As it gets darker, wetter and colder in Cascadia, it gets more difficult to find fit dog adventure inspiration. Even the dogs would sometimes rather play inside or just lay around. We'd all always rather be traveling. Even if we're stuck in our neighborhood in the chilly, rainy, gray I know it's healthy for us, humans and pets, to get outside for exercise. Besides enjoying all of the gorgeous colors of autumn, the pets and I have been getting fit time in while combing West Seattle for festive Halloween decoration displays. We have had some wonderful dog walks, in the rain, wind and sunshine.
Wilhelm, Brychwyn and Huxley are rarely scared by the spooky holiday decor we've been out admiring but the other day an animated inflatable spider caused unruly barking. Aborting the photo opportunity, I rushed the dogs away from the moving spider but the barking continued in front of the next house. I decided to use this frightening opportunity to practice "quiet" and "chill" cues as well as desensitize the dogs to what scared them. It is important for dogs that travel, get out and about often and are exposed to a mass of varied situations to master self control. So I asked all of the dogs to lay down on the grass a safe distance from the spider's yard but where they could still see the Halloween decoration. The dogs received treats for focusing on me quietly instead of looking back at the spider and barking.
The next day, we returned to the scary spider scene. Luckily, the spider that spooked the dogs was not inflated so I had a great opportunity to practice more focus cue training distraction free. I took pictures, the dogs favorite "trick" and job. They all got lots and lots of treats. When we walked past the moving arachnid a third time which was again inflated. I wanted to test the desensitization training we had done but had to avoid allowing the dogs to be spooked into another barking frenzy. I picked up the walking pace and I praised and treated the quiet dogs as we passed. Before clearing the decorated yard, the dogs noticed the animated spider's head turn. Each dog barked one or two times then regained self-control and focus. This felt like an amazing, fear conquering success.
Ideally we will have an opportunity to pass the spider again and the dogs will stay focused on me. I had originally wanted to pose the dogs for a picture with the giant spider but I will not push them that far. It is enough that what once frightened them into a frenzy, quickly became a minor irritation on an otherwise fun fit dog outing. Rain or shine, wherever we roam, I always want to get outside with my pets for healthy fit time. What a comfort to know that whatever spooky scenes we encounter, whether they are decorative or real, I can help my dogs to keep intelligently composed.
What scares your fit dog and how do you deal with it?
Want to learn more about positive pet training? Have positive reinforcement dog, cat or other pet training tips or tricks to share? Join Dachshund Nola, Tenacious Little Terrier and us this Monday for the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop! The November theme is rear end awareness but any and all blogger posts and reader/follower stories about positive reinforcement training are always welcome.