Throwback Thursday: The Bloodhound

Before I begin, I’d just like to mention that Moses has his two week vet follow up tomorrow after his tooth extraction, and I’m happy to report he’s been healing well and doesn’t seem to miss his tooth. The weather has cooled back down to below-seasonal, so as far as he’s concerned, everything’s coming up Moses!

Moses

Moses

Sunday, the Husband and I found ourselves travelling north to Edmonton for what wasn’t really a typical funeral (not depressing or formal enough), but I wouldn’t really call it a wake either (not drunken enough), but one of those family gatherings that finds relatives getting together to honour and remember a loved once since passed.

The Husband’s grandfather had passed away, losing a prolonged battle with one of those awful afflictions that steals your mind long before your body follows.

The event was informal and it gave the family the opportunity to share memories and tell stories and catch up with one another. We got to hear about how even though his name was Norris, he was hardly even known by that; as a young man he took a job as a cook on a train and the head chef kept mixing up him and his coworker Norman. So, one day, frustrated with the confusion, the chef looked at him and said “from now on, you’re Larry.” And it stuck. For the rest of his life.

I even learned for the first time that my bother-in-law was named after none other than Tom Selleck. How awesome is that?!

Hard to find a cooler namesake, no?

Hard to find a cooler namesake, no?

In the hall, there was a long table with photo albums and other remembrances.

Like most people (I assume), I could study old photographs for hours, even if I don’t know anyone in them. The scenery, the fashions, those moments deemed important enough to capture long before I had the ability to shoot literally thousands of digital photos and only share the best. Fascinating.

Very common in the family photos on Sunday were pictures of dogs – either hanging out in the background with everyone else or prominently featured in portraits of their own. It was very clear that the Husband comes from a long line of dog people.

Prominently featured was this photo:

Emblem of Edgerbrook

Larry and the Emblem of Edgerbrook

This is a picture of the Husband’s grandfather, Larry, and a bloodhound. The dog was registered as the Emblem of Edgerbrook and together with his sister, Larry trained it as a tracking dog.

Once trained, as the story goes, they sold the dog to the police.

From there, the dog went on to a great law-enforcement career, even being instrumental in finding a missing child. As luck would have it, a picture of that very discovery went on to win a news photography award.

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Such a cool story! (Shared with the Husband’s permission, of course.)

Here’s hoping that kid has since grown up to have a long and happy life – all thanks to Larry and his love of dogs.

This post is part of the Thursday Barks & Bytes Blog Hop, hosted by 2 Brown Dawgs and Heart Like a Dog. Go pay a visit to the hosts and check out other hop participants.

Barks&Bytes

What To Do If You’re Scared of Dogs

I don’t know about you, but it’s fairly common for me to come across someone who’s not exactly a huge fan of dogs while I’m on a walk with Moses and Alma.

Moses & Alma intimidating? Is it the drool?

Moses & Alma intimidating? Is it the drool?

The sentiment ranges from dislike to fear, and comes in variances from cautious, to anxious, to outright frantic.

I’ve actually been crossing a pedestrian bridge with Moses – a fairly wide one, and he was heeling on my right-hand side, away from on-coming traffic – when an approaching woman saw him, immediately went into hysterics, clutched the other side of the bridge, and froze. Well, was frozen except for her voice box. It was quite the scene, despite Moses not so much as looking at her, and her always being a few feet safely away from him. We just shuffled by quickly to put an end to her terror.

But even if there isn’t a dramatic freak-out, some people will cross the street, some will squeal in surprise, others will stare wide-eyed, and others will show cautious curiosity – maybe interested to see and talk about the Newfs, but not interact with them.

It’s kind of like how I am around babies.

And I get it. They’re big dogs and not everyone’s a fan. Even some small dog owners see them and think “well, that’s a little excessive.”

Okay, so maybe I don’t actually GET it. But I try to be understanding.

Alma & Moses

Alma & Moses

But the frustrating part is that most people who are afraid of dogs, upon seeing one, proceed to behave exactly in a way that would be interesting or exciting to a dog. It doesn’t help anyone; it doesn’t help them keep dogs away and it doesn’t help dogs learn to ignore some people.

So I have an easy way for people to determine what to do if they encounter a dog they don’t want to interact with: pretend you’re on public transit.

That’s all.

Pretend the dog is some scary or strange or smelly person on the bus or train. Applying transit etiquette will solve all of your problems.

Alma riding the ctrain

Alma riding the ctrain

Allow me to elaborate:

1. Avoid eye contact. This is public transit rule #1. People have books and headphones to avoid unwanted socialization, but even those without follow this rule. Transit is the social experiment of cramming as many people into one tight space as possible, yet not one person is looking at anyone else. It’s basically art. To make eye contact is to invite interaction. It’s welcoming and friendly. Therefore, you don’t do it.

Such is the case with animals. People scared of Moses or Alma have the tendency to stare them down, but the dogs interpret this eye contact as an invitation to say hello. “Oh, that person is interested in me –okay!” Or worse, being animals, some dogs could interpret eye contact as a challenge – which it often is for people and in the animal kingdom. Ever read a Dealing with Bears pamphlet? Don’t stare!

2. Move away from them calmly. That person next to you on the train has terrible noise pollution coming from their headphones? Insufferable body odour? Muttering to themselves about the End of Days? Standard practice is to turn or move away. But you don’t run – no need to create a scene or attract attention. Besides, the rush hour train is too full for running. But you sure can move yourself away inconspicuously without flailing about. Besides, you don’t want to catch the crazy person’s attention and have them strike up a conversation.

The same goes for dogs you don’t want to greet, or who you have greeted, but now you want them to leave you alone. Just turn around and walk away – they can take the hint, especially if you combine it with point #1. Don’t run, though. Running might be too tempting for herding breeds and other dogs might just think you’re trying to play a game of chase.

3. Don’t reach towards or touch them or fail around in a panic. OBVIOUSLY you don’t touch strangers on public transit. And unless you’re doing some drastic reinforcement of your personal space, you’re probably keeping your hands to yourself. Doing otherwise kind of makes you the crazy person everyone avoids.

For dogs, if you fall into the cautiously-curious category, just keep your hands to yourself. Touching a dog will just illicit more attention from them. For example, you safely pet Moses’ shoulder and he’ll turn around to look at you and sniff you – as you would expect. Or if you put your hand out to pet but are painfully slow and awkward, he’ll sniff your hand. If this scares you because his nose is right above his giant mouth (with teeth AND drool in it), maybe keep your hands in your pockets.

4. Don’t hover over them. Super rude transit behaviour. The worst is when the douchebag standing next to your seat turns around so his backpack hits you in the face every time the train starts and stops. Just aim for a little bit of personal space and common courtesy, people. Geez.

Dogs, on the other hand, find posture of bent over or crouched down people inviting. Many people practice greetings with their dogs by having people kneel or squat down so they’re less intimidating. If you don’t want to encourage a greeting, do the opposite. Stay standing up and invoke the other points made here.

5. Don’t talk to them. Like eye contact, talking is rare during the morning commute. Perhaps it’s the early hours and lack of caffeine, but unless people are already acquainted, they’re not going to strike up a conversation on the train. It’s for the best. Small talk is the worst. I prefer to ignore and be ignored.

Tempted to squeal or screech when you see a terrifying dog approach? Suppress that reflex! Noisy things are interesting to dogs! Why do you think we buy them toys that squeak? You really want to imitate their toys? No, not if you want them to leave you alone. Even talking to them should be avoided if you don’t want them to approach you – especially considering you’re probably talking to them and looking at them at the same time.

Moses

Moses

Really, the whole approach – both for trains and dogs – can be summed up in two words: calmly ignore.

Sure, some dogs may be interested in every passerby, but if you do your part, the responsible owners will do theirs and keep their dogs close and those leashes to a reasonable length.

You get a near-unheard-of three (3!) posts this week because I wanted to participate in the inaugural Thursday Barks & Bytes Blog Hop, hosted by 2 Brown Dawgs and Heart Like a Dog. Go pay a visit to the hosts and check out other hop participants.

Barks&Bytes

Moses & the Fractured Tooth

Lorde cuts her teeth on wedding rings in the movies; Moses cuts his on icy stairways and sidewalks. Unfortunately, for Moses it isn’t a metaphor or turn of phrase.

Moses dismayed at the state of neighbourhood sidewalks

Moses dismayed at the state of neighbourhood sidewalks (apologies for the bad phone photo).

It was 3:30am on Wednesday morning last week, when I shot out of bed to an unfamiliar animal sound. You know – the way you’re suddenly wide awake because you think one of the pets is getting ready to barf on the carpet? That kind of awake.

The source of the noise was Moses. He was loudly grinding his teeth and licking his lips and, just like any unusual behaviour would indicate, I knew something must be wrong.

Oh, did I wake you?

Oh, did I wake you?

After ensuring he hadn’t swallowed something he wasn’t supposed to, I sat on the kitchen floor with him and gave him a tail-to-head examination, making sure there were no bumps or cuts or foreign objects. I had a pretty good idea the problem was in the face somewhere, so I left it to last.

My examination eventually revealed he’d somehow chipped off a large part of one of his canines. Poor guy! No wonder his mouth was bugging him.

There was no blood or anything, but he was clearly not exactly comfortable.

Whole tooth vs. fractured tooth

Whole tooth vs. fractured tooth (and a large display of jowl)

So the next order of business was to determine exactly how uncomfortable he was. Was he 24 hour vet uncomfortable? Or did I have some time to figure it out and make him a regular appointment (noting our usual vet finally made good on his threat to retire, so I’d need to get in somewhere new)?

So I re-filled his water dish, which he appreciated and made use of immediately, likely because he was drooling a bit more than usual. Can still drink water without hesitation – check.

Then I wondered if he’d eat, or if he would consider himself in too much pain for that. Got out some treats and no issues there; eating normally – check.

4:00am food test; definitely not a problem

4:00am food test; definitely not a problem

Next I let him outside and he went down in the yard to sniff around and do some business as usual – also check.

Phew! He’d make it through a couple of hours and I could call for a vet appointment during regular business hours.

I began wracking my brain for when Moses would’ve chipped his tooth and why I didn’t notice it before I went to bed. The sidewalks in our neighbourhood are incredibly icy and treacherous these days, and neither Moses nor I are strangers to wiping out this winter. When Moses slips, he’s usually able to catch himself, but there has definitely been at least one face-meets-pavement fall for the big guy.

Still perplexed, I call Moses back inside and he just looks at me from the bottom of the stairs, wagging his tail.

I call him again, and he puts his front feet on the first step, pauses, and then backs off. He does this a couple of times and I begin to contemplate if my slippers are suitable backyard footwear if I have to go get him.

Eventually, he musters up some resolve, decides he can do it after all, and hurries up to the door.

Like the sidewalks, the stairs had some ice on them, so this is my official guess as to where Moses fractured his tooth. He’s not usually insecure about, well, anything really, but I could see him being hesitant if he’d hurt himself on the stairs just a few hours prior – likely during the last bathroom break before bed.

Hard to tell if the nerve is exposed or not - only the x-ray will tell for sure

Hard to tell if the nerve is exposed or not – only the x-ray will tell for sure

By the time my layperson diagnosis was complete, it was just about 4:30am, so I hit the hay for another 30 minutes until the alarm went off.

As far as fractured teeth go, I of course did my share of reading, and found this website to be a good resource on the issue. Basically, if they’re fairly seriously fractured, an x-ray is required to determine if the nerve has been exposed and the tooth needs to come out. To leave a tooth in and hope it just gets better is not a good idea, because you can open your dog up to all sorts of potentially worse issues. And yes, our pampered pets are perfectly fine sans one, or two, or even all of their canine teeth.

If the nerve is exposed, another option is – as ridiculous as it sounds – to send your dog in for a root canal. I chuckled when the vet mentioned this; there is a dog/root canal mental leap I just cannot make (it’s also way more expensive). “What’s next – braces for dogs?!” I joked, and she looked and me, “Actually….”

Moses goes in for his x-rays on Friday, and if they see that the tooth needs to come out, it’ll be removed while he’s under. We’ll probably also throw in a dental cleaning while he’s there.

Until then, it’s no bones for Moses, and he’s on some antibiotics to prevent any potential infection while he waits for his appointment.

How to trick your dog into taking his antibiotics. Yes, those are Kraft cheese slices; works like a charm.

How to trick your dog into taking his antibiotics. Yes, those are Kraft cheese slices; works like a charm.

You’d never know anything was wrong with him, though. Aside from the odd tooth-grind or head shake, the pain from the first day seems to have subsided, and he’s happy to go on walks and as excited as ever for dinner.

This will be the fifth time Moses goes under general anesthetic (bloat, neuter, CT scan, spinal surgery), but arguably the least serious. His blood work came back perfect and he’s otherwise healthy, so we have little to worry about.

In any case, I still feel bad for him – this is certainly one of those times I wish I could explain to him what was going on.

Poor Mo - the million dollar dog

Poor Mo – the million dollar dog

Also, I’d like to leave you with two words: pet insurance.

I know there are two camps on that subject, but we have it and have been thankful for it more than once with Moses. It’s very relieving to be able to make decisions in your pet’s best interests without worrying about the financial aspect.

Treats at the Dog Park?

Last week I discussed whether or not bringing toys to the dog park was a good idea, given the chance of conflict (both human and canine).

In the comments, Jessica from You Did What With Your Wiener mentioned the related topic of bringing treats/food to the dog park, which shouldn’t be left out.

But before I dive into discussion, I’d like to start with a true story.

– * – * – * – * – * –

Until Moses was fixed, he was not at all food motivated.

There would be the odd time he’d show some interest, and pockets were certainly lined with cheese and dried liver when in the show ring (aka: How to Ruin a Pair of Pants in One Easy Step!), but if we could’ve somehow harnessed the scent of in-heat female dog, then maybe we’d have left with more than default participatory ribbons.

Once Big Mo’ went in for the ol’ snip-snip, however, the quickest way to his heart soon became food.

Fast-forward a few years to a sunny weekend when I decides to take Moses for a nice afternoon walk at Nose Hill Park, a large multi-use park here in Calgary that has a huge off-leash area.

Moses at Nose Hill Park

Moses at Nose Hill Park

We were walking in the off-leash area when three women approach, orbited by their off-leash dog.

Moses and the dog had a great greeting, but as a lab or lab-type, the play style was too quick for Moses and he declined the game of chase with the dog, instead lumbering over to greet the women who were oohhh-ing and ahh-ing over him.

“He’s so big!” “He looks like a bear!”

The usual conversation about Moses and his size ensued between me and the women, and the women pet and greeted Moses while their dog bounded around in the distance.

Then one of the women wanted the other dog’s attention and called his name and reached into her jacket pocket for some treats.

And Moses noticed.

He plunked himself right in front of her, gave her his best puppy eyes, and began to drool (as Moses does).

How can you say no?

Treat? For me? Please?

“These aren’t for you, buddy,” she replied, tucking the treats back in her pocket and petting him on the head.

So Moses craned his neck and sniffed at her pocket.

That’s when the tone of the interaction drastically and instantly changed.

“No!” She exclaimed. Then she grabbed Moses’ ear, pinched, and pushed downward.

Moses yelped, hit the deck, and looked at me like “Why did she do that?”. The yelping was out of surprise more than pain, I’m sure – both of us were extremely startled.

As someone who struggles with Resting Bitch Face on a regular day, I’m not sure if the look on my face communicated actual murder or just attempted, but she took notice and went on the (very weak) defensive.

Her friends were already extracting themselves from the situation, following after their dog down the path.

homebush

“I have to go out after this!” she tried to explain, following her friends. “I don’t want to get these pants dirty.”

I’d like to say I was the bigger person, taking the high road, offering forgiveness on behalf of Moses and I, and wishing her peace on the rest of her journey.

I’d like to say that, but I can’t, because that was not the case.

Instead I shouted after her as she retreated “Maybe you shouldn’t wear good clothes to the dog park! Maybe you shouldn’t pet dogs if you don’t want them to pay attention to you! Maybe if you wanted him away from you, you should’ve backed up or walked away or asked me – his owner – to do something! Maybe leave the treats in your pocket next time!”

Moses and I then headed in the opposite direction to continue our walk, during which I muttered to myself and thought of hundreds of more clever – and crude – things I could’ve said in the moment.

Moses – in the great way that dogs do – shrugged off the situation as quickly as it happened and had a wonderful time exploring the park and meeting other dogs.

IMG_2973

That’s my most memorial experience of treats at the dog park, so as you can image, I’m on the fence.

And as someone who probably doesn’t go to the off-leash more than once per month mostly because of potential interactions like this, I was soured by the experience for a couple of months.

I do understand that a lot of people use treats for training and can still be in the stage of relying on them for certain behaviours, so maybe keep them on hand just in case.

And unlike toys, treats don’t necessarily illicit the same resource-guarding concerns in dogs if doled out discretely and sparingly.

But problems can still arise when other dogs happen to notice the treats and want in on the action. Do you hold back the treats and deal with some canine persistence until something else catches their attention? Or do you share?

And if you’re tempted to share, then you open up several other concerns. Does the other dog’s owner even want you to share with them? Does the other dog have a food sensitivity or is on a special or restricted diet? Maybe the other owner doesn’t want you to reinforce their dog’s behaviour.

Coming back to the toy subject, I’ve seen owners with treats try to coerce dogs (theirs or not) to drop stolen toys in exchange for food. Frequently works – the dog will drop the toy, but will have gained a new focus.

Cute print from Etsy shop MarkJAsher.

Cute print from Etsy shop MarkJAsher.

I’m actually hearing that some dog parks have no-toy and no-treat rules, which is not something I’ve seen locally.

As with most dog laws (off-leash designation and leash lengths, for example) these regulations are only as good as compliance and enforcement, but I’d be curious to know statistically how well they do to achieve their intended results of fewer altercations.

As for me, I don’t bring treats to the park and it wasn’t anything I’ve ever truly considered, but I can see why some might. For the most part, it doesn’t bother me as long as those with the treats expect food flaunting to get some canine attention.

Then again, I also don’t dress in my expensive jeans to go to places where dogs of all kinds are free to run loose… but that’s just me.

I think Kristine from Rescued Insanity said it best: “This is a dog park. A dog park for dogs who do dog-like things.”

Bringing Toys to the Dog Park – A Good or Bad Idea?

I used to think that taking toys to the dog park was just a recipe for trouble.

I am no longer quite so definitive or absolute on that idea.

I mean, sure, you may run into that super-possessive or obsessed dog that could start a fight if it doesn’t know how to share toys, but I’d say that realistically that’s a small minority of dogs, and I’d like to hope owners of those dogs would have enough foresight to avoid the park in the first place. (Rational self reminder: you know what they say about common sense.…)

But recent trips to the dog park over the holidays have really made me wonder if that no-toy policy is maybe a bit too rigid?

There were tonnes of people playing fetch with their dogs and I saw no such melee.

In fact, maybe toys can be a good thing.

Toys sure are a great distraction – a good way to get a dog into a socializing environment where other dogs aren’t the only things to focus on.

Playing fetch also keeps dogs moving – quickly and at great distances. This way, large, tight groups of dogs and people don’t congregate in one specific spot in the park; those always make me nervous.

And it’s a great way to provide exercise and play, with a little bit of structure, rather than just letting dogs run amok at the park and not interact with them.

IMG_3546

Way, way back: Practicing fetch with puppy Moses. (Forgive the ridiculous outfit – all fashion rules are forgotten during dry suit diving surface intervals.)

Granted, this won’t change whether or not I bring toys to the park.

I will continue not to.

Neither Moses nor Alma is a reliable enough retriever for my frugal self to put dog toy investments at risk.

Bonus puppy Moses photo from the archives - same day as the above, curled up with our scuba gear

Bonus puppy Moses photo from the archives – same day as the above, curled up with our scuba gear

Moses won’t fetch anything that is thrown particularly far away. He won’t even budge. He’ll just look at you, his expression saying “that was silly – you had it right here and now it’s WAY over there – what are you planning to do about that?”

A rare Moses retrieve

A rare Moses retrieve with Alma bouncing in the background

And if you lob it short enough that Moses is motivated to fetch, it’s just once and then he wants to find some snow (winter) or shade (summer) and gnaw on whatever it is that you threw. Or he’s happy to play tug with you. But fetch is not his game.

Moses, frisbee-gnawing

Moses, frisbee-gnawing

Alma is similarly unreliable. She likes to run and will occasionally fetch, but her philosophy is very grass-is-greener.

If another dog is there providing competition for ball or frisbee, she’ll fetch with approximately 90% consistency. The other 10% of the time she’ll fetch and then drop the object far away from where she got it, but also far away from the other dogs and whoever discharged it.

If she’s alone (or with Moses), there’s no real competition for her, and after a handful of throws she’s done with retrieving. She may still run to the frisbee, but then sniff it and walk away nonchalantly. Then, when you go pick it up, she feigns interest again just up until you throw it again. I think this is her way of getting us to fetch.

Alma returning a big stick - both Newfs' successful fetching rates increase drastically if water is involved

Alma returning a big stick – both Newfs’ successful fetching rates increase drastically if water is involved

Needless to say, I won’t bother carting toys – toys that I’m likely to end up fetching myself – to the dog park.

If on the move, Moses likes to carry the frisbee

Besides, I see the dog park as valuable socialization time and training time – the dogs get to meet and play with other dogs and we all get to work on our obedience skills in a high-distraction environment.

But there are still lots of people who bring toys to the park, and that’s maybe perfectly okay if the dog – and the dog’s human – is good about it.

I say human because I’ve come to realize that maybe dogs aren’t the real issue I should be concerned about when it comes to toys and parks.

Maybe it’s the people.

This became vastly evident when we were looking after Crosby and I took her to the park.

Crosby LOVES fetch!

She will happily fetch each and every time you throw something. She brings the ball right back and patiently waits for you to throw it again. And if another dog beats her to it, she hurries back to politely wait for the next throw.

"Throw it again!" - Crosby

“Throw it again!” – Crosby

The thing with Crosby is… very infrequently do dogs beat her to it.

That canine is quick!

She can overtake labs and collies from behind to make first contact. For a Newf owner, this speed is bewildering and impressive.

Crosby beats the competition

Crosby beats the competition

So this means that when another owner throws something for their dog, even if Crosby is late on the draw, she can get that ball first and very likely will.

Of course, not being familiar with the other owner who threw it, she takes the toy and runs – towards a familiar human – to have it tossed again. In other words – she is a perceived Ball Thief.

This can make some people irrational. “Your dog stole my ball!” “ Your dog retrieved our ball!”

Like some malicious intent is read into a dog’s natural inclination to chase and capture a fast-moving object.

It’s bizarre. And wildly off-base.

Even if the protesting isn’t verbal, you can see the frustration in the furrowed brow of the toy-owner as you sheepishly return their stuff.

Like it’s a pain-in-the-ass interruption that ruined their dog park groove.

To that I say two things:

1. Don’t bring toys to the park if you’re unwilling to lose them.

If you bring expensive balls to the park, you need to be prepared to leave without them. Fetch-induced losses happen all the time – balls are often lost in perfectly innocent, non-theft incidents. It’s dog park force majeure – outside of anyone’s control. Besides, I hear from other toy-bringers that there’s a sort of dog-park toy karma: one day you may lose one, the next day you may find two. Like looking for lost balls on the golf course. Someone should track this phenomenon – I’d like to see some statistics.

2. Don’t be an idiot.

Dogs are dogs. Like a squirrel, an in-flight frisbee is irresistible. Even Moses will be interested in an ariel object if it’s headed in his general direction/aimed right at his face (and if you think for a second about giving me the stink-eye because Moses got your toy slobbery, I highly recommend you reconsider that thought or keep it to yourself).

There is no nefarious intent when a dog retrieves a toy that wasn’t thrown “for” them; they have no concept of property ownership. Relax. The other owner will do his/her best to return your item. Just keep in mind a dog with a newly retrieved toy is certainly more likely to play keep-away if all of a sudden there is an unusual increased interest (by both their owner and this new stranger) in them and their loot.

Crosby fetches, with Alma in hot pursuit

Crosby fetches, with Alma in hot pursuit

Perhaps this is the real reason I don’t actually go to the dog park that often – sometimes other dog owners are just nuts.

Now I wonder if this sociological observation is just my own experience.

What’s your policy on bringing toys to the park? Have you lost or gained in personal toy count as a result? Have you seen toy-related tension between dogs and/or humans at the park? Are you a crazy person who gets all bent out of shape because some other dog retrieved the ball intended for your dog?

Newfoundland Dogs & The Introvert

This won’t come as a shock to anyone who’s met me, but it may be harder to determine in the blogosphere, so here’s today’s confession: I am an introvert.

Andy

Between employers and undergrad psychology classes, I’ve done Meyers Briggs, the DISC test, and Insights. (For those unfamiliar, DISC and Insights are nearly identical, but one groups you into letters and one into colours.)

Each time, the results are similar, predictable, and accurate.

My Insights blocks on display on my desk. This order translates to CDSI for the DISC assessment.

My Insights blocks on display on my desk – in order. This translates to a CDSI for the DISC assessment.

But I don’t really need a personality test to tell me about myself; I’ve long known that a book can be better company than most people.

InsightsWheel

I’m a “Reforming Observer”

My results don’t bother me and their exactness means I’m not hesitant to share them. I know some people are a bit wary of discussing personality assessments, but I’ve found them pretty on-point when identifying strengths (thorough, organized, logical, problem-solver, reliable) and weaknesses (critical, lacks empathy, avoids social interaction, impatient) – at least for myself.

INTJ

Some assessments are better than others, and it may be difficult to try to box all people into one of 4, 12, or 16 different types, but they have some use, even if it’s just introspective or an oft-needed reinforcement of the obvious fact that people experience the world differently.

INTJ jumble

For example, I have a coworker who nearly daily pokes her head into my office to ask me “what’s wrong?” or commands me to “smile!” This baffled me for a long time. Nothing is wrong. I’m just working. But thanks to the internet, a term that plagues many other unexpressive INTJs has become a common phrase; I suffer from RBF. Resting Bitch Face.

BitchFace

Being an introvert doesn’t mean you “hate people”. It also doesn’t necessarily mean you’re shy, stuck up, or lack confidence. Lots of introverts love spending time with other people (like people I know and like) and may even be considered confident and outgoing by those who spend time with them.

This is because the introvert/extrovert scale is about energy: social interaction is tiring to introverts and energizing to extroverts. Someone isn’t one or the other as if there are two buckets, either. Introversion and extroversion is a scale where you can fall anywhere along it with varying degrees one way or another, and you can be different things in different situations (at work vs. as home, for example), and also be different things when tired or stressed (e.g., often introverts will be naturally more introverted under pressure).

Extrovert v Introvert

As far as social interaction is concerned, introverts and extroverts approach it and value it differently. As an introvert, I’m much more comfortable hanging out in small groups of people I already know and having conversations of substance. Talking about the weather or what day of the week it is just seems pointless to me.

This means blogging is right up my alley; I’m able to prepare and process information carefully before sharing it – though I also understand how extroverts would be attracted to blogging as another way to interact with lots of different people.

A networking event with strangers or mere acquaintances where you’re forced to small talk is my personal hell. I’d rather public speak in front of a room of 300 hundred strangers than have to mingle with those same people at a cocktail party. And there’s hardly a thing such as “awkward silence” to me, since I’m perfectly happy not to speak if there’s nothing worth saying. Morning elevator chit-chat? Shooting the breeze with the hair stylist? Someone who answers more than “well, thank you” to a polite “how’s it going?” THE. WORST.

Introverted

And I’m certainly lucky I landed The Husband long ago, since my INTJ results astutely identify that I have “little patience and less understanding of such things as small talk and flirtation”.

So what does this have to do with Moses and Alma?

In retrospect, Newfoundlands are interesting dog choices for introverts.

Walking 280 pounds of dog around the city daily is not inconspicuous. In fact, you are a spectacle. You draw attention, comments, and queries.

Me walking Moses, Alma, and pal Juniper. What's normal for me can be quite the sight for others.

Me walking Moses, Alma, and pal Juniper. What’s normal for me can be quite the sight for others.

This is something I certainly never considered when we were looking for the right dog for us. Newfoundlands seemed like the perfect choice as far a size, temperament and lifestyle goes. But no one warned me that simply owning Moses (and then Alma) would challenge my comfort zone as an introvert.

Don’t like small talk? Well, prepare yourself for having the exact same conversation every dog walk:

No, they’re not ‘black St. Bernards,’ they’re Newfoundlands.

180 and 100 pounds.

Yes, he’s big for a male and she’s smaller for a female.

No, they’re not related.

He’s from a breeder, she’s from a rescue.

Yes, they drool.

Yes, they shed.

No, our house/yard isn’t huge.

Yes, they eat 5+ pounds of food per day between them.

If they eat that much, how much do you THINK they poop?

He walks a bit funny because he’s had spinal surgery.

Yes, it gets old. But it’s part of the gig as a Newf owner. You literally stop traffic from time to time.

I admit I’m not always interested in entertaining a typical exchange – I’m out enjoying fresh air and free time with my dog and I don’t do it to meet people.

But Moses and Alma bring me lots of joy. They’re great dogs! They’re funny and social and stinking adorable. I think they’re awesome, so it should be no surprise to me when other people do, too.

Why should I stand in the way of them providing random passersby with a little joy, too?

So rather than always being a dog walk Grinch (sometimes I still am), I do suck it up and frequently engage in the boilerplate conversation with strangers about my dogs.

Grinch and Max
 Look at me being social and acknowledging the feelings of others!

colbert high five

And besides, socialization and practicing polite greetings (with people and dogs) is always good for Moses and Alma.

Sure, being an INTJ or a Reforming Observer may mean I’m impatient with small talk, but it also means I’ll go on endlessly about things I like and think are interesting, and I think this blog is Exhibit A to my dogs being one of those very topics! And if I’m being honest, dog-walk-small-talk (say that ten times fast) is far less painful than “chilly out there, eh?”

Moses and Alma definitely mean I talk to more strangers (and neighbours) than I normally would, but your comfort zone won’t expand if you don’t push it from time to time.

And now any extroverts reading know that if they plan to train, like big dogs, and can handle the drool… well, then a Newf might just be the perfect dog for you!

Curious about what your Meyers Briggs results might be? This test is free and not too shabby. Once you have your results, you can search lots of resources for information (typefinder.com, for example, is pretty detailed).

Slobber… Appreciation?

Leave it to another owner of two Newfs to morbidly declare November 16 National Slobber Appreciation Day.

It’s weird, but it’s right up our alley!

Moses exhibiting frozen slobber

Moses exhibiting frozen slobber

Moses is a drooly dog. There’s no getting past it.

Alma, while less so with her smaller jowls, still has moments befitting any Newf.

Alma

Alma

As a brand-new dog owner when we got Moses, I was really quite… well, prissy, when it came to the drool. Or at least I used to be. We would carry “drool rags” everywhere with us, and we’d wipe him down before meeting new people.

Moses and his drool bib, during his brief show dog career

A young Moses and his drool bib, during his brief show dog career

But now? Well, after you experience finding drool on your walls, ceiling, bookshelves, car windows… and get drool flung on your clothes, in your hair, and – the ultimate of grossness – on your face… let’s just say the drool rags are long gone.

It’s now pet-at-your-own-risk if you want to meet the Newfs.

The Splash Zone: Enter at your own risk

The Splash Zone: Enter at your own risk

It took a while – and a healthy stock of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers – to fully come to terms with the drool, but it’s all about trade-offs.

For example, a little visible slobber means more people leave you alone to enjoy a nice, peaceful dog walk.

And I’d much rather deal with occasional drool than excessive shedding.

Moses taking some tips from Tyra and 'making it work'

Moses taking some tips from Tyra and ‘making it work’

Now, that’s not to say Newfs don’t shed.

Just like “dry-mouth” Newfs are a myth, so are non-shedding or hypo-allergenic dogs – it’s just a matter of how much and what type of coat.

Grooming supplies: dog, brush, wine.

Grooming supplies: dog, brush, wine.

Newfoundlands, with their double coat, shed mostly as the seasons change; it’s particularly bad in the spring as they slim down for summer. But their oily water-dog coat means their fur doesn’t stick to clothes or furniture. Instead, it gathers on the floor and roams around the house like soft, charcoal tumbleweeds.

I compare this to the shedding of labs, retrievers, and shepherds, where you can’t leave the house without a lint roller. To me, a little slobber is easy to handle in comparison.

A pair of slobbery Newfs

A pair of slobbery Newfs

So, do I appreciate slobber? I don’t know I’d go that far. But I certainly appreciate Moses and Alma.

For more of Slobber Appreciation Day, go visit My Brown Newfies.

Dear Dog Trainers

It has been over six months since I have been paid to help other people train their dogs.  (Luckily for Moses and Alma, they’re not off the hook, and training continues at home regularly.)

Some photo ops aren't possible without a solid training foundation.

Some photo ops aren’t possible without a solid training foundation.

Working for a dog training company part-time on some evenings and weekends was part of my life for a few years, but like all good things, it had to come to an end.

To be honest, I thought I’d miss training a lot more than I do (I’m good at keeping myself busy). Actually, there are a few things in particular I don’t miss at all.

1.  The first thing I don’t miss is the self-inflicted pressure to have perfect dogs and be a perfect handler. Whether or not it was fair or completely rational, I felt as a trainer my dogs should be beaming examples of perfection. I mean, you wouldn’t necessarily want to take fashion advice from someone in mom-jeans and Crocs, would you? So why would you take training advice from someone who has been unsuccessful themselves? Of course, despite no longer being a trainer, I still have high behaviour expectations for Alma and Moses, but I do admit it’s relieving to no longer be representing an industry or business. If we happen to have an “off” day, I feel much less crappy about it. Similarly, I also care a bit less when I see someone else’s dog behaving like a maniac.

Moses and peers in the 'classroom' - sit-stay practice.

Moses and peers in the ‘classroom’ – sit-stay practice.

2.  I don’t at all miss the requests for free advice from acquaintances and coworkers. Talking about dogs is often an easy icebreaker when you don’t know someone very well, but if it comes out that you happen to train dogs when you’re not at the “real” job, the questions start coming. Initially my know-it-all nature loved this. However, I quickly noticed a frustrating and annoying pattern: no one actually applies the advice. I mean, sure, some people would sign up for a class after a good conversation, but they would be the minority. More often, I’d just get sporadic updates about an unruly dog battling the same challenges without reprieve – efforts to help completely futile. Even the most basic help, like “start by walking your dog daily” would fall on deaf ears. And it’s not like I’m going to give up a whole curriculum to near-strangers, anyway. I’m not about to hand out free access to information others pay good money for. I suppose if those cheap (or lazy) bastards really wanted to fix things, they would just enrol in a program. People definitely listen more closely if they’ve paid for your opinion.

Alma in class - also sit-stay practice

Alma in class – also sit-stay practice

3.  Lastly – and this is the big one – I do not, at all, not even one little bit, miss the politics in dog training.

Politics in the dog training community is ri-goddamn-diculous. It’s like a civil war in the overall dog community; it severs friendships, families, and business relationships.

It doesn’t matter who you’re talking about. The vitriol spewed by either camp at any given time is insane and enough to discourage the involvement of anyone with even a miniscule sense of reason or rationality. You can find more tact in the comments section of YouTube.

anchorman

It is difficult to speak of a middle ground between the two basic sides of positive reinforcement training (R+) and more coercive training (P+) (to over-simplify the distinction).

As is the case in most divisive issues, anyone attempting to create a middle ground and apply best practices from all corners of the quadrant might not successfully build any bridges at all, but instead can find themselves alone, with everyone remaining in uncompromising disagreement. Congratulations! Instead of having just one nemesis, now you have many!

operant conditioning

Which brings me to what I would like to say to ALL dog trainers:

Whether you practice positive reinforcement or coercive training, or a varying mix of the two, everyone needs to disregard egos and emotions and enlist only positive reinforcement (R+) techniques when it comes to dealing with fellow human beings.

A handy decision tree if this seems difficult.

A handy decision tree if this seems difficult.

This means your clients and potential clients. This means other pet-related businesses, from retail stores to rescue organizations. This mean other trainers.

We live in Canada – has no one learned anything from our elections process? Negative campaigns, gossip, and slander, while memorable, don’t actually prompt people to action. Negative campaigns haven’t shown to produce results in the undecided, and can risk alienating people. Positive messaging, however, has been proven to work for everyone.

There are many clichés that apply: negative messaging says more about you than it does about your target; take the high road; you catch more flies with honey; treat others the way you wish to be treated; losing ground follows from throwing mud. You’ve heard them all before. The fact is, rage-inducing or fear-mongering messages do not change minds, and often create avoidance in your intended audience. I don’t know about you, but when that crazy guy on the street corner is ranting about the End of Days, I don’t walk up to him and ask him to tell me more; I shuffle by quickly and avoid making eye contact.

"She said it was better to be kind than to be clever or good looking, I'm not clever or good looking. But I'm kind." - Derek

“She said it was better to be kind than to be clever or good looking, I’m not clever or good looking. But I’m kind.” – Derek

I truly wish more in the dog community would simply lead by example rather than create segregation and alienation.

Speak with your actions – use dogs you’ve worked with to speak to the validity of your training abilities and methods.

Rather than a correction-based trainer calling all R+ trainers “ineffective bribers”, why not just show – with real life examples and evidence – how their methods have successfully helped dogs?  Or rather than purely positive reinforcement trainers calling for the literal imprisonment of other trainers on account of animal abuse, why not just showcase how effective and safe their methods are?

[Aside: I am aware assigning labels in dog training treads in dangerous waters, and it’s essentially impossible to be extreme or absolute in any method. The terms are used here for effective communication. If you’d like a good perspective on the various dog training camps, I recommend reading The Dog Trainer Spectrum, by TheCrossOverTrainer.com.]

It boggles my mind that people think they can speak the way they do about, or to, other human beings when it comes to dog training. It’s often reactionary, emotional, and hostile. I understand that everyone gets that way from time to time; people can speak or act on an impulse when faced with something they strongly disagree with. I get that. I sometimes do that, too.

You just need to give people the benefit of the doubt (I know, how uncharacteristically optimistic and understanding of me). Even I know that sometimes people just don’t know any better or any differently.

For instance, if I see someone with their dog wandering off the sidewalk on a flexi-leash, instead of just thinking ‘my god, what a moron, control your dog!‘, I also try to acknowledge, ‘hey, any dog walk is better than no walk at all.’ Likewise, the training community could replace ‘omg look at that idiot using technique x, collar y, or company z for dog training,’ with ‘well, at least they have the foresight to seek professional help and want to make their dog’s life better.’

½ air, ½ water - technically, the glass is always full

½ air, ½ water – technically, the glass is always full

Sure, complete and total convictions in your methods and practices is admirable, if not a little impossible to execute in every facet of your life (see my post on hypocrisy here). Rigid fundamentalism at its core is, after all, unflinching, close-minded, and ultimately dangerous. A lack of empathy is a near requirement, regardless of what it’s about. Of course it is important that you and your business stand up for your principles and avoid unnecessary compromises, but it’s also crucial to acknowledge that no debate is about absolutes, and often there are indirect and subtle ways to effectively promote your perspective.

It is extremely frustrating that this Training War seeps into the rest of the pet world – affecting retail businesses, groomers, kennels, dog walkers, and rescue organizations. And the effect is damaging.

I never really understood how unwavering these convictions were until a few years ago when we were getting ASLC off the ground and this very thing caused me no end of frustration and befuddlement. We called Company X to ask if they would support the cause and host the petition, and much to my surprise, Company X immediately came back with a firm “No”. No, they would not support ASLC. Not because of the merits of ASLC or its founders – they absolutely did support the ban on a retail sale of dogs and cats and were glad to see us take on the cause. They did not want to get on board because they’d heard a rumour that Company Y was also going to be a supporter. And, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, companies X and Y train dogs differently.

This struck me as ludicrous.

"A dog is the most enthusiastic thing on the planet, if you go - do you wanna do this? It goes - definitely, that's my best thing." - Derek

“A dog is the most enthusiastic thing on the planet, if you go – do you wanna do this? It goes – definitely, that’s my best thing.” – Derek

Yes, the companies practiced business differently. But they also both strongly believed that breeding dogs and cats for sale in a pet store was categorically wrong. It did not matter, though, that the ASLC initiative is specifically focussed to one issue and purposely silent on other such matters. Simply because a perceived enemy or competitor also supported the good cause, they could not.

Are the issues connected? Sure, getting a pet and training it are pieces to the same puzzle; however, they are not so directly related that the positions of these training-only companies made any logical sense to me. They both ultimately want to improve the lives of pets, do they not?

Sometimes I wonder if the refusal to work with those who conduct themselves differently is a convenient excuse to avoid things that might be challenging, but then I remember to give the benefit of the doubt and think maybe just sometimes people let their piety get the best of them.

This divisive nature does a lot more harm than good. Emotional decisions are becoming a roadblock to taking action in the best interests of dogs – and of the pet community as a whole. Advocacy messages and rescue efforts are actually being harmed when the community can’t come together as a unified voice to support even simple causes they all actually agree on. Great opportunities for collaboration, promotion, and change are being refused.

How does that look to the public and to politicians when consensus cannot be reached due to unrelated issues?

Perhaps the segregation is the worst/dumbest part. Individuals and organizations decline to interact together on one thing because they disagree another. Well, you’ll never influence or educate anyone if you alienate or shame them.

If you’re trying to convince someone to abandon one training technique, or to see another within some context, you’ll never get anywhere with ridicule or avoidance. The best way to teach others – and to learn from them – is to spend time with people who see things differently than you. Otherwise, you also risk putting yourself in a bubble, and limiting your own knowledge and experience.

Bill-Nye

Bill Nye is a wise dude.

Insults don’t change minds. Leading by example does. Your training results will speak for themselves. Being a kind person who is pleasant to be around also helps a great deal. If you have common ground to converse over – rescue efforts, spay/neuter campaigns – the door opens for a bigger conversation. What happens when communication stalemates? Nothing. Exactly. So where’s the progress?

I know treating each person with respect can be a struggle from time to time – no one is more frustrated with stupidity and ignorance than yours truly – but it really comes down to representing the community in a dignified way.

Besides, I can guarantee average dog owners don’t know about the Training War that wages. Or if they do, they are more confused than ever, as companies now campaign to create suspicion around terms like “balanced”. Most clients aren’t, or don’t know to be, concerned with what philosophies a training company subscribes to as long as they can be helped with teaching their pups to walk nicely, to stop barking and chewing their stuff, and to not use the house as a bathroom – all while using a manner they’re comfortable with (whatever that may be). If they’re happy and get results, you have a client for life.

Not being an asshole definitely helps.

Not being an asshole definitely helps.

In Calgary alone there are dozens of companies offering a variety of training techniques – all competing for the same clients. Yes, competition among businesses makes sense and is ultimately good for the consumer. And as a working professional, you’re probably in it to make money just as much as you are to help dogs and dog owners (maybe more? or less? I don’t know. If I was in it for the money, I was doing it wrong). So, yes, please, go advertise that you’re the top local expert. Demonstrate why you’re better, more effective, and the best value for the price. But you can do all of this while rising above the slander and mudslinging with grace. You can make a strong business case without resorting to insults and without ostracizing others.

And if you’re going to engage in other parts of the pet community – rescue efforts, lobby campaigns – put the politics aside and do it for the animals directly. If your company demonstrates that it gives back without strings attached, you might even attract new clients and make some unexpected connections.

Remember when WWF Canada received flack for partnering with Coca Cola on environmental campaigns?

Coke & WWF

One example of apparent enemies collaborating for the greater good.

But who am I to say? I left the dog training world altogether – and not for any of the reasons described above. Any future role I might have from now on will be as a client, not an employee.

whatido

Second Anniversary of Alma

Two years ago today, the Husband and I made our road trip south of the border to Montana to adopt a dog from the Montana Companion Animal Network.

After months of looking at Pet Finder and local ads for adoptable dogs – and a lot of patience – we gave Alma her ‘forever home’.

Alma and Moses in her first month at home

Alma and Moses in her first month at home

Alma & Moses

Alma & Moses

A couple of water dogs

A couple of water dogs

The forever home comes with Canadian winters, but she doesn't seem to mind.

The forever home comes with Canadian winters, but she doesn’t seem to mind.

Fun with friends

Fun with friends

IMG_2330

Don’t let anyone tell you pure-bred dogs don’t also need adopting.

Alma's favourite sleep spot - the en suite

Alma’s favourite sleep spot – the en suite

IMG_5228Happy second ‘Gotcha Day’, Alma!

I’m a Big Fat Hypocrite

Breaking News, Calgary, AB: I am not the Pope.

I’m not even Catholic!

And as such, I – like every other blogger on the end of a keyboard – am just a person.  A normal, falliable human being who doesn’t always practice what she preaches. (When you were growing up, did you ever have that person who said “Do as I say, not as I do?”)  I don’t take everything too seriously, and sometimes I take things way too seriously.

Sometimes there are things written here on the Soapbox that I rant about as if they should be scripture or written into law – especially when it comes to dog-related issues. And the thing about writing hastily, angrily, absolutely, or passionately about something is that you can get caught in moments of your own hypocrisy.

Jen K: Guilty as charged.

All of us face cognitive dissonance – unless you don’t think you do, in which case, you should probably stop reading now because you’re running late for Unicorn Festivus with Ironman and Princess Peach (I hear Zack Attack is opening for Jesse & The Rippers, so it should be a good time!). Sometimes we remedy this dissonance, and other times we choose to ignore it, which then makes us self-contradictory hypocrites from time to time.

If I’m being honest, there are lots of things I’m a hypocrite about.

I will roll my eyes at someone’s poor taste in television and then go home and watch Survivor. I will have a salad for lunch in the guise of healthy eating and then have popcorn for dinner. As a pedestrian, I hate impatient drivers, but as a driver I’m annoyed by ambivalent pedestrians. I think it’s important to be politically correct, but I love stand-up comedy, which is typically anything but. I will counsel my friends on “cost per wear” when shopping even though my closet contains many items that violate that rule. I will pet Moses when he puts his head on my lap because I think it’s cute, even though I know it’s reinforcing a behaviour many would consider demanding, and would even advise others against similar things.

In fact, there are lots of times I haven’t exactly ‘walked the walk’ in my everyday life based on things I’ve written right here on the Soapbox.

Pull up a chair, because it’s Bad Pet Owner Confession Time. (I know, I know, I said I wasn’t Catholic.)

Emma

Emma

I got Emma from Kijiji. From a backyard breeder.

Yep, you read that right. Many years ago, before I knew any better, I decided we should get a kitten. I impulsively looked on Kijiji, found an ad with adorable pictures, and went right out to pick her up. I didn’t even wait for the Husband to co-sign the decision. It was the exact series of mistakes I’ve written about several times here and caution others against. Aside from being certain in retrospect that Emma was taken away before she was fully weaned, and reinforcing the backyard breeding of the people I brought her from, I’m still happy we have Emma. She’s cute, she gets along with Isaac and the dogs, and we’re happy to have her. Should I have gone to a rescue and adopted one of the multitude of cats looking for homes? Absolutely. And that’s exactly what I’ll do next time.

I’m a dedicated raw feeder… unless you’re talking about snack time.

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that we feed all of our pets raw food and that I wouldn’t have it any other way. But I’ve also mentioned several times that Moses’ favourite snack is bread. That dog loves his carbs. Not once has anyone paused for a well-deserved WTF. A focus on species-appropriate and grain-free, and the occassional treat is grain-abundant bread?!  Yep. It’s contradictory and I don’t even pretend to care.

Moses

Moses

I condemn breed-specific bias, while harbouring my own.

I’ve written lengthy diatribes on the injustice of breed-specific legislation and how dogs shouldn’t be assessed based on their breeds, but instead based on their individual behaviours, since judging a dog based on its appearance ignores the real, major factors in a dog’s behaviours.

Meanwhile, I harbour my own appearance-based judgments when it comes to dogs. I’ve written about it before (here) and I’m talking about my own sized-based discrimination. When I’m walking Moses and Alma in my neighbourhood and I see a little dog approaching, I wait expectantly for the little dog to start barking, growling, and pulling on the end of its leash. Sometimes my expectations are met, and sometimes they’re not, but they’re almost always there. I try to mitigate this with the rational acknowledgement that there are lots of well-behaved small dogs out there, but, in the moment, the bias surfaces. I am aware it’s unfair and merely anecdotal, but it still makes me a big hypocrite.

I am an unapologetic stickler for spelling and grammar and yet also a human being.

It causes me physical pain when I (or readers) discover a mistake on the Soapbox after I’ve hit publish. They’re bound to happen, since once you read something a few times, your brain just fills in the gaps for you. I’m famous for missing words outright or leaving incorrect conjugations when I reword a sentence. Once found, I’ll fix them and then wallow in shame for half a day, yet I remain quick to notice and judge others for their mistakes. This makes me both a hypocrite and a jerk.

Alma and Moses at the library

Alma and Moses at the library in downtown Calgary

I break the rules – sometimes even knowingly.

This whole thing was inspired because a someone in the comments – quite rightfully – called me out on my own hypocrisy in yesterday’s Monday Mischief post.

I’ve written before about on-leash by-laws, and I will continue to write that people should obey leash laws, but I regularly post picture of my dogs off-leash in on-leash areas.

Provincial Legislature - Victoria, BC

Provincial Legislature – Victoria, BC

I was called out for doing this at a provincial park, but in reality, all of Calgary, and most of the paved, urbanized world, is on-leash unless specifically otherwise designated. So my bad behaviour actually kind of happens a lot in this respect; I probably should’ve been called out a long time ago.

Go back and look at many of the photos I post here. If you look closely, you may notice leashes tucked behind Moses and Alma in many photos, but you will also definitely notice that I’m not holding them, and that I’m usually way more than 6 feet away from them to get the shot.

And in addition to the photo ops, we break the rules when we’re training – especially when we’re practicing skills like sit-stays, down-stays, heeling while dragging the leash, and long-distance recall. I have gone to off-leash parks to practice this, though very rarely because I usually end up spending most of my time there explaining to other owners that we’re training and I’m not actually some mean ogre who “won’t let” her dogs play.

Instead I’ll practice these skills right in my neighbourhood, in green spaces, or just down the street. Because you can’t have a well-trained dog who can respond in any situation at any distance without practicing that very thing.

But you know what – it’s a matter of accepted risk. And that was what my main point in last year’s off-leash/on-leash rant. I am aware that having the dogs sit in the middle of downtown Calgary – and then backing away – has risks. It is significantly riskier than if they were next to me on a 6 foot leash. And I am absolutely ready to take ownership of any consequences.

Would I practice these skills or give my dogs off-leash privileges if they ran amok, harrassed others, chased wildlife, and didn’t stay close or check in with us? Nope. I also carefully pick and choose the time and place for said rule-breaking, and leash back up when circumstances change.

Sure, this means I break the rules while still writing about how others ought to follow them. That’s not likely to change since I have no interest in assuming liability for the poor judgment of others (my own is enough, thank you).

Does this make me one of those dog owners who breaks the rules and ruins privileges for everyone? Yeah, I guess so. I will reason that Moses and Alma are well-trained and actually good ambassadors for dog behaviour, but most people who break the rules probably think their dogs are just fine, too (I’d like to see their pictures to prove it). Hello, cognitive dissonance.

Like I said, I’m a big fat hypocrite.

Moses, Crosby and Alma off-leash in the heart of downtown

Moses, Crosby and Alma off-leash in the heart of downtown Calgary