Monday, July 30, 2012

More On The Theory Of Dog Walking

Walking Patty the dog is an interesting experience.
It also allows me to ponder the differences between Patty and my previous, short-lived dog, Sally.

First, the basics...
For me, walking the dog is all about the dog.
It provides exercise for the animal, helps her get used to her neighborhood, meet other people and animals, and see other things outside of her fenced-in plot of dirt.
For the most part, I let my dog choose which path/street/direction to go.
I don't care (with qualifications).
I only intervene when I have to, for the safety of the dog or simple convenience (meaning that our presence in/near a situation ahead may cause a disruption that will be bothersome to someone else).
I don't care if she stops and sniffs every other mailbox post, etc.
That is why we are out there.
I watch the time and try to keep our jaunts to about an hour, mostly because I am a scheduled kind of guy.

When I lived in the country, Woof, my big yard dog was free to roam the fields at will.
He trotted a path around the neighborhood every morning just after sunrise, often with a friend of his from next door.
I observed that the normal pace for a morning explore was a brisk trot with lots of stops to sniff.
I guessed that this was the equivalent to the wolves going on a hunt.
After about an hour, Woof would come home, plop in the driveway and be on station for the rest of the day to guard and protect his two-legged charges.

I did not take Woof for walks because he did not need any.
If the two-leggers did go for a walk, he came along as a part of the family, but he knew this walk was not for his benefit.
Living in the city is different.
Dogs need to be walked for several reasons.
Now to my observations....

Sally was a strutter.
She was proud to be a growing big white doggy and when she walked along the street or sidewalk, you could hear her front paws slap the pavement.
Patty is less vigorous.

Sally liked to be my leader/hunter/protector and she liked to pull me along.
To the point that I had to literally brace myself to hold her back when she wanted to examine something out of leash distance.
I was constantly having to make her stop pulling.

Patty is less vigorous.
She likes a slight pressure on her neck as we walk, but she is constantly trying to adjust to my pace.
Seldom will she test the tensile strength of her nylon tether.
Often, I have to keep a slight tension on her leash because she is walking very close to me.
If I did not keep this gentle pressure in her string, the chain collar would just fall open.

In both cases, I am less intolerant of being dragged along on the journey because I understand that the normal pace of a dog on his/her morning walk is a trot.
They are excited to get out and see/smell who has been around overnight.
This is not an urgent pace, but it is clearly exciting to them.
It is important business that they must be about.
It is what they must do.
I am less excited about this task, so I am less enthused.
But I try to go along with the program because I understand the drill, to some extent.

Still, being dragged along the sidewalk with 74 pounds of tension on the line can be tiring and bothersome, so I do try to moderate it occasionally.
I believe Sally would have been perfectly happy to be pulling me along in a Radio Flyer, if we had one.
Patty, once reminded, does try to moderate her pace.
She is a very compliant dog.
We can likely tally some of Sally's exuberance to her youth.
She may have settled down had she been allowed to live long enough.

Sally was the explorer of the two dogs.
Once she got used to one path, a process that took just two or three trips, she was ready to blaze a new trail.
She took me all over the neighborhood.
She never took the same path two day in a row.

And she wanted to sniff both sides of a road.
Everything needed to be checked.

Patty is 180.
I let her choose the direction of our walk the first morning and we basically walk the same course every morning.
Sometimes she explores the church grounds that is on our route (like yesterday) and sometimes she ignores it (like today).
But these are minor variations to a very predictable pattern.
And she is content to stay on the sidewalk.
Rarely will she seek to sniff something across the street.

Only today, did she seek to turn and go down a street she has never traveled.
This path actually led to two other streets she has never been on.
True to her form, Patty stayed on one side of the street and did not zig-zag from side to side very much.

We shall see if this breaks her walking pattern.
These are streets that Sally knew well.

Sally liked to run.
When she got excited (like when greeting another dog), she wanted to run to burn off the energy such situations generated in her.
Being a runner, I always complied.
One reason was because I know that Great Pyrenees dogs are not long distance runners.
They will lumber along for a few hundred feet, then slow to a walk.
Three or four sessions like this during an hour walk and they are done for the day.
This may have been a symptom of Sally's youth that would have diminished with time.
We will never know.

Patty trots.
She stops and assesses her item of interest for several seconds.
Sometimes a full minute.
Then walks on.
Only occasionally will Patty trot and even more rarely will she run.
And then, only a few dozen yards.

Sally did all of her biological business in her yard.
While on a walk, she seemed to not care if other animals knew who she was or where she had been.
So, she seldom left any momentos for the other animals to sniff.

Patty is the opposite.
She saves her liquid and semi-solid gifts for the neighbors yards.
So I must attend to our walks with the appropriate baggage.
Patty will squat 20 or so times on our walks.
And provide two bags worth of other material along the way.
From my observations, Patty is a very healthy dog.
I am not sure why it is so important for Patty to mark her path so often.

I am sure there are more differences between these two interesting creatures, but I have run out of items for today.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The Progress of Patty the Pooch

Patty is a sweet, smart dog.
It is difficult to believe that she was mistreated before I found her.
She responds to her new name (Patty) without any special training on my part.
When she misbehaves (mainly trashcan diving) she acts contrite just from my voice inflections.
She has never yet messed in the house.
And Patty does not play with my dirty clothes. (like my former fuzzy friend did...)

Around food she is mostly well-behaved.
She did steal something off the dining table once when left unattended.
This may have been because she did not know the rules as much as being a sneak.
Most of the time, she just sniffs and looks and licks her lips.
We will see how she does in this area.

Early on she was nervous about fast hand movements, but that seems to be mostly gone.
Occasionally, she will shy away from a fast hand movement, especially by strangers.

Her initial resistance to being on a leash is nearly all gone.
She does well 99 percent of the time and only occasionally tries to pull away.
Patty is learning to negotiate with me on pace and direction during our walks.

My philosophy is that walking a dog is for the benefit of the dog, not the human.
It is not a victory lap to show off my trophy animal for all the neighbors to admire.
It is to exercise the dog and allow her to get used to her area.
So some of the pace and direction of the walk should be left up to the dog.
My overrides to her decisions are mainly for her safety or a time constraint.

Early on, there was some resistance to having a collar around her neck.
But that went away the second day I had her.
Now she has a collar on all the time since then (except for her bath).

Today, I started using a chain choke collar for her walk, - as I did with Sally - to see how she would respond.
She did fine.
Zero resistance to having a new, heavier piece of hardware around her neck, and she responded well to the new feel.
As with Sally, I use it only for walks.
Sally liked to pull me along, apparently from the need to be my guide through the neighborhood.
Patty is more relaxed.
She will spend most of a walk with a loose leash at my side or just ahead of me.

My goal with the choke collar is to keep it loose most of the time, with just a small amount of tension on it so she knows I'm there.
If she needs some guidance, then more tension can be applied – typically, very little is needed and only for two or three seconds.
If more urgent or aggressive guidance is required, the choke function is there to mimic the teeth of an Alpha pack leader administering discipline.
But the need for this last application is rare.

Often times, Patty will respond at just a quiet word from me.
She is learning my command, “wait”.
Which means to stop at the end of a sidewalk before walking into the street.
The command involves a slight tug on the leash to let her know the needs to stop.
Sally was learning it, too.
Patty is already tuned into this command.

She is doing well with my other commands, “this way” (some other direction than the one she is going), and “be with me” (= “heel”).
As you can see, I do not do traditional dog commands.
I just talk to them like I talk to peoples.
They get it. (the dogs....)

My version of the traditional command, “come” is “come here”.
We are still working on this one.
There is no real problem here, I just have not spent much time training Patty.
Mainly because she is so smart and well-behaved.
We have not spent any time on “sit”, “stay”, or “lay down”, yet.
Interestingly, I have told her to lay down on two occasions and she laid down.
I don't know if she really understood the command or if she was just lucky.
I was impressed, nonetheless.

The summary of all of this is that Patty has not been as difficult to adjust to (and seemingly, vice versa) as I was expecting.
I do not know what her former life was like, but she seems to be doing just fine here.


April 15 th of 2013 was my last year to work for HR Block. I disliked the corporate pressure to make us call customers to try ...