November 4, 2014

Walking Adventures and Reactive Encounters


October was a great month for The Ginger Sisters. My dad is living with me for the time being, and so the dogs have company all day when I'm at work. Although we haven't kept up with all of our fall training goals, we've had some interesting experiences of note.

On Halloween morning, my dad and I took the girls for a lovely hike in Evergreen, at an open space area with miles and miles of trails called Elk Meadow. I parked at the end of the parking lot to give us the best chance of getting in and out of the car without encountering anyone, but even though there were several other cars parked, we actually didn't see another soul until the return hike. It was a beautiful fall day and the trail we chose was very open, winding through a meadow flanked with pine trees. The girls had such a good time sniffing and exploring. At one point I took them into a mowed area and ran around with them, letting Boca drag her leash. She stayed close, paid attention to where I was and came running every time I called. That dog is not going anywhere.

On the way back we saw a few other people, but because of the tall grass I was able to take Ruby off the trail without incident. She didn't even notice the other dogs because she was too busy digging for voles. I was so happy to find this trail system that seems perfectly suited for walking reactive dogs. We will be returning for sure on some of my Fridays off. I was thrilled that we all got to enjoy some time in the beautiful Colorado mountains. Going places with a reactive dog is always a gamble and a risk I often don't want to take, but days like Friday made it all worthwhile. Unfortunately, I left my phone in the car so missed out on some great photo opportunities. 

We had several loose dogs run up to us last week. Boca is absolutely fine with this, so I mainly have to worry about managing Ruby. Ruby initially greeted the bigger hound-dog type that ran over to us in our townhome parking lot politely, but snapped at him as he turned away. That was disappointing for me as I've always thought Ruby was more frustrated greeter than dog-aggressive. I still couldn't blame her - my dogs were the ones on-leash. A few days later a tiny fawn-colored chihuahua came running toward us - Ruby was excited but I wasn't terribly concerned and the owner scooped the dog up before it reached us. Another loose chihuahua charged toward us on Sunday evening, and while I thought the owner was going to call it back, she inexplicably went back inside her house leaving us to deal with the dog alone. Ruby was amped up by its barking but I was able to get my dogs away without the chihuahua following us. It's so weird that we had this happen three times in the course of a few days. 

I've also started walking the girls in the neighborhood across the busy street, something I stopped doing for a while because the street crossing could be so stressful.  I've found that if we go early on weekend mornings, there isn't much traffic, and now that the weather is cooling off there aren't as many cyclists and joggers out. I carry Ruby across even if no one is coming - it just makes me feel safer. Once we are safely across the street, aside from a few dogs in yards, things are fairly quiet and the wide streets give me an opportunity to change direction, zig-zag, and practice Ruby's heel in small circles (which she is very good at). We also don't have the cursed rabbits to contend with! 

The end of daylight savings time means dog walks in the dark every day after work and I don't like it one bit. I have an LED collar and leash but find that they don't offer much help when trying to pick up after the dogs on the dark, leaf-strewn ground. I am not sure I can juggle a flashlight, two leashes and poop bags, especially when I'll soon be wearing gloves. I'm considering a head lamp - just the thing to complete my dorky dog lady winter ensemble! What ways have you found to make nighttime dog walking easier?

12 comments:

  1. Sounds like you are being very successful with Ruby's reactivity! We've been hiking and outdoors a lot more now that's it's finally cooling off here. I love taking Wynston and Khloee out to experience new places. New smells and sights are always beneficial for dogs, especially Khloee because she's still a puppy. I recently used Wynston's LED collar when we went on an evening walk with our friends at a local preserve. It was awesome because it was like a little lantern leading the way!
    I am guilty of taking Wynston out front off leash because he doesn't go anywhere. I don't go on full walks with him off leash because I never know if he's going to run up to another dog...or he'll just pee on every single bush and it'll take us an hour to walk 3 blocks LOL. Although he doesn't run from me, I don't want to risk it. Even if I am outside my house with him off leash and another dog is going to walk by, I pick him up. Better to be safe!

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    1. I was really astounded that the people let their tiny dogs run toward mine - Boca is MUCH bigger than a chihuahua and it's so obvious that Ruby is overexcited. I think we sort of surprised the first lady and she seemed pretty worried as she grabbed her dog, but the one that left it outside alone?

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  2. The hike at Elk Meadow sounds so fun!

    We've been charged by a bunch of chihuahua's too.. I don't know why their owners think that's okay. :( I've been having a hard time, too walking the girls at night. Juggling two leashes, the flashlight and poop bags is not fun. Hopefully I get better at it! :)

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    1. I wish we'd discovered that place sooner - the drive will be treacherous on snowy days, but at least I have another place I know we can manage!

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  3. We're lucky to have a nearby well lit state university campus nearby. Some of the areas are as bright as day and great for night dog walking.

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    1. That does sound like a great place for walking!

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  4. Funny - I do exactly the same thing, parking as far away from everyone else as I can. Shyla got "attacked" by loose dogs on a couple of occasions just before loading into the car. She hasn't forgotten in the 2 yrs since it happened so the end of an outing is always a little tense. My car is always the one in the furthest corner of the lot!

    I have to say that I could never walk my dogs in the dark with out a headlamp. I know they're dorky but they are indispensable (we have *no* streetlights out here in the hinterlands).

    Last but not least - those dogs running at you. Jeez - what a streak of bad luck for you. Sometimes I have trouble not losing my temper with a dog owner is so clueless. My most recent encounter involved an owner who shouted that his dog was "usually ok" with other dogs, as his dog closed in on Shyla. I'm afraid that I lost it with him when he didn't move to control his dog right away. I told him that "usually" was not good enough for my very fearful dog.

    I'm glad you had such a great outing!!! Sorry to rant so much.

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    1. I'm going to have to get a head lamp, I think! Rant away! I didn't say anything to any of the dog owners. I know that to them, my dog acting crazy on the leash is the issue. I used to think Ruby would be better off if they *did* run over to her so she could meet them but her reaction to the hound dog threw me off.

      I'm lucky Ruby is small. My previous dogs were closer to 50 pounds each, one reactive and one not, and it was really hard to manage when loose dogs charged us.

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  5. Sounds great that you've had some successes with Ruby on hikes. Lately my dog has been getting more "reactive" to certain breeds and colors (all black dogs) out of "nowhere" which makes going to the dog park hard, we already go pretty early when less people are there, but gah. I feel so bad when he full out charges another dog out of nowhere even if its not doing anything.

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    1. I've stopped going to the dog park - even if I try to go early in the morning it seems I'm not the only one with the idea. I do with my dogs had more opportunities to run off-leash, they love it so.

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  6. Nighttime dog walking - i'm excited about this new product i'm on the list for! https://noxgear.com/spot360

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