What’s Your Dog’s Walk Profile?

dog training, dogs, humor

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!

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dogs, photography, travel, Uncategorized

Lucy, Charlie Brown, and Linus in their orange vests on a recent walk in a Vermont state park. Their leashes are at my feet.

Fayston, Vermont.  My apologies for once again not sticking to my first-Wednesday-of-the-month schedule. Our power was out for a couple of days last week, and our internet was down for over a week. I’m finally back on-line with a new, faster modem. But leash lines, not power lines, are this post’s topic.

Do you carry a leash?

My town’s leash law allows dogs to be off-leash if they are under voice control. I have yet to meet a dog during our wanders who is actually that obedient. Admittedly, mine are intermittently obedient. Know that I love to let my three dogs off leash. It is wonderful exercise for them as they run at least three miles to each one I walk. They are very happy to explore and play with each other. I have a couple of places where I can do that without too much worry, but the best place is on my own property, which is mostly wooded and has a trail looping through it.

We are working on the command “come.” Each of my dogs does fairly well when I work alone with one of them, but when they are together, not so much. Linus and Charlie Brown have selective hearing. They are usually not far; they are too busy to come. We have much work to do.

When we are out (and my dogs are on leash), we occasionally encounter unleashed dogs. “Oh, he’s friendly” – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that line from an owner of an unleashed dog. That might be true, but one of my dogs is reactive.

Linus meditates…

Linus is not always friendly. He barks at dogs on t.v.  While we are working on that, too, it is the top reason I have him on a leash when we leave our property. It is also why I time my walks to avoid the other “regulars” in my neighborhood. Sometimes we meet, however, and it’s hard. My neighbors are extremely patient and understanding. 

So, while your dog might be friendly, another dog might not be – please keep that in mind when you let your dogs off leash on a public trail. Always carry a leash, and leash your dog when you come across others. Please.

Another reason for keeping dogs on leash during November in Vermont is because it is hunting season. My dogs look adorable in their orange bandanas and vests, but underbrush could conceal and camouflage them. A tired hunter might react simply to movement. To be safe, I keep my dogs leashed.

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Charlie perches atop a hay bale for a portrait

Third, some folks might not want to meet your dog, even if doggo is very friendly. About a month ago, I brought Lucy to the reservoir to swim. The park had just closed for the season, but it was a warm, sunny day. Lucy was on leash as we walked to the water. About 50 yards away, another woman was working with her young dog. The dog was much more interested in Lucy than the owner’s commands and treats. The lady persisted in struggling for his attention. Lucy was oblivious as she just wanted to swim.

Swim she did. I had brought my camera and started to take pictures. I noticed a hilltop that would provide a scenic backdrop for a Lucy portrait. After a bit of swimming, I leashed her to walk up the steep hill to see the view. At the top we were immediately and enthusiastically greeted by two off-leash black labs. Their owner was calling them to no avail. The meeting was friendly, but I was overwhelmed by our new friends. In the happy frenzy, I became tangled in Lucy’s leash between three large, wet, jumping dogs and was nearly knocked to the ground. The owner asked me not to unleash Lucy because her dogs had been attacked by off leash dogs.

Oh, the irony…

Lucy at the Waterbury Reservoir, post swim and Lab greeting

Jumping Jacks

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Ghita and Ziggy with Betsy

Ghita and Ziggy with Betsy

Fayston, Vermont. With Jack Russell Terriers (JRT) Ghita and Ziggy, both under two years old, and their person, Betsy Carter.

Ghita is his aunt by breeding. They both came from the same breeder. I really liked the breeder. I was so happy with her, I got another one.

Ghita

Ghita in action!

I started gong to a puppy kindergarten with Ghita at Show Me the Biscuit in Williston. They do a lot of agility training. They said that she’d be great for this because she has so much energy and that was about a year and a half ago. It takes about a year to get them ready for competition.

So you started her when she was very young! I started her with a “good manners” class, which is like an intro: This is how you sit, this is how you use the clicker. Then they had one called “prep school,” where they go to the next level to teach you a lot of the foundations for agility. We actually started classes when she was about 9 mos old, 10 mos old? We’ve been doing classes a couple of days a week since then. I do two with him every week, then one agility class with her and one obedience class – so four total.

How did you find the classes? On-line search. There’s not a lot out there in the area. I knew I wanted to do training. I’ve had a JRT before and I trained her with a choke chain and a prong collar. I wanted to go a different direction with it. They do all positive reinforcement. I think it’s resulted in happier dogs. Not that Daisy was unhappy, but it forces them to think. Because, a lot of time we do what’s called “free-shaping”: You stand in just look at something, and they’ll try all sorts of different behaviors and you click and reward the behavior you want.

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Ghita weaving poles.

That’s how you teach the weave poles. You come over here and stand, and wait for them to go around the first one, then click and reward. Then you continuously up your criteria. It takes a longer time to teach things, but it makes the behavior more solid.

I’ve always had a dog growing up. When I was in college I got my first JRT from a rescue. I’m from Atlanta. Daisy came from a rescue. She was about 3-5 years old. I just wanted a companion dog. She passed away two years ago, but I had already decided to get Ghita then. I wanted Daisy to have a little sister and for Daisy to teach the other dog, but the timing didn’t work out.

[To the dogs] But now I have you guys!

They are cute and they know it.