Podium shot: Charlie, Lucy, and Linus on the plow-created snow Mountain next to our driveway
Fayston, Vermont. It has been so cold that the snow left behind by storm Harper complains with squeaks and grumbles under my boots. Just suiting up for a short dog walk down the driveway is an epic adventure. The bundling up and unbundling take as long as the walk.
Linus won’t go outside. He stands on the threshold like an old man caught up in a memory, unsure of the present. I coax him outside with the promise of a cookie.
Charlie rushes out excitedly. But after about a minute, he freezes with one leg in the air as if tagged by an invisible “It.” Slowly, the raised leg lowers and is carefully placed on the ground. A different leg is haltingly held aloft. The deliberate leg exchange is repeated, resembling a dog version of Tai chi.
Lucy runs ahead, clearing the driveway’s giant snow bank in a graceful leap and landing a perfect bellyflop in a pillow of powder. She pops up snow-covered with her goofy golden grin and begs me to throw a snowball. I oblige. Many times.
Satisfied that Linus has relieved himself, we return to the house for cookies, and for me, a cup of hot tea.
Fayston, Vermont. …Just as long as we have we.” Words from Dr. Suess’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas came to me as I relaxed into a recent late afternoon nap. I was tucked in by labby Linus, who back-spooned into my right side and put his head on my shoulder. Golden Lucy took my left side, and Charlie (aka Lord Wigglebottom) kept my feet warm. I hadn’t slept well for days. Then, after a trip to PT, I was so exhausted I declared a group nap.
I have some health issues that prevent me from sleeping well – and from skiing at all. While I’m going from doctor to doctor and X-ray to X-ray, through the tedious process that our healthcare system has become, I admit I haven’t always felt cheerful or even like leaving the house. Nothing life-threatening is wrong, and my pain is a mostly a result of my active life well-lived, but it still hurts both physically and mentally. However, I’m not allowed to sulk too long as the dogs make me get up and take walks. They remind me when it’s time to eat. They don’t care if I’ve haven’t showered or that I forgot to brush my teeth. I think they know when my pain is bad because they stay extra close, like in our nap.
At that moment when I drifted off to sleep as I was swaddled by my dogs, I felt lucky. Loved. Secure. My pack is with me. We have we.
I hope that you “have we” this holiday season.
P. S.The Ugly Sweater Party to benefit Golden Huggs Rescue at Prohibition Pig in Waterbury, Vermont is ON this Wednesday, December 19th. Pro Pig will donate $1 to GHR for every draft sold. Half price tacos for those wearing Ugly Sweaters, too. The fun begins at 5 pm.
Lucy and Charlie have the best seats to watch our changing seasons
Fayston, Vermont. With Halloween a sugar coated memory, the Holiday Season is upon us. Be sure to include your dog(s) in the celebrations because not only are dogs good at cleaning up after dinner, they want to be with you no matter your to-do list.
Thanksgiving probably means a family gathering, so I hope you’ll take a group photo with your dog. Remember to practice “Sit-Stay” before then, and be patient. Short training sessions done post-exercise and with consistency are the keys to success. Once you have everyone gathered, take several shots. Tip: Use the burst mode to take a bunch of shots quickly. You just need one with all eyes open.
Before you go out for the photo with Santa, you want to both look festive. Many dogs are fine with costumes, but for some like my Charlie, a bandana is about all he will tolerate. Maybe he’ll wear reindog antlers. How did your dog do with Halloween? If he was uncomfortable or nervous, skip the costume.
The crew in their basic bandanas
Bandanas come in just about any color and cost about $2 from the craft store. Or shop Etsy for a holiday-themed one just for dogs. I’ve put reversible bandanas from Simply B Vermont (on Etsy and at The Quirky Pet in Montpelier, Vermont) on my crew as they are handmade near my house and come in a variety of super fun prints. They cost $16 each.
For you, dress in coordinating colors. Solid colors photograph better than patterns, but ugly sweater is your call. One of my favorite finds this year are the holiday animal sweaters for women at Lands’ End. Probably not ugly enough to win an office contest, but they offer one with a Golden Retriever, another with a cute terrier, and one with a Dachshund, as well as a variety of other designs (cat, sheep, cow, plus traditional seasonal motifs). Made from machine washable cotton; $69.95 – 40% off with coupon code NOVEMBER40 as of this writing.
Additional tips before bringing Fido to Santa or out caroling:
Basic commands “sit”, “stay”, and “come” are essential for safety and everyone’s enjoyment. Work on these often!
Use a leash and harness and whatever reward system you prefer.
Make sure your dog is healthy and vaccinations are up to date.
Practice! Take your dog to stores that allow pets. Make the outings short at first. Many shops on Church Street in Burlington, Vermont are pet friendly. Some of the big box stores are dog-friendly, too. Call ahead if you’re not sure. Caveat: In preparing this article, I started by searching those pet friendly guide websites, but found some information not accurate or out of date when I confirmed with the businesses. So before you go, call your destination directly to inquire about its pet policy.
Exercise your dog before any practice runs and especially before the Santa trip.
Bring poop bags. Because, you know…
Public outings are not for every dog. If your dog seems anxious while you’re waiting in line, leave. If your dog is nervous or the slightest bit reactive, don’t even try a store outing – have a friend come over to take your photo. And keep working with your dog on socialization.
Charlie looks snuggly in his festive blanket – this is his dressed up look…
The takeaway: Lower your expectations, practice with your dog, and relax. Your dog will respond to your emotions. Your dog’s personality makes the portrait special, not Santa. (Sorry, Santa.)
Check your local community calendar for holiday events that are dog-friendly. PetCo and PetSmart locations across the country will offer Photos with Santa in December. PetCo in Vermont will host Santa on December 8 and again on December 15. PetSmart in Williston, Vermont expects to host Santa on every December Saturday before Christmas.
After Thanksgiving, call your local store or look online for times and dates.
Helping a rescue organization by attending their fundraising event is my favorite excuse to have a night out. Check your community calendar or local newspaper for events near you. Here are a few events coming up in Vermont:
Shop Small Sale at Dog Mountain Home of the Stephen Huneck Gallery, St. Johnsbury, Vermont; Saturday, November 24. Ok, not a night out, but a great opportunity to pick up unique gifts. You may bring your dog.
Making Spirits Bright to benefit Passion for Paws; Thursday, December 13; 6:60-9:30 pm; The Automaster, Shelburne, Vermont; $35 in advance. Information and tickets
Ugly Sweater Contest to benefit Golden Huggs Rescue, Wednesday, December 19, Prohibition Pig, Waterbury, Vermont. The food was terrific last year! Details are still forthcoming – I’ll post an update with complete information next month, or check Prohibition Pig’s website in the coming weeks.
Purrrses for Paws to benefit The Humane Society of Chittenden County; February 7, 2019 at the Burlington International Airport. Features a silent auction of new and gently used purses; tickets:$30 Information and tickets
I now have an Etsy Shop! Order holiday cards or my “mountain dog pack” cards featuring, you guessed it, Linus, Lucy, and Charlie Brown. I’ll be adding more cards and prints in the coming weeks, so check back often. My Etsy Shop: RSilbernagelPhoto
A bigger selection of my cards is available at Product Think Tank in Waitsfield, Vermont (in the Mad River Green Shopping Center, next to the Post Office). This dog-friendly boutique is home to locally designed Mountain Lifestyle natural fiber sweaters for men and women, with styles and colors for all the adults on your gift list. Please stop in to take a look.
Bonus: Benefit Contest For Dogs And Their People – Enter Today!
Going on now until November 30, the Orange Crush social media contest from Spot The Dog Vermont is a fun way to play outside during stick season. It is hunting season here in Vermont, and Spot The Dog Vermont makes hi-viz orange vests and bandanas for country dogs. We’ve bought the vests for all three of my dogs. Charlie also has a bandana that’s plaid with reflective dots on one side and orange on the other. This event benefits Golden Huggs Rescue, from where we adopted all three of my dogs.
The details (from Spot the Dog):
Spot the Dog was founded to save dogs lives by protecting them during hunting season, on the trail, and at night. Spot the Dog has a DEEP commitment to saving rescue dogs by contributing 10% of every sale we make to Golden Huggs Rescue.
The Spot the Dog orange crush campaign is about having fun and SAVING LIVES! Beginning Saturday Nov 10th (rifle season kick off in VT) Spot the Dog will be posting photos of your “Orange Crushes” – your dog, a rescue dog, any dog that you love decked out in safety orange! At the end of the contest (runs until December 10th) whichever “Orange Crush” received the most cumulative likes (Instagram+Facebook) will receive a LIFETIME supply of new Spot the Dog safety wear and have a $3000 check donated in the winner’s name to Golden Huggs Rescue!
Here’s how you can participate:
1. Take a photo or selfie of you with your “Orange Crush”
2. Tag @spot_the_dogs or email the photo to Sam@SpotTheDogVT.com
3. Wait to see your photo pop up on our page, and in the meantime share and like our Orange Crushes!!
November Image Gallery
Our weather went from fall to winter practically overnight. Most days, Linus has taken up his spot in front of the wood stove while Charlie and Lucy sit in the snow on a hill in our yard, watching. I don’t know what they’re watching, but they seem to know their job.
Williston, Vermont. Although the wind gusts persuaded me to not set up my wagmorevt.com photo booth, the rain held off and another CaniCross to benefit Golden Huggs Rescue and Catamount Outdoor Center is now in the books. Dogs of all shapes and sizes came with their people to participate. A local youth cheerleading squad was even on site for encouragement. Special thanks to Long Trail Veterinary Center’s Dr. Ericka Canales for organizing and sponsoring this event.
If you are interested in ordering any prints, please go to my photo website, Rebecca Silbernagel Photo on SmugMug. As I didn’t set up the photo booth, any money I make from the sale of CaniCross prints or products I will donate to Golden Huggs. A 4×6 inch print costs .21¢ and ordering is easy through my site. I’ll leave the sale open for a couple of months. (I don’t usually sell my photos this way.)
We adopted all three of my dogs through Golden Huggs Rescue. I can’t say thank you enough!
Fayston, Vermont. I am pleased to announce that I will be holding a pop-up photo show at Product Think Tank in Waitsfield, Vermont on Sunday, October 7 from 2-5 pm. “A Sheep Show: Photography by Rebecca Silbernagel” features photo portraits of sheep, along with a few cows, butterflies, and the local landscape. Also debuting will be my awesome line of greeting cards, which include one of each of my dogs. Product Think Tank is located in the Mad River Green Shopping Center, next to the Waitsfield Post Office.
Sometimes, things just happen. Several months ago, a friend of mine opened up a boutique of knitwear she designed. She asked me if I had any photos of sheep she could display with her lovely wool knits. Thanks to one of my readers who invited me to her sheep farm a couple of years ago, I did. But the prints I made were 8 x 10 (smallish), and I only made two if them. Would you like me to take more photos, I asked my friend. That’s when she had the idea for a pop-up sheep show, and I realized that I had a summer project.
If you are in Vermont, I hope you will stop by and say “Hello.” I will have photo prints ready for your frame and a few are ready to hang, plus my collection of greeting cards. See what you think of my portraits as you browse the beautiful knitwear in the shop.
Take your best shot at my Canicross Photo Booth
Have you tried the photo booth portrait shoot from last month’s post? I’d love to see your photos! If you haven’t had a chance to make your own photo booth, I will be at the 8th Annual Canicross Run/Walk in Williston on October 20. The event, organized by Long Trail Veterinary Center, will be at the Catamount Outdoor Center – this is the ONLY day dogs are allowed there. Choose either a 5K or 2.5 K distance, with or without your dogs. The event begins at 9:30 am and I’ll be there until almost noon. It is a fundraiser to benefit Golden Huggs Rescue (from where I adopted my pack) and the Catamount Outdoor Center. At the Photo Booth, I will be asking for additional small donations to Golden Huggs Rescue. For more information or to register, please click HERE
September is my favorite month because the days are usually warm and the leaves begin to turn. It’s still summer, but different: brighter, more flavorful. Here are a few photos from the last month.
Simple design using head shots I took then created this composite image with Adobe Spark Post
Fayston, Vermont. The Halloween candy is in the stores, so that means it’s time to prepare your end of the year holiday cards. You’ve had a lot of practice since my last how-to photograph dogs blog post, so hopefully you have saved a few favorites. If not, don’t worry! Here are a few tips for taking a “studio” head shot in your own home with your cell phone that you can use for your card. No snow required.
What you’ll need, in addition to your fully charged smart phone:
A clothes hanging rack. Not a sweater drying rack, but a tall, adjustable rack on which you normally hang pants and dresses.
Pant hangers – the kind with clips. Or drapery clips. I used pant/skirt hangers.
A festive and clean backdrop. A tablecloth or large throw/blanket works well. I used a plaid fleece throw, but if you choose a solid color you don’t have to worry as much about hanging the backdrop super straight. If you live near a fabric store (I don’t), buy a few yards (3-5, depending on the size of your dog and if you want some floor coverage) of velvet – try a dark red or blue or black. A roll of craft paper works, too. Use a seasonal color for whatever holiday you celebrate. Maybe you want to make a Halloween card AND a holiday card!
A tripod for your mobile device is also recommended, especially if you want to be in the photo, too. Mine is a Joby GorillaPod, purchased a few years ago for around $25. Search Amazon or B&H Photo for a similar gadget.
A room with lots of natural light that’s big enough to set up the clothes hanging rack and space to take a photo. I used my palatial master bath/laundry room because it has large windows and a lot of floor space. The garage with the door open also works for this project. Or, if it’s a nice day, find a flat spot in your yard without direct sunlight.
Treats, squeakers, or whatever you need to get your dog to look at the camera. Lucy responds to my Donald Duck voice. If you are feeling ambitious, gather other seasonal props, such as costumes, scarves, hats, lights, etc.
Your dog, after you’ve set up your studio.
Rack and hanger set up
My iPhone tripod, with an old phone
Clip the long end of your fabric to the hangers and hang on the rack. Take care to hang the fabric straight if you are using patterned fabric. The clips should hold multiple pieces of fabric so you can flip one over for a new look. (See image, below.) Perhaps you’ve seen a “photo booth” at a party or fundraising event – this is a down-and-dirty simple version.
Tip: If you want the whole dog in your picture, puddle the fabric on the floor so that the floor doesn’t show in your photo. Have doggo sit or stand on the fabric puddle. You can also use a second piece of matching fabric for the floor.
Set up a test shot to make sure you know where to sit to take the photo and where your dog will sit. Use a stuffed animal or a backpack as a stand-in and take a test shot. You’ll need to be about four feet from your subject. (My phone camera warns me when I’m too close or too far. Apple thinks of everything…) If you don’t have enough room, pick up the rack, fabric and all, and find a new location.
Adjust the backdrop to the light source, if necessary. I changed the angle of my backdrop slightly after my initial test.
Test shot for lighting with Charlie Brown
Take your shot
Now it’s show time. After you’ve exercised your dog, it’s time to take photos. I had to wake up Linus and motivate him to leave the couch.
Bring doggo into your “studio” and have him sit in front of the backdrop. Set up any props or costumes.
Use the “Stay” command while encouraging ear perk with a squeaker or small treat held near the camera lens.
Select the Portrait setting if you have it.
Hold the smartphone camera level with your dog’s eyes. On the screen, tap on your dog’s eyes.
Then snap! For best results, use the tripod to prevent camera shake.
This will likely take a few tries, but your dog will love the attention. Stay positive and task focused. Reward and praise your dog! If you’re not seeing the image you like after a few takes, try again later.
Plan B: If your pooch is used to being held (and has trouble with “stay”), consider being in the photo with her. Figure out where you are going to sit and do a test shot or two. Now the tripod is mandatory. With your phone in the tripod, set the timer on your smartphone camera for three seconds. Gather your dog and sit on your mark, looking at the camera (or kissing, laughing and of course smiling) until the shutter clicks. If three seconds is too short for you to find your mark, try 10 seconds on the timer.
Caveat: My dogs are NOT used to being held. After setting the timer on my smartphone, I crawled over to sit next to test subject Lucy. She saw this as playtime and began enthusiastically licking my face. (I should have known this was going to happen – it’s why my dogs are banned from the room when I need to stretch.) My photos were a hot mess of blonde blur. Bonding, 10; quality photograph, 0.
Plan C: Consider asking a family member or friend to help by hitting the shutter button. Bribery (um – reward) works for people, too. Coffee is a fine offering for my help, but you might try wine. Invite your helper to use your studio, too! Swap out the fabric for a new background and a different look.
Edit time (or, fun with apps)
One you have taken the photo you like, it’s time to let doggo finish his nap while you edit. Simply using iPhoto’s magic wand (or whatever photo app you use) and a bit of cropping will improve your image, but with a few more clicks, you will create more professional looking results.
Tip: Browse through the printed photo card choices online and pick out a few favorites before you crop. Knowing what aspect ratio you’ll need will save you from re-editing if you choose a card that calls for a 3:2 image but you’ve made yours 1:1. Wait a minute – what? 1:1 aspect ratio is square – the top and sides are the same. 3:2 is the size that will yield a 6 x 4 inch print – a rectangle. Your phone is 4:3. Aspect ratio is the width to height comparison of a photo.
For printed photo cards, you have a lot of online options, including Snapfish, Shutterfly, mpix, and Nation’s Photo Lab, to name a few. Many companies offer dog specific cards. If you don’t have a favorite printer already, ask a few friends who send great cards for recommendations. Once you browse the cards and make your choice, simply upload your photo and choose quantity.
For a complete and easy-to-use photo editor, one of my favorites is Snapseed. Snapseed is a Google product found for free on the App Store and also available for Android. It has editing “tools” and filters, called “looks.” Sometimes I need to lighten my image before I apply a filter, so I go to the “tools” section before going to the “looks” section (filters). Snapseed lets you save a copy or modify the original, and it lets you undo edits even after you’ve saved them.
Magic wand and cropping in iPhoto
Image brightened and Snapseed portrait filter applied
Another editing app I use is PicsArt. PicsArt has many fun filters and easy-to-use editing tools, plus it has a cut-out feature. If you want to remove the background on your headshot, tap the scissors icon, then swipe your finger over the areas of the image you want to keep. Fine tune the cut-out with the eraser tool. Apply the filter and you’ve just created a sticker that you can add to another image. Or, you can change the background to a solid color or a pattern. I used PicsArt to create the image of Linus, below right. Even though the background of my original image was simple, the plain black gives the image more punch.
Before PicsArt sticker
After, with a solid black background
If you have some down time and really want to play with photo editing, try Enlight Photofox. I have the older, paid version of Enlight; Enlight Photofox is free but has subscription-based add-ons. Either Enlight or Enlight Photofox will let you layer images to create something completely new. Don’t be afraid to play! I had a long wait at the doctor’s office, so I followed one of the tutorials to create this stylized portrait of Linus (below).
To make a funky digital card for social media, try Photo Lab – you pick a frame, then add animated effects and type to your headshot. (See Linus image at the bottom of this post.)
For a more sophisticated look, take a look at Adobe Spark Post. It’s another graphic design and collage app I like for graphic layouts such a digital holiday message for social media. I used Spark Post for the title image.
PicsArt collage of Charlie Brown, Linus, and Lucy
Tip: If you are using more than one headshot, make all the heads the same size. I need to resize Lucy in the above collage.
Design note: Many of the card designs are so colorful that your photo in black and white makes an elegant finished card. (See image at the top of the article.) Duplicate your image and make it black and white by using your photo editing app. Upload the black and white version to see which way you like it. Some of the card makers will let you edit your photos, but I feel that I have more control (and better results) if I make a second version to upload.
P. s. Why am I writing this post in September? This home studio set-up also works great for showing off your dog’s Halloween costume!!! Plus, if you have your holiday card ready to go early, you’ll likely find a great price on printing and have one less thing to do once December comes. Because it’s all about the cookies, really.
Finally, please share your work with wagmorevt.com! I’d love to see your dogs! I’ll add your photos to a future post. Thank you.
Linus head shot in Photo Lab. Scrooge effect is all Linus…
Summer is full of indulgences, but yes, one can have too much of a good thing. Too much ice cream gives me a stomach ache. But too much swimming for a water dog? About a month ago, my golden girl Lucy came down with a case of hot spots. Although I’ve owned a series of dogs, I’d never seen it: Hot spots look like a nasty, crusty rash with open sores. They are caused by a bacterial infection.
The weather had been record-breaking hot in the beginning of July. We do not have A/C. To keep her cool, I filled a kiddie pool for Lucy to splash in, plus I took her swimming. She didn’t dry well in the humidity, and I’m sure she also had some itchy bug bites as we all did. The bacteria had their own summer party on Lucy. It was a rager.
By the time I figured out what was bothering Lucy and that she had to go to the vet, it was the weekend. The infection had spread to behind each ear, on top of her head, and she also had a patch on her left hip. She was seen right away on Monday. To clean the infection, the vet shaved the area around the sores – standard procedure. However, she looked like a Barbie that had been given a haircut by a toddler.
She was put on a course of oral antibiotics and I had to clean the sores with antibacterial pads twice a day. I felt terrible that I had helped the infection to spread when I petted her head and rubbed her ears. The part on her hip was likely spread by her scratching. Linus and Charlie were unaffected.
The rash eventually cleared up and her hair is growing back. I’ve been reluctant to take her swimming. Today she went back in the water. She looked so incredibly happy.
Maybe I can have a little ice cream.
Lucy swims for the first time after her “hot spots” cleared. If you look closely, you can see where she was shaved by her ear.
Linus, Charlie, and Lucy pose for a Father’s Day tribute
Fayston, Vermont. “You know they all bark when you leave the house,” my son reported. “Even Lucy.”
My son is home from college for the summer. My work schedule has become temporarily more demanding, so he’s been home with the dogs more than I this month.
“Linus sounds like he’s being tortured – it’s part howl, part bark,” he continued.
“Then Charlie chimes in with a high-pitched alarm bark. It’s annoying.
Lucy adds a low grunt, more of a mild complaint,” my son concluded.
“No wonder the neighbors don’t talk to us,” I replied.
“I don’t think so. Their dog barks, too,” he said.
“Do the dogs stop barking when you come downstairs?
“Yes, but sometimes not right away.”
This news surprised me because we take the dogs for a long walk in the morning before leaving. They are usually all sound asleep when I close the door behind me. Last spring, before my son came home, I forgot my phone and had to return to the house, only to find all three dogs asleep, right where I left them. They came to greet me blinking and stretching from being stirred awake.
But I am not usually gone as much once June hits. This year, however, household projects are left undone; vacation plans scrubbed; day trips canceled. I had to take a personal day so that I could accompany my son on a photo assignment for his internship. The extra money I make will be nice when the holidays come, and the end to my crazy schedule is near. But tell that to my dogs.
I look forward to setting my summer rhythm to the beat of tail thwapping. And less barking.
Linus at home
Osprey overhead, DAR State Park
Lucy on our morning walk, after a night of rain
Super Charlie in flight
Lucy, DAR State Park
Hay was cut on the very next day
Receiving line, Fayston
Old apple tree frames a very Vermont scene, Waitsfield
Fayston, Vermont. I recently gave Charlie Brown a bath. At 10 pm.
As was our routine, dog-dad had let our dogs out before going to bed. He let them out into the yard, but not the fenced-in part – our neighbors are seasonal and mud season is not one of their seasons. Spring feverish, our three dogs took off into the night.
After a few minutes, Lucy returned home but Linus and Charlie did not. Dog-dad continued to call them, with each repetition growing louder and angrier. I came downstairs, grabbed my wallet and car key, then tapped the button to open the garage door. I hoped the sound of the door clanking up would bring them back, but I only heard the peepers. No familiar jingle of dog tags. At least I heard no more yelling.
I started the car and pulled out of the garage, crawling down the driveway and expectantly searching for Charlie and Linus in my headlights. Twenty five yards down they appeared, looking quite happy and excited, tails and tongues a-waggin’. They eagerly hopped in the car.
Charlie snuggled up against my neck. He smelled like he spent the night at a frat party. A wave of nausea hit me at the stench. Into the shower we both went.
In the morning, dog-dad and I agreed to keep the dogs in the fenced in part of our yard. I arrived at work tired. My mind had ruminated on “what might have been” and my sleep was restless. As I was settling into my morning coffee and emails, one of my co-workers announced that she had a sad story to tell me. She looked upset. Quite unexpectedly, she said, she had to say goodbye to her dog last night. We hugged and cried; their time with us is too short we told each other. She told me how her dog suddenly became very sick over the weekend. We cried some more.
Dogs are only with us for a short time. Make every day a good one.
Each of my dogs has a distinct personality, even when confined to a leash
Fayston, Vermont. Despite the fact that spring seems slow in coming this year, my dogs and I are enjoying more time outside now that the snow is (mostly) melted. I am looking forward to walking on the hiking trails and public paths once those ways are dry enough for foot traffic. Meanwhile, we are meandering out on the roads, and I have noticed that each of my dogs exhibits at least one “walk profile” type when on a leash. Others have told me about their dogs’ distinct behavior while leash walking.
Recently, I devised a set of “walk profiles” to categorize dog behavior while on a leash. The profiles are not exclusive to each other – dogs may show characteristics from more than one profile. Dogs may also morph from one category into another completely. Training is the biggest variable, but weather may also have a role in which behavior is exhibited. Equipment such as a special harness or lead also plays a part in behavior.
What type of “walker” is your dog?
The Investigator. This dog loves to sniff EVERYTHING, even if the walk is on the same route taken earlier in the day. All of the day’s news is contained in the grass, but it takes time to weed out the gossip from the important stuff. This dog is thorough and curious as well as social. Perhaps even a little stubborn… Motivating to move along can be a challenge.
The Fire Chief. Works a little faster than the Investigator, but is sure to put out each inflammatory remark with his own stream. The Fire Chief boasts an amazing reservoir to ensure coverage.
The Motion Detector. Chases blowing leaves, butterflies, birds, and moving squirrels, the Motion Detector is energetic and enthusiastic. The Motion Detector needs frequent “SIT” time-outs to collect herself while on a leash. Can be difficult to handle in a wind gust.
The Collector. Souvenirs of every walk line the driveway: sticks, dropped rotten apples, and even big branches are picked up and carried by the Collector during the walk and dropped once back at home. Sometimes these items are held in the mouth while in Motion Detector mode (see above). A collected item often serves as a pacifier. The Collector is known to carry multiple items at the same time. Caution: Large collected items can become a club – “drop it” is a good command to avoid being hit behind the knees with a large stick.
The Tugboat. Harnessing the power of this type of walker is necessary, and with training, the Tugboat can become a well-mannered Pleasure Cruiser. The Tugboat is out in front, excited at being outside and stimulated by all he sees. His specialty is pulling arms: Avoid injury by using a no-pull harness/lead and engaging the tugboat in training to stop his pulling.
The Hunter. Similar to the Motion Detector, but instead of chasing movement, the Hunter is scenting rodents. Squirrels, chipmunks, and gophers better beware if the Hunter is off-leash. The Hunter type is often paired with the Tugboat type, so a harness and training help keep hunting season closed during leash walks.
The Pleasure Cruiser. With training and frequent positive reinforcement, this is the height of evolved dog walk behavior. The Cruiser is focused on his or her handler, does not pull or lurch or jump, and makes exploring the neighborhood a joy of companionship. Each of my dogs has flirted with this walk type, but none has committed fully to it. Yet. Our pursuit of Cruiser-ability is on-going.
What type of walker is your dog? Do you have any other types in your house? Please leave a comment!