day Use Area. The Area had overlooks of Crescent Beach, Bird Rock, and Chapan point. The Area was small (about 1 mile of trail total) and easy to walk with a lot of open space, which was great for Odin. If we needed to dart away from upcoming dogs to manage his reactivity, this area had plenty of space to do that.

img_3405
View from the Indian Beach Parking Lot

Our next stop in Ecola State Park was Indian Beach. This was a great place to stop and play. Since we had gotten there early, it was only us and the surfers. The parking lot was a great viewing point for the beach below and Submarine Rock.

Making our way down to the beach was fun. At the bottom of the path was a pile of driftwood logs which made a great parkour obstacle course for both myself and Odin. We spent about an hour walking up and down the beach. I had Odin, while my husband, Derek, drove his RC car alongside us. Odin usually does not like the RC car, however, I think he was enjoying the sights and sounds of the beach so much, he did not pay too much attention to the RC car. This was with the exception of when I tried to drive it. If it was me driving, it became the devil incarnate and Odin needed to kill it and banish is back to the depths of hell. But as soon as the controller was back in Derek’s hands, the RC car was no longer a threat. I think he may have been making a comment about my driving skills…

Odin was very curious about the surfers. He has never seen a surfboard let alone a person wearing a wetsuit that covered them from head to toe. He would tilt his head with curiosity whenever we passed them on the beach or he saw them out in the shallow waters.

When we headed back to leave, Derek went ahead of us to check the trail and the parking lot for other dogs before we brought Odin up. The trail was single lane and the parking lot was up above the beach which made visibility difficult. Derek made it to the top, checked for other dogs and gave us the all clear. We were really lucky on our timing at Indian Beach, as we were leaving (Odin was already in the car), 5 other dogs entered the parking lot and were headed to the beach. Overall, we had a great experience at Ecola, however, I think we were lucky in how empty the park was. During peak visitor hours and seasons, this park is probably packed with people and dogs. The park has a lot of parking space and overflow parking, so I assume they expect to get a lot of visitors. I would be skeptical about bringing your reactive dog during peak season or times. If you do want to bring your dog, I suggest getting to the park early.

Cannon Beach was just short drive from Ecola, and as it is an iconic beach we wanted to stop there. It was very packed and there were a lot of dogs. Within a handful of minutes of getting onto the beach. Odin started showing signs of reactivity. He barked at one dog and one lady with hiking sticks so we fled the beach to avoid a larger reaction. This is a very popular beach. I do NOT recommend this beach for reactive or nervous dogs. On a Tuesday morning, it was packed. I cannot imagine what that beach is like during the summer on a weekend.

Next on our itinerary was Oswald State Park, however, we decided to pass on the park because of the large number of cars and dogs in the main parking lot. Staying at the park would not have been a good choice for Odin.

A “hot” spot I wanted to hit up was Four Paws on the Beach, a pet boutique store, in Manzanita. I had read about the store in an article about dog friendly things to do on the Oregon Coast. I love going to pet boutiques to find unique pet products. We picked up a new West Paw toy for Odin, a border collie magnet for our fridge, and a dog themed sweatshirt for me. The store was really cute and had a wide variety of products. Odin got spoiled with treats and love from the cashier.

The boutique was next to a Mexican restaurant so we decided to stop and order some lunch to go. Manzanita is a very dog friendly town and there were many dogs on the main drag of the downtown. Ordering our food to go and eating somewhere else made it easier to avoid other dogs while we were eating (Hey look! I’m following my own advice! Strategy #3 Avoid the hassle and order in). We had wanted to eat lunch at a bench near the beach however, we were unable to find a spot to sit at so we ate in the car.

The spot we parked at had a great view of the beach and we were able to gauge whether or not we wanted to take Odin to play there. We had only seen a few dogs (about 3) go by while we were eating so we decided to take Odin down there to play. I hooked him into his GoPro Harness and grabbed his Frisbee and we were ready to rock-and-roll. Once we were on the beach, I unleashed him and pressed record on the GoPro. Odin took off ready to play some fetch. We threw the Frisbee around for a couple of minutes and once we had a handful of minutes of footage, I removed the harness and resumed throwing the Frisbee for him.

gptempdownload
GoPro Image

Another dog down the beach saw Odin running and playing fetch and wanted to join. He, a black labradoodle, came running towards Odin with his owners trailing behind him. Odin saw him approaching and immediately wanted to play. He came back to me and dropped the Frisbee and went to greet his new friend. They happily ran circles around us, playing what looked like the doggy version of tag. Both dogs started to get a little far from us, and I saw that Odin had noticed a tennis ball being thrown, as soon as I called his name he turned and did a beautiful recall back to me. He gave me a perfect front and sit while we waited for the labradoodle’s parents to leash him up. Once the labradoodle was far enough away, we resumed playing Frisbee for a couple more minutes, then it was time for us to head out. He did great at the beach and we all left feeling confident and successful.

img_3499

From Manzanita, we had an hour drive to our next stop, Cape Meares State Park. We were on the fence about visiting this park as we had already done a lot and Odin seemed tired. But we thought “What the heck! When is the next time we are going to be here?” and we decided to take the extra 40 minutes to go to the park. This ended up being a great decision. The park was very secluded and empty, once again we had it almost to ourselves.

We spent a lot of time venturing around the viewpoints, the Octopus Tree, and the lighthouse. Since there was no one around, Odin got a little rebellious and broke the no rock climbing rule.

img_3538

The park had magnificent views of the coast line. While we were heading back on one of the trails, a small off leash dog came prancing up. The owner made her way around the corner and Derek asked her if they could meet. She said yes, and we gave Odin the cue to “go say Hi”. Once again, this worked. He happily pulled towards the other dog, tail wagging. They said their hello’s and Odin pranced alongside me as we left the other dogs, extremely happy with his interaction.

Now we had a 1.5-hour drive to Newport. We had wanted to make one last stop for the day at the Devil’s Punchbowl, however is was dark by the time we drove past the park. Oh well, it had mediocre reviews. We are staying the night at the Hallmark Resort in Newport. We were very excited to find a doggy goody bag in the room. It had a doggy water bottle, a Frisbee, and a bag of treats. This was a really thoughtful touch. The hotel overlooks the ocean and has beach access which we will utilize in the morning. For dinner, we are ordering in again. It’s just easier than trying to find somewhere that allows dogs and we are hungry and it’s almost 7 pm. Looks like I am following my own advice again about eating in (Strategy #3: Avoid the hassle and order in). That’s twice in one day. It must be good advice!

Today was a great day with Odin. 99% of the interactions with other dogs were great and he had an amazing day. Here’s to many more days like this one!

 

 

 

Reactive Road Trip: Day 5 Update – Fort Stevens State Park and Astoria

Bright eyed and bushy tailed, we left Portland towards our next adventure, Fort Stevens State Park. The park is located a handful of miles outside of Astoria and would be a great way to spend the day. Fort Stevens was once the primary military defense installation in the three-fort, Harbor Defense System at the mouth of the Columbia River and is now preserved as a state park. I head read online that the park was a very popular tourist spot during the summer and experienced less crowds during the winter.

img_3282

We almost had the whole park to ourselves. It was nice not really needing to be constantly on the lookout for other dogs and could focus all of our efforts on having a good time and enjoying the park. The park was very dog friendly and we could bring Odin everywhere. We ventured in and out of the remains of the fort and its numerous batteries. 

While walking around the fort, we found ourselves on a path that paralleled the fence line of the local neighborhood. One of the house had a chain link fence and two very excited dogs that barked at Odin as we passed. Although we were a good distance away from them, I was proud of Odin’s ability to play the “Engage Disengage” game on his own. He would look at the dogs along the fence line, then look back at me expecting his treat. I was very happy seeing him offer this behavior instead of needing me to ask for it.

In addition to the fort, the state park is also home to Battery Russell. This place was super creepy. We did not bring a flashlight so we used the weak light of our phones flash light to light up the rooms and hallways. There was a ton of graffiti scratched and drawn onto the walls which enhanced the eeriness of the place. It almost reminded me of the Blair Witch Project or something similar. After a good ten minutes of exploring the place, we noped out of there before we could become the plot of a scary movie.

The park also had a handful of turnouts that provided access to the pacific ocean. We stopped at 3 out of the 4 turnouts and explored the lookouts and beaches they gave access to.

From there we headed out of the State Park and back towards Astoria to check into the Cannery Pier Hotel. The hotel is situated on a pier with and excellent view of the Astoria-Megler Bridge which spans the Columbia River. From our room we were able to watch large ships pass in and out of the river.

 

After unpacking our bags and changing Odin into his favorite Marvel bandana, we hopped back into the car to explore Astoria. The first stop on our list was the Astoria column. As we circled the column in our car, we saw there were a handful of dogs in front of the column and playing fetch on the grass across the way. We parked as far away from the dogs and we could and took turns going up to the top of the column so someone could be with Odin in the car at any given time. By the time both of us had finished with the column, all of the dogs had left and we were able to bring Odin out for some pictures and sniffing time. The views from the top of the hill were amazing and provided a great 360 degree view of the area.

Next, we attempted to see the house used while filming The Goonies, however the street had a sign posted asking tourists to refrain from visiting the house or the street it was situated on. We respected their wishes and headed downtown with an hour of time left to explore. We walked along the streets and everything was going well. We saw two dogs and we were able to manage his reactivity and pass the other dogs with no signs of stress. However, while turning around a corner, we were surprised by a dog (large and also reactive) and Odin threw a large reactive fit. We found a closed storefront to hide in and used a pillar to block the other dog from his view while we calmed him down. This is when we decided it was best to find the restaurant to order our to go food and head back to the hotel. While we were waiting for our food order (we ended up ordering food from Fort George Brewery; the food was excellent and traveled well), a dog approached from around the corner of the restaurant. Odin and I bolted away from the oncoming dog to the backside of the restaurant, and unfortunately we encountered another dog there. This was a reactivity fail. With two dogs on either side of him, he was inconsolable and barked/lunged at both dogs. Once both dogs had passed us, I worked on resetting Odin while my husband went to grab our to go order. Once we were leaving the restaurant, a lady on crutches walked by and Odin decided that this was not okay and that she was a major threat to our safety. Fortunately for us, from there the rest of the walk back to the car was uneventful.

Sometimes I wish there was a rhyme or reason to his reactivity. Sometimes, people with walking sticks are fine, other times they are not. Some dogs he cares about, others he has no feelings towards. Overall, today we had a great day and it was only near the end that his reactivity could not be managed. Since we started training and working on his reactivity, it has gotten significantly better and we are seeing great improvement, however, we still have a long road ahead of us in terms of completely managing his reactivity. I’m happy to say that he must have greatly enjoyed his day because he is currently passed out on our hotel floor at the foot of the bed.