The Picture Says it Best

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!

23 thoughts on “The Picture Says it Best

  1. I agree. There should be a more upbeat slant to reports of dogs in the shelter needing homes. I think you should send those folks your link to A Rallying Cry post. Get them on the positive thinking band wagon.

    I do not walk my dogs in my neighborhood, but I am lucky to have a fenced-in yard. There are just too many people walking their dogs off leash, which is cause for more potential problems than it’s worth. Shiva almost blends into the snow in today’s photo. 🙂


  2. What an amazing advert for rescue dogs Shiva is! The pair of you have made an amazing team: the very best advert for a rescue dog there is, rounded off with a realistic estimate of the amount of work it takes and the stellar awards such a relationship offers.
    Maybe you should send the link to your blog to the TV station….


  3. I have been thinking about mentioning train your dog month, too! It’s such a cool idea.

    I have to agree with you! Especially about putting a positive light on shelter dogs. It sounds like an almost defeatist postition to take!


  4. When I first got my dogs years ago here, I did not have a fenced yard. I walked them like 5 times a day to help potty train, etc. I did have a fence put in and puff! became lazy. When people want to re-home their dogs because “they need some place to run,” I ask first if they are altered (the dog, not the person – that thought I keep to myself), then what is their daily routine with the dog. Usually, my unwelcome suggestion is the dog does not need a yard or farm in/on which to run, she needs her owner’s diligent attention on a regular basis. Superb post. Didn’t know about Dog Train Month – will post it on Dog Blessed. Thanks.


  5. Question for you – do you think it’s still possible to train a dog if you have had that dog for 4 years and haven’t tried training him even once because you are lazy? I’m so embarrassed that I’ve waiting this long, and a little nervous that now that he is starting training, he’ll be more difficult because he knows me so well and kind of ‘knows’ how to get away with stuff? Serious question – I’d love your advice!


    • Yes, yes I do. I don’t believe there is one bit of truth to that old saying about old dogs and new tricks because I have seen it done quite successfully. One of the dogs in a previous agility class was a 12 year old retriever who had never done agility before. Unfortunately, the owner had to move away but while she was with us her dog was learning everything right along with all the other dogs in the group. And had just as much fun! So did her owner.

      I could recommend some books but if you are serious about this I suggest checking out a local positive training facility. The organisation I train with offers all sorts of different classes from obedience to flyball to classes where they just learn new tricks and games. The key is to work at your dog’s pace. I’m not a dog trainer but I know every one figures things out in his and her own way. It takes time and a lot of patience but it is so worth it.

      I’m going to stop rambling now. Others around these parts could probably answer your question much better. Thanks for the awesome question and comment!


      • That is really good to hear! Makes me feel better. 🙂 We have signed Jackson up for a positive training class and the first class (without the dogs) was yesterday (Sunday) and it will go for 6 weeks. They use clicker training and we don’t have any experience with that but already I can see that he is responding. I’m very excited and really think this will be so good for both of us. After he completes this basic manners class, we expect to sign him up for agility!


        • That’s so fantastic! I hope you and Jackson have a brilliant time. Clicker training is amazing and I know you both will have so much success. I hope you’ll let me know how it goes.

          Agility! Yay! 😉


  6. I don’t have any kind of yard, so have to walk song every day. That’s why I like going over to my dad’s as he as a large grassed area, with flower beds round the edge. Song can get up to speed doing figure of eight round the tree.


  7. How old is Shiva? It’s encouraging to know that you have come so far with her on walks. We just got our first fenced in yard a couple of months ago, and the downside – just as you mentioned – is that we don’t *walk* her nearly as much as we should. It’s always a quick trip to the yard or off-leash adventures in the woods. This post made me think that maybe we need some more on-leash walking and practicing training techniques…

    Daph just turned 3 and I would *love* it if by 4 we could take her out in public without being as concerned as we often are now…


    • Shiva is two, will be three in April-ish. We don’t know her actual birthday, but when we adopted her the shelter told us she was around one year old so I just use our adoption date as her birthdate. She may be older or younger in all actuality.

      Our trainer helped us with everything. Before I called her, I did not know what to do and I couldn’t get her any farther. We had hit a wall as far as training went. But after she came to our house and gave us some awesome advice everything was different. Agility has helped immensely with her confidence as well. She was a different dog a year ago, barking at garden gnomes and freaking out at dogs. She’s not perfect, not by a long shot, but we can take her downtown to the harbourfront and not worry there is going to be trouble. That’s pretty huge.

      Good luck! With all your knowledge and abilities, I am sure you and Daph will be a huge success!


  8. Thanks for the mention! We always get excited to see that people actually like what we’re writing about. We always dream of having a yard, but I think the having to walk them each day part has really made us more connected and focused on positive behaviors. I also had the same reasons as you for starting Miss M in all those training classes, because she was so crazy and excitable, and now it has just become an addiction. I know Shiva will do so well in CGC. And look at all the great blog posts you keep coming up with…


    • Thanks! I really hope so. I really hope I am brave enough to try.

      Dog training is an addiction for me as well. But one I am not even a little ashamed of!

      Thanks for all of your kind thoughts.


  9. Rugby hardly gets walked, but we do spend lots of time training outside. SO I guess he does walk, but it isn’t really “to” any place jsut “around” the training area we picked for the day. I do walk him if he we take a day off of training though so he can stretch his legs.

    Love train your dog month! I don’t think people really understand just how reward it is!

    I understand your desire to get Shiva’s CGN also. It always feel better when you reach a training goal with a dog with a bad start! Her story reminds us of our friend Brandy, the Kerry Blue Terrier whose training has literally saved her life!


    • I think Rugby gets a ton of exercise and training with or without a walk! You have done such an amazing job with him and your relationship is enviable.

      Thanks for the link! I will have to check it out.


  10. We have a fenced yard, not big but good enough for our two dogs but I can tell you that they don’t do much there even if I leave them in the yard. They prefer a walk in the neighbourhood or somewhere else except inside the fenced yard. Therefore, we still have to go out for a walk : )


  11. Lots of good stuff in this post–where to begin?

    On fences–I hate hearing people say they need to have a big back yard for their dog to play in. Very few dogs play by themselves outside. What most dogs really want is someone to play with them–whether in the yard, house or on a walk.

    Fenced yards are best for having a safe place to play with your dog off leash. But as you mentioned, many people find fun alternatives without a yard.

    Shelter & rescue worker negativity–A lot of these folks see the very worst of human nature in their jobs. And in a “kill” shelter, they have to witness animals being put to death every day because of cruel, negligent, and ignorant people.

    I think that many shelter staff get so tired of taking dogs back from people who just didn’t understand how much work it would be, or why their dog was destructive or noisy that they always want to put the worst face on things. If you know the worst and still want to adopt an animal, maybe you won’t be back.

    It’s really bad marketing but I think I can understand how it happens.

    Finally, it sounds like you and Shiva have really been able to touch some folks looking for a better relationship with their dogs. Brava!


    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It is always appreciated. You are right about shelter workers. I should be more sympathetic. It is not an easy job and it is one I take very seriously. Perhaps my disappointment with the city pound in general caused some of my emotion. I don’t blame the staff, of course, just the management. Or rather, the city for setting it all up in the first place. But that’s another story. 😛


  12. Oddly enough, Jersey is way better off leash than on leash. She never leaves my sight, does a really great “wait”, never runs after other dogs, never goes onto the street and has a really good recall. I can walk her off leash in downtown Toronto with no problems at all. There have been times when I have been in crowds so thick that I take her off leash so that she can pick her own way thru and not get her leash tangled up in the legs of a person that is not paying attention (ie. texting)

    When I have to keep her on leash, she pulls sometimes, but after awhile she calms down and walks with me. I think that it’s more of a thrill of a new place than being disobedient.

    Go for the Canine Good Citizen test! It looks like fun and it’s something to do with the dog.


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