Thursday, December 16, 2010

Winter Park-Hopping

One thing I have not been very good about lately is bringing Marge to different locations for walking and/or training, aside from dog events.

Now that I have some more time, I'm going to try to bring Marge to different parks at least once a week.  Even if we start repeating (which I think we will), I'd like to re-expand our choices so that Marge is comfortable walking in a variety of different parks.

Last week, our destination was the boardwalk, where there was a fair amount of people around.  Marge did quite well, if you recall from my last post.

Today, our choice was the long path along the road in one of our "National Recreation Areas," despite the fact that I am in the midst of a long post-reinforcement pause (hah) after finishing all of my work for the Fall 2010 semester and, therefore, want nothing more than to bum around on the couch.

We walked 2 1/2 miles together over the course of an hour, with some running, some sniffing, and some obedience work thrown in.  It was quite cold for me, but I think Marge enjoyed herself, for the most part.

There weren't very many people around and Marge did give oogly eyes to a couple of men that she saw, but she never outright panicked and always took treats.

Strangely enough, I think the lack of people was bothersome for her, as compared with the boardwalk.  At the boardwalk, there was a steady flow of people, and perhaps I'm anthropomorphizing, but I think she "expected" their presence, whereas in this park, a lone individual would slowly approach along the path only every once in a while.

Most times, her strategy to cope with the approach of a human is to direct her attention towards a tree, garbage can, or other smelly object and sniff her heart out (which may be a signal to the humans that she has no intent to bother them, may also make her feel more secure, or may be unrelated - I think it's all three, depending on the situation and her body language).

I am fine with this because it is MUCH better than her fleeing; I also feel that if she was very nervous, she wouldn't be able to do this with people walking by in such close proximity (since it happens frequently in our neighborhood, where people pass sometimes as close as 1 or 2 feet from us).  Sometimes, she looks as though she is indifferent to their approach and is sniffing just to sniff, which may very well be the case.

We are also working on her glancing at the incoming person and then looking back towards me.  I am rewarding her for both behaviors (sometimes for looking at them, sometimes for looking at me), so as to work to build a positive association with whatever's approaching and also to maintain her ability to focus on me.

It worked absolutely smashingly with an aggressive-looking Shar-Pei who walked (er, pulled) by about 30 feet away from us.  She was able to watch the dog and get the information that she needed (because would YOU want to keep your back turned from something that looks scary?), and also able (and quite willing) to look towards me.

I hope to have more posts like this over the course of the winter, hopefully with more photos than I had today!


NAK and The Residents of The Khottage Now With KhattleDog! December 16, 2010 at 10:56 PM  

Great time for both of you!

Thanks for sharing!

Frankie Furter and Ernie December 16, 2010 at 11:06 PM  

What a nice walk experience.

Amy / Layla the Malamute December 16, 2010 at 11:13 PM  

Very cool! That's really great about the Shar-Pei. Some of them look more like aliens than dogs. I'd like to take Layla to more new places, but I also feel more like bumming around on the couch.

PoochesForPeace December 16, 2010 at 11:51 PM  

thats a pretty pic of marge!

Diana December 17, 2010 at 7:13 AM  

Im glad you were able to get up. Its been so cold, going outside hasnt been fun. Diana

Cyndi and Stumpy December 17, 2010 at 8:01 AM  

One of the things I miss out here in dirtville is the variety of places to walk and explore.

Marge is so pretty! She belongs in Vogue... always striking the pose!

I hope Layla's feeling good!

LauraK December 17, 2010 at 9:39 AM  

Sounds like a fun day for you two! I think it's great that you incorporate obedience into your walks and make passerbys a fun thing. Hope you are staying warm out there, I'll admit I've been a wimp walking the dogs lately- being cold is no fun!

And yes, I did record the video on a flip mino hd. I am very pleased with the quality and am looking forward to using it at trials, etc. You should have more videos of your beautiful Marge living her everyday life- it'd be fun to see :)

Deborah December 17, 2010 at 11:59 AM  

That is a good idea, taking her to different locations!!
Have a great weekend!

Kari in Alaska December 17, 2010 at 2:50 PM  

Sounds like it was a great walk


Gus, Louie and Callie December 17, 2010 at 5:42 PM  

Different parks is a great idea. We would love that...

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus, Louie and Callie

Dawn December 18, 2010 at 5:58 PM  

Excellent!!! Good job you two!

Kathy Mocharnuk December 19, 2010 at 12:19 AM  

EXCELLENT progress, the progress that seems to have been made over the last year really seems fantastic! What great committment making sure to get Marge in different places-helping her with coping strategies and doing the classes...Marge is a lucky girl and a pretty awesome dog!

KB December 19, 2010 at 7:15 PM  

I love your plan - it'll be fun for both of you. K and I did a similar thing when she was a fearful puppy. I got a hiking map for our area and checked off each area after we hiked there... It was an education for both of us!

I agree with you about the difference between a constant presence of people versus one lone person every now and then. When we're on isolated trails where we almost never see anyone, my dogs startle and bark like they've seen a mountain lion when a person appears. In contrast, at a city park, they don't give people a second glance.

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart December 20, 2010 at 6:24 PM  

That is a good plan. I'm glad you're done with the semester and can relax a bit for a while.

P.S. In regard to your comment to my handler wanted post, I actually am going to be in NYC in the spring, but just for a few days, and I'm not sure how much time I'll have, but we should try to connect ... even if there isn't time for me to run Marge on a course.

BRUTUS December 20, 2010 at 10:24 PM  

Ah, this post makes me realize how long it's been since we had a good stroll! Between rotten weather and our busy Nov/Dec schedule, it's been forever! Things will be quiet now until late January in our show calendar, so it's time to hit the trails again - let's hope the weather will cooperate!!


Never Say Never Greyhounds December 23, 2010 at 5:32 PM  

I love the "look at that" game from Control Unleashed. Glad it worked well.

Kirby, CGC December 23, 2010 at 5:48 PM  

Great job with Marge, I have been working with Kirby to watch me when other people and dogs approach us, we just started and have a long way to go, but I know it will work.

I also try to take Kirby to other parks, even in the winter. It kind of bites, I can only do it on the weekends because it gets dark out to early in the afternoons, but I too feel it is good to walk them in different areas.

Wishing you, Marge and Layla a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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