Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Walk in the Pack

On a beautiful, bright Sunday, I took Kane for a walk with about half a dozen other dogs. This was an organized walk, and all of the dogs there are ones who have social issues.

Like Kane.

Kane is a sweet dog most of the time -- especially with children -- but he is reactive to some dogs. I can't tell what gets him yippy and leapy, but something does. It is something we need to work on, so this walk with other dogs was great exercise.

This weekly group is called A Walk in the Pack and is organized by Cher, the trainer who helped us cure Kane of his leash tugging. Each week, the group gathers at a location posted on Facebook. There is a $25/week fee for joining the group (as it is led by a trainer). Cher has suggested this group to us a few times; I was finally able to join them.

Not knowing what to expect, I arrived at the meeting spot early and waited in the car. As people arrived, they got out of their cars with their dogs and formed a loose circle, with a little distance between each animal. Every single dog was on a leash, of course.

Cher cautioned that there should be no "face-to-face" which might trigger aggression.

I was actually quite nervous about the experience. Knowingly joining a group of social misfits is counter-intuitive. But the beautiful thing was that all the owners were fully aware that their dogs were "reactive" -- easily unhinged by things that other, less anxious, dogs would take in stride. And they took appropriate precautions.

Like muzzles, where indicated.

Or lots of extra space; this pair settled far back from the main group.
Kane was very excited, but managed to keep his Schmidt together. Mostly. There was considerable whining, but he did not leap or lunge at the other dogs as he had done at his very first doggy obedience class. That's a huge improvement in the past two months.

The walk itself lasted about an hour and went at a fairly good pace and it was sometimes hard for us to keep up (Kane was so excited that I periodically needed to put him into a sit so he would stop tugging). All of the dogs followed the same handling rules: short leash, prong collar, "pops" for correction. No barking, leaping, lunging or "marking" of territory permitted.

Sophie, who had been Kane's foster mom, was the day's leader with Zoe -- a dog who had at one point been deemed untrainable. She spent about a month (maybe two?) living with Cher for rehabilitation.

This is Zoe.

Zoe was as gentle as could be and so well-behaved, even around men (which is one of her reactivity triggers)! Sophie is fostering her right now, but is seriously considering adopting her.

A number of the dogs that have come through Friendly Giants Dog Rescue had at one point been considered untrainable and were on the verge of being euthanized. What a shame that would have been!

I know Kane enjoyed it. For me, it was good to see him around other dogs without losing control. A good experience all around.

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