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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)

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