I have been talking with a number of people lately about dog walking. For some reason it seems to be a hot topic. Perhaps because it is so freaking cold outside and no one feels like doing it? I know I don’t. But with a hyperactive mutt bouncing to get outside every morning and no fenced yard to kick her into, I don’t have a whole lot of choice. Besides, one of the main reasons I wanted a dog was that I knew she would force me to be more active. So out we go, before the crack of dawn. And then again after I return home from work, once it is good and dark once more. That’s what long underwear is for, right?
For a long time, I actually was reluctant to adopt a dog because I was adamant we would need a yard for her to play in. Growing up, the family dog spent the majority of her time outside. A very independent Siberian husky, she found indoors often too warm. Out in the backyard, preferably with us joining her, was where she would rather hang out. We bought her a dogloo and that was that. This is the mental image I still had as an adult. It wasn’t until reading a book by a certain television superstar that I realized some dogs are okay with being indoors most of the time. In fact, he even said that sometimes not having a fenced yard is better because it forces owners to walk their dogs. After mulling over that, I was pretty much sold. Of course, now that I’ve entered the blogging world, I have met a lot of people with active dogs and no yards. Ms. M and Mr. B. from Two Pitties in the City comes immediately to mind. The two of them live in a small condo in downtown Chicago and from what I’ve seen they are always exploring the outdoors.
Hmmm, maybe I could fit a second dog into this wee house after all…
Anyway, all this babbling about walking and annoying television personalities being right for a change fits in nicely with what I actually wanted to talk about: National Train Your Dog Month.
“The APDT is planning a variety of events in January 2011 to celebrate National Train Your Dog Month. We want dog owners to see how simple and fun training can be, and how patience, consistency and a deeper understanding of a dog’s behavior can lead to happier, healthier and harmonious households. It’s our goal to promote using training methods that are kind, gentle and have an emphasis on building a relationship with your dog.”
Sounds like a terrific idea to me! I get compliments all the time on Shiva’s behaviour from fellow classmates and people on the street. While I am surprised every single time, I always try to make it clear her manners did not come naturally. Shiva’s fantastic on-leash manners – can’t say the same for off-leash yet – and brag-worthy sit-stay are the result of a LOT of work. Work I did primarily on our twice daily walks. If I didn’t walk her so much every single bloody day, I sincerely doubt she would have improved as much as she has. It would have been easy to give up, especially at the beginning. It would have been much easier to just stop walking her than to go through all of that. But that danged unfenced yard came into play again. Quitting just wasn’t an option. And, for me, neither was returning her to the shelter.
Like I needed that on my conscience.
I really like this concept of a national awareness month. Hopefully it will prove to people that there are other options than shelters. That most problem behaviours can be fixed with a little bit of time and effort. And it’s fun! And totally rewarding!
Part of the reason I would like to try the Canine Good Neighbour test is because Shiva used to be so impossible. Because she was a wacky rescue who would bark and lunge at the sight of another person. I want to do it for the former self that ran to the bedroom and cried after a particularly trying walk. Another part of the reason is that I want to show others than it can be done. If I can change an unruly monster into a Canine Good Neighbour, then anyone can! All one has to do is start spending more time with one’s dog. All else, like finding a good trainer or researching training techniques, tends to follow that one step. Isn’t that why we brought them into our homes in the first place?
I don’t want to start preaching because that’s not what I’m about. Getting a dog and training her changed my life. I guess I just want everyone to have the chance to experience a similar thing.
On the local breakfast show this morning, one of the hosts visited the city pound. I was disappointed when the interviewed staff focused more on the negative side of things rather than the positive. They had with them two spunky, white Staffordshire bull terrier mixes. Instead of gushing about what a great dog Rascal is, the woman mentioned the negative perception of the breed and how Rascal had some issues when he first arrived at the pound.
To be fair, I had to leave for work before I saw the next segment but is that really how she wants “pound dogs” to be viewed by the general population? As animals with bad reputations and behavioral problems? Why not wait to talk about that once you get people in the door? Why not let Rascal’s adorableness speak for itself? Why not talk about all the wonderful things a dog can bring into people’s lives? Why not talk about the benefits of adoption versus meeting someone on the side of the road?
Since this post is ridiculously long I am going to leave off here. I have a feeling I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said by better people 4956795 times before anyway. Edie Jarolim being one of them. If you haven’t checked out her postive pet adoption video series yet, you are missing out.
Since I want to leave on a positive note here is the photo of Shiva I used for her What’s My Puppy? entry:
Yay for doggies in the snow!