Taking my dog anywhere

Dog owners miss out on opportunities to share experiences with their dogs beyond the backyard.

To me, the ability to take my mutt almost anywhere is the whole point of having a dog. I specifically adopted Ace because of his calm manner and athleticism – perfect for all kinds of adventures. Training and socializing him is an ongoing process and one of the most rewarding pieces to my life.

Every walk and every second of training and interacting Ace and I do together has lead us to where we are now. It is not a specific run we went on or a specific obedience class we took that matters. It is the cumulation of time. Ace is a 4-year-old dog; I can’t wait to see what we accomplish in the coming years.

I see a lot of dog owners who are OK owning a dog that is out of control during a walk. A dog that is overly stimulated just by seeing another dog is completely acceptable to most people. A dog that spins in circles or pants all the time seems normal as well.

I suppose this is OK. Although the dog is never calm, she doesn’t know what she’s missing. The same is true for her owner. I just wish every dog owner understood that every dog is capable of being well-mannered, socialized and calm. There is no secret on how to accomplish this. It doesn’t take a “professional.” What it takes is time and patience.

My dog went on one walk during the first year of his life, and that was so his owner would be able to tell potential adopters how his leash manners were – terrible.

My dog would strangle himself whenever we came across other dogs during his first week with me. He had to learn his name, how to sit on command, how to use patience. He had to learn to pause and think rather than just react.

With hundreds of walks in countless neighborhoods, parks and trails, Ace has learned how to relax in different environments.

I’ve made it my goal to take him somewhere new every Monday. Not necessarily somewhere he’s never been, but somewhere out of our usual routine. It could be a new neighborhood, a different park or dog business in town. It could be a playground or a nursing home, downtown or out in the country. The point is to expose my dog to as many new sights, smells, sounds, people, dogs, other animals and experiences as possible.

I don’t know how to explain how rewarding it was to take my dog to the lake with a group of friends last weekend and have him fit in almost seamlessly. I was worried he would feel anxious and whine in the car, but my additional work with him on driving to new places, creating new challenges and providing good exercise (thanks Amanda and Eli!) really paid off.

When a dog is well behaved, you can forget he is there.

Believe me, though, I never forgot Ace was there. I always had one eye on my dog, whether he was sunning himself on the boat, lying on the dock or resting by the fire. The fact that he could exist almost unnoticed amongst a group of people was one of the best unspoken compliments to me as a dog owner and trainer.

I did not have to constantly reward Ace or give commands or even leash him. The communication between us was subtle – eye contact, calm energy, the occasional pat on the back in exchange for tail wags.

My dog can really challenge me, upset me and embarrass me. But boy does he make me proud.

Ace is a good boy.

(Thanks Brian P. for providing the campfire photo)

31 thoughts on “Taking my dog anywhere”

  1. It is so rewarding to be able to take our dogs with us! My parents are long haul truckdrivers and they travel with 2 boxers! They are always seeing new places and being in new situations, and they really thrive in it. They have had some dogs that were a little more timid, but these two are always so happy to go along.

  2. If a dog does not get out and see new places and get lots of exercise, of course it is going to get overexcited when it finally gets the chance.

    It becomes a catch 22. The dog is not allowed to do stuff, so when it gets a chance it goes mad with excitement. Since the dog is “difficult” it is restricted and then …

  3. Everything you said is SOOOO TRUE!

    It’s such a good reminder to have. We can take Lady anywhere, and we know she’ll be good and have a great time. We’re still working on the basics with our newer adoptee, Rusty. People may be tempted to compare the two dogs, and sometimes it is frustrating that we can’t take him just anywhere off-leash. Except we know that this is very unfair to him. He hasn’t been with us for 2 months yet!

    Beyond that, he won’t even turn 2 until the fall. For all her calm-yet-ready-for-adventure positive attitude, we noticed a *significant* improvement in Lady’s focus and behavior just in the month before she turned 2. Within another month or two after, she was so much more mature and “grown-up.” And she was always fairly mature for her age, especially for a lab. Many dogs aren’t really adults until they are 3!

    Bottom line: It is the passage of time that has gotten us to where we are. Much of it is the time we spent together – training, walks, skating, etc. Part of it, though, really is just TIME. Patience is everything, and someday, you’ll look around at the dog you took on that hike, to the lake, to the beach, etc, and be proud to say you have such a good dog!

  4. Years ago I used to take my dogs every place and they were welcome, but through the years idiot people would use no judgment and dogs got their own signs to keep them out.

    It makes me sad that stupid owners spoil things for the rest of us.

  5. I agree completely Lindsay. Too many dogs never get out of the yard . I try to get STella out some place new each week too. It’s easier than some people might think. Sometimes if I can’t think of a new place, I just pull the car over in town somewhere, and get out. I made reference to you and Ace on the blog yesterday btw; hope you don’t mind 🙂

  6. Lindsay Stordahl

    Yep, totally right, Judith. Poor dogs.

    Way to sum it up, Shay! Lady is one lucky dog! Glad you understand what I mean.

    Jan, I tend to ignore those signs and play dumb. It hasn’t gotten me into trouble yet.

    Susan, that’s a great idea to just stop the car and get out somewhere random in town. I’ll try that with Ace. He tends to get excited when I stop the car.

  7. I love the idea of taking my dog anywhere. Sadly, he was attacked several times when he was a puppy, and is now very leash-reactive. We have been working on this for a year and a half now, and while progress is there, it is slow.

    My mom got a rescue dog who was kept on a chain in a yard for her first two years. She, too, is leash reactive and aggressive. She has no social skills with other dogs.

    When we walk the dogs, it is very difficult to walk past another dog. It may seem that people leading these kinds of dogs don’t care, but we do. Getting upset and foreceful (which would make it appear that it bothers us and we are doing something to stop it), is counter-productive. Talking calmly to the dog and trying to divert his attention makes it seem like we don’t care.

    I have tried a dog-trainer who used prong collars, but it did not help. I used a trainer who worked counter-conditioning with treats. This takes a very long time and progress is insanely slow.

    Please don’t think we don’t care. It’s an awful feeling to have your dog slavering and growling and lunging. I wish I could take my dog everywhere and one day we may get there. I do care, though, and I know a lot of other people feel the same way.

    Great blog, though. I enjoy reading it!

  8. This is such an important thing that so few people remember. Even though we have 2 75lb pitbulls, we take them everywhere. It is so good for them to learn how to interact in all kinds of settings with all kinds of noises or people. Now they are able to sit nicely in even the most hectic of settings, and lots of people ask about their training. Plus, the best part of having a dog is being able to take them around. They’re great conversation starters as well.

  9. Lindsay Stordahl

    Hey Mo, I understand that some dogs need a lot of work and it just is not possible to take them everywhere or even very many places at all. I’ve worked with several rescued dogs with these kinds of issues and it is both very frustrating and rewarding at the same time. Progress is often slow, but keep up your good work and don’t give up on the dog.

    Not sure if you’ve seen my post on helping a dog with leash aggression: http://www.thatmutt.com/2010/05/18/dog-leash-aggression/

  10. Lindsay Stordahl

    Glad to hear your pitbulls get to go everywhere, Two Pitties! People need to see calm, well-behaved dogs like yours.

  11. It really is a huge compliment to be able to take a dog places and have them blend in seamlessly. That’s really great that you and Ace had such a nice time together with everyone.

    I’ll be anxious to hear how your Monday adventures together turn out. 🙂

  12. Amanda Steiner

    I really enjoy taking my dog every where with me, and although he’s not always the most calm dog in really exciting places, he is getting better! I also enjoy the mental stimulation my dog gets from being some where new; he’s usually more tired with less exercise :). I agree that Shay summed it up really well, it’s all a combination of time and training; and it’s extremely rewarding to take him out and have him behave well! I’m sure you guys had a great time camping!

  13. Lindsay Stordahl

    I’ll probably be bringing Ace to the street fair sometime if you and Eli want to join us 🙂

  14. Hi, Lindsay and thanks for answering my above post on leash aggression and taking dogs anywhere. I had read your post on leash aggression and had used a few of the ideas already. I’m definitely thinking about taking my dog to one new place each week.

    I’m wondering what your opinion on squirt bottles in cases of aggression is. My mom’s dog hates the squirt bottle and we finally decided as a last ditch attempt to use it when she is leash aggressive. Her attempts to lunge and growl at other dogs is deflated when she gets a squirt. It also works efficiently in the dog park when she goes to bully another dog.

    The prong collar made her more reactive, and I don’t like head halters because I feel they put strain on the neck.

    I’m kinda torn on the squirt bottles because it works really well, it keeps her from escalating, and it keeps her from thinking that her attitude works so she should keep doing it. However, I’ve heard people say it’s bad and will scare the dog even more. I wonder if it’s just masking the behavior, or if stopping her behavior will lead to new and better behavior patterns.

    Any thoughts?

  15. Lindsay Stordahl

    Hey, Mo!

    I would normally not recommend the squirt bottle just because it’s cumbersome and sometimes hard to get the timing right. I just see myself fumbling with a leash-aggressive dog in one hand and a water bottle in the other! But it does sound like it’s working OK for your mom’s dog. I know some people who use this method successfully to stop yippie dogs from barking and to stop dogs from whining in their crates. The problem I see with it is that the dog learns that it’s OK to “act up” when the water bottle is not in sight and behaves once the owner grabs the bottle.

    I understand why you don’t like the prong collar or the halter. Could it be that your corrections with the prong collar are too aggressive/forceful?

    I do want to suggest another option, the electronic collar. With an e-collar you would be able to give a mild correction the second she begins to show aggression to another dog. This would actually be the same method you are already using with the squirt bottle, but it would be more effective. If you decide to go this route, have her wear the collar for a few days without any corrections so she doesn’t associate the corrections with the collar. I did write a post about e-collars. They are certainly not for everyone and if you are uncomfortable using one I suggest finding a trainer in your area who could work with you.

    http://www.thatmutt.com/2010/05/26/shock-collars-for-dog-training/

    Have you taken the dog to any obedience classes? I’m sure you know how to train your dog, but a group class is the perfect opportunity to keep practicing loose-leash walking with other dogs around.

  16. This is so true even in my own family. I have helped my brother adopt two fantastic English Pointers but their only downfall is not their fault, it’s my brothers and his wifes. They do not work with their dogs consistently so as a result they have two hyper and out of control pups that have no concept of patients or self control. Their female is 2 months younger than my Vizsla but the difference between their maturity is astronaumical. Bailey knows patients and self control, the female pointer does not. The same is true with Duke my Lab and their male. In May we had all the dogs together and my brother was amazed at my dogs’ behavior, they would heel on command, wait for their release words, and actually pay attention to me. He made the comment “wow, we should give the dogs to Sarah for a couple of weeks.” The funny part is they have the tools, they ran their male through an obediance class with a fantastic trainer in Grand Forks, they just dont have the interest to keep up with the training or apply it to their new girl.

  17. Lindsay Stordahl

    That sounds a lot like what people say to me, that their dogs should come stay with me for a few weeks. Well, that’s not really the solution because if the owner doesn’t keep up with reinforcing the training, the dog will just keep right on acting the way it always did as soon as it goes home.

    I really think people dumb their dogs down by not offering the dogs chances to learn, think or experience anything.

    Isn’t it so nice to have well-behaved dogs? Keep up the good work with your two!

  18. I manage to take my Gus almost everywhere. A few weekends ago he was an “official volunteer” at an event I was volunteering at, complete with name tag. He was tons of help, sleeping soundly through most of the day but everyone enjoyed petting and snapping pictures of the silly bloodhound!

  19. Patience and Love are really the ingredients needed to get your dog(s) work with you. I have plenty of embarrassed moments, but I never look back with shame but with much fondness because that’s my pups’ growing up process, and no amount of money can bring those moments back. So in having a furry family member, we take the good, the bad and the ugly and mold it into one beautiful furball stuck together by slobs, filled with memories 🙂
    I think having calm, collected owners in places we go helps too when training young pups. Too many time I meet owners who’ll will pull back his/her charge simply they are worid that it will hurt some other dogs. IMHO, these dogs should be allowed to approach their furry friends slowly and get their ‘doggie fix’, or learn a lesson for the furry wise one. It use to be me asking for permission for my pups to approach the coll & collected adult dogs, now i am please to announce that I am the one who welcome these green pooches to my kiddos’ arms for a lick and a hug 🙂

  20. Lindsay Stordahl

    Yes, I agree that it is a growing up process and a challenge. I think that is one of the reasons why I want a second dog, because I absolutely love the challenge of helping an animal become a balanced, well-behaved family member.

  21. Agreed Lindsay, about the dumbing down of dogs. Those Pointers are so smart they just don’t get the chance to show it. That’s also why they are a couple of spazes, :-), pent up energy leading to frustration.
    Apryl, thats too cute!

  22. Lindsay Stordahl

    I know so many dogs just like those pointers! Poor dogs. The good thing is the dogs don’t seem to know what they’re missing. But the owners don’t seem to understand what amazing potential their dogs have!

  23. I was walking Charlie today and he was doing perfect so I decided to test him. There was no one around and I trust him to come when called and he avoids people whenever he can so I dropped his leash for about 10 mins. 5 walking, 5 running. He walked by my side really well and when he went a little too far ahead a couple times I’d clear my throat and he’d look up at me and slow down until he was behind me again.

    At one point there was another dog across the street (an old, fat, lazy dog) and Charlie started to go towards him and I said “hey” and he hadn’t even gotten to the street and he just came back. I’m not sure if he would have stopped had it been another energetic dog, but when I am holding his leash he ignores them, I guess we’ll find out one day…

    I want to start working on “Stop” If I stop he automatically stops, but I’d like to be able to tell him stop even if I keep walking.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Good progress with Charlie. I am lucky to have a dog that will never run away (especially if I’m holding a tennis ball). Sometimes he will want to run up to other dogs, though. This is something Ace and I could work on as well – off leash heeling with other dogs around.

  24. me and my Fang(short for Whitefang) go everywhere and anywhere together we are attached at the hip, when he can come in a store and I dont have to tie him up out front you can just see how happy he is to be included. I am going to Seattle for 3 days and am already missing him and i dont leave for 2 days!!!

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