A while back I mentioned that Glacier and Roscoe seem to be a bit too exuberant for the dog owners at the park that we had been taking them to run at. Mr. K and I thought it would be better to run them by themselves as not to run other dog owners off. The one run we had taken them on, about three or four dog owners and their charges left the park after Glacier and Roscoe ran up to say hello. They didn't jump up or anything, but I think their over excited wagging and the fast pace at which they approached the people, made the owners uncomfortable. Being that we're not from here and that we want other people to enjoy the park as much as we do, we opted for midnight runs instead, and last night that is exactly what we did.
Around eleven , we roused the boys from their comfortable sleeping positions on the couches and put their leashes on. I stuffed my pockets full of poop bags, recall treats and a stuffed, squeaky cow. I think they were both a bit confused as to why we were assembling the "going out to run" stuff, but they both obliged excitedly. We had been out working all afternoon and since it was supposed to be bed time, they both seemed to be a bit subdued. I'm not complaining-Glacier's a big guy and when he gets overly excited, things get complicated.
Upon reaching the park both dogs were still a bit confused. We had them relieve themselves as it was their normal night time "park" time and then had them both hold a "sit stay" for a prolonged period of time. Mr. K even had Roscoe do a few puppy push-ups off leash and Glacier sat patiently with his leash unclipped. The first couple of times we had gone to the park during the day, both dogs had horrible recall. I think it was a myriad of factors that turned their ears to stone.
First of all, it was a new place and life was just so exciting. In hindsight, perhaps we should have waited to let them have off leash runs until they were more settled. I guess we thought that they just really needed to run and get some of their "beans out." That said, refusing to come when called, or taking your sweet A** time is not acceptible behavior.
Second of all, this particular park we took them to is incredibly busy with people and dogs alike engaging in various activities. There are always children playing soccer (or football), dogs playing fetch or just strolling through and people just out getting some fresh air. In previous runs, the dogs have been designated to dog parks or remote bush trails. Off leash laws are so strict in Canada and the United States, that we were required by law to keep the dogs on leash in public areas. That said, in parts of Ontario, guide dogs are lawfully allowed to be off of leash running free, but we never felt comfortable exposing unsuspecting people to our off leash dogs. So, I think with the new smells, the stress of moving across the world and a whole lot of stimulation the boys just couldn't handle it. Coming when called was not even an option. We're a lot more settled now and they have had to walk through that park hundreds of times while working, so I think it set a new kind of precedent for off leash runs; good behavior was rquired and demanded, not a choice.
With less stimulation and much calmer, more settled in dogs we tried the off leash thing again. The experience was like night and day. Recall was much better and I mean much better. After waiting in the sit stays they were both released and they took off like shots, racing along side each other. What was nice about it just being us, I could hear Glacier's paws pounding through the grass and Roscoe's collar clinking as he ran. Tenie was there of course to be our sighted supervision, but both boys were excellent.
They raced around like crazy dogs, but came running full throttle when called back. The squeaky cow came in handy. I would call Glacier happily and squeak like mad and he would come running back. Once he arrived we'd play a bit, I'd pop a treat in his mouth and send him off again. I also switched it up. Sometimes we played, sometimes he just got a treat or he was rewarded with both. I wanted to keep him guessing and to keep coming back exciting and unpredictable. I think Glacier's too smart for his own good and rewarding him the same way every time doesn't work. He gets bored and disinterested. I guess he's kind of like Jetta in that sense, but I didn't know enough about dogs to realise that is what was going on with Jetta.
They only ran for about twenty minutes, but I think it was enough for them both. Tongues hanging out and tails wagging we clipped their leashes on in anticipation of returning to Tenie's flat. As we were about to leave, a little pup ran up to us and at first we were worried he was ownerless. Tenie scanned the park and in the limited light, saw his person walking towards us. I have to tell you, there is nothing like puppy kisses. I knelt in the grass and he put his paws up on my lap and cleaned my face thoroughly. Glacier sniffed him all over and he just wagged and wriggled about. I wanted to snatch him up and take him home with me. His person finally arrived and muttered something about it being his dog.
Well, yeah. Why do you think we waited for you to get to us?
Then he grumbled about the dog being a little "sh**" and right then and there I wanted to scoop him up and take him home for real.
Perhaps his owner isn't a bad person, maybe he was having a bad night. I really hope so because getting mad that your puppy wandered off to see the other two big dogs is normal. In fact, it's healthy. Not to mention, we knew it was his dog. We had waited for him because we didn't want the pup to follow us across the road. Either way, that little run with the puppy made me miss our little guys and wish we still had a pet dog. Guide dogs are great and we are so lucky because they get to go everywhere with us, but they just aren't pets. However, a third dog is not feasible right now and it would be very irresponsible of us to get one. I had looked into volunteering with a rescue here, but didn't have much luck. Perhaps I'll try again and hopefully that will satiate my puppy appetite.
It was a great outing and I am so proud of our boys. They were well behaved and their recall improved ten fold. I think we'll keep trying our midnight runs and slowly make them earlier. Introducing the boys to excessive amounts of stimulation over time may make coming when called a bit more reliable.