Monday, December 10, 2012

Various Things, Including a Visit to the Dog Park

Arlo in his new coat.
Arlo is my first short-coated dog, and as some of you know, I have been preoccupied with finding him some kind of protection against cold windy weather.  Full disclosure:  finding him a coat may say more about me than him--that is, he seems not to care much about the cold.  (100% of husbands in this house support the view expressed in the previous sentence.)  But Arlo's got such a thin coat, I can't help thinking that he should wear  something.  After some trial and error, I ended up with this one from Ruffwear.  So far, it seems to be working out.  The coat is sturdy and machine washable, it's easy to put on, and I love the green color against Arlo's tan fur.  Most importantly, once the coat is on, Arlo seems not to care too much about it--so long as we're walking, anyway.  I couldn't leave it on him inside--a precaution that has nothing to do with the coat, and everything to do with the fact that at 2 years of age, my boy is still pretty much of a chew-monster.

Katie showing off her rally ribbons.
Of course the big dog news since my last post is Miss Katie's lovely performance at her first rally obedience trial.  I was a little nervous in the ring, but she remained calm and steady and ended up with 2 Qs and a first and second place ribbon.   I couldn't be more proud of her, and I couldn't ask for a better partner.  She's my girl. 

Meanwhile, here in eastern PA it hasn't been that cold yet, but we've had lots and lots of rain (well, and also a hurricane, but that's a topic for another post) which is interfering with dog walks.  Another thing cramping our style is that Arlo has developed a slight limp, and until we figure out what's causing it, he and I are taking a break from agility.  Tuesday night agility practice has been a major energy outlet for Arlo, because it's physically and mentally challenging.  So--long story short--as a result of several things beyond my control, I've got a young dog with energy to burn.  Never a good thing.

So, yesterday I arranged an outing with a friend and her dog at Easton's new (last year) dog park.  Given what I'd read and heard about the modest size of the park, I was prepared to not have a good time.  I'd attended a City Planning meeting several years ago when plans for the park were revealed, and many of us with dogs noted that the park was w-a-a-a-a-a-a-y too small, and also that having a grass surface was probably not a smart idea because it would be quickly trashed by the dogs and turn into a big mud pit.

While yesterday's visit confirmed both of these things, as it turns out the size wasn't as much of an issue as I'd expected.  And it even worked in our favor, because the dogs were never very far away from us.  Our dogs hadn't met before, and we wanted to monitor their activity carefully, so  their staying close by was not at all a bad thing.   As some of my friends have heard me say, it hasn't been easy finding dogs for Arlo to play with.  He's a very enthusiastic player--think boxers and bully dogs who like to body slam and bat other dogs with their front feet.  He's also inconsistent about reading other dogs' cues--with some dogs (Mel's Katie, for example) he's entirely appropriate (she also gives crystal clear cues).  With other dogs, he just ignores their cues and acts like a big butthead.

In short, he's not the kind of dog I can casually let loose at the dog park, because he'd get himself into trouble.  So his play dates have been with dogs of a similar size who belong to humans whose dog training abilities I absolutely trust.

Yesterday's outing was with my friend and her Golden, also a young, rowdy, adolescent male.  I figured that either the two dogs would be a good match, or the play would escalate and we'd need to intervene.  To help things along, we first did some parallel walking so the dogs could check one another out without the pressure of having to interact.  Then once we got to the park, we let them greet on leash.  And then we finally let them run around, but still dragging leashes (this is risky for obvious reasons, so I'm not recommending it--we were right there and ready to step in if we had to--I just needed a way to be able to grab Arlo who has only a so-so recall off of other dogs).  As it turned out, they were a pretty good match in terms of energy level and play style.  We called a couple of time outs, just to calm everyone down, and rewarded the dogs for coming and chilling (I was packing steak).

The outing ended with a dip in the (freezing) Bushkill creek (the dogs, not the humans, did this) which barely made a difference in the mudball that was my dog.  But it was lovely to watch him enjoying himself.

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