Sam and Helo got to the go to the beach on Friday, and to the dog park on Sunday. We met an adorable Golden Retriever puppy, and a 17 year old Cocker Spanial/Daschund mix who had such a puppy-like personality. The dogs got to see their pals Piper the German Shepherd, Tucker the Golden Retriever, Jack and Buddy the Labradors, Tailgate the Border Collie, Bailey the German Shepherd, and Sally the Collie. Sunny, a Lab/Shepherd mix, came to the park for the first time.
When the man and daughter first entered the park, we were all looking to see if we recognized their dog. Since we didn’t, we watched to make sure all the dogs did okay greeting the new dog. Sometimes it can be a little awkward for new people to go the dog park where other people have already formed a sort of friendship. We’re always happy to see new people at the park, and for the most part I think we come off as a pretty friendly bunch to newcomers. Eventually Jack and Buddy’s owner got up and went to greet the man and his daughter. He had to get Buddy’s attention because their dog Sunny clearly needed some space.
We learned that Sunny was a rescue and wasn’t very socialized with other dogs. She seemed to display some dominant behavior at first, but eventually she settled down and started playing with Tucker the Golden Retriever. Sunny plays a little rough and is very vocal when she plays, so at first it sounds kind of intimidating. Most of the regulars at the dog park are familiar with dog behavior and didn’t step in while Sunny laid on top of little Tucker. There was no harm being done, and Tucker kept going back for more. He was having fun.
I talked with Sunny’s owners (the man and his daughter). I could tell they weren’t comfortable when they first came into the park. I’m not sure if they were worried about Sunny’s behavior or worried about how other people would feel about Sunny’s behavior. I told him that it seemed like the biggest thing with Sunny is her growl. She’s vocal when she plays, and that scares people sometimes. I didn’t understand how it felt to be that person until Helo came around. He can get pretty vocal sometimes, and people are often frightened by his growling and showing of the teeth during play. People think he’s fighting, but what they don’t know is that Helo is the biggest wimp in the park.
I think Sunny would stick up for herself if it came to that, but for the most part she did pretty good for her first time at the park. I hope to see her again. I think the more she gets out there, the better she’ll do with the dogs. If she was aggressive, she would have bit several dogs today. She had more than one opportunity, but she chose not to. That tells me she was just uncertain about her surroundings when she first came into the park. Who wouldn’t be worried about a bunch of strange dogs running up to you from out of nowhere?
Sometime dogs just need a little bit of time and space to get comfortable.
We had a great time at the dog park yesterday with our pals Layla, Lyra, Buddy, Jack, and Sally! We also go to see Vincent, Gus, and Lady, too. I’m really happy that I’ve started going back to the bark park, and I hope I can continue to keep going in the evenings. Lately I have been spending at least 2-4 hours at the park (usually around 3PM-4PM until sunset, which is about 7PM). Yesterday we got there almost an hour early and had the park all to ourselves.
It was good for Helo to see Sam and Motley playing with the other dogs. Helo has been showing signs of fear when certain dogs become overwhelming. He’ll run away and give clear warnings for the other dogs to leave him alone. But yesterday went really good, and he actually played with the Leera and Sally without getting freaked out!
We’ve been doing our training routine we started a couple of months ago. I don’t have a professional trainer teaching us the ropes, and since there’s no class for me to go to every week, I still want Helo to get out and socialize in different settings. So what we do is go to different stores and spend some time working on his commands. Usually we go to Petco and Bass Pro in Hampton before we take the interstate towards Newport News. Then we go to Care-A-Lot for a little while, and then to Petsmart. There’s another Petco over in that area that we sometimes stop off at if I’m not in a rush to go home.
It really tires him out, but it’s a good experience for him. Plus, the more tired he is, the better behaved he is! I want him to be very calm and social in public, and accepting of strangers and new dogs. Sometimes he still barks at unfamiliar dogs, but he’s starting to get more comfortable and soon I don’t think he’ll do it very often.
Helo doesn’t really play like a “normal” puppy. We met an adorable six month old Pit Bull named Penny. She was white with a few brindle patches on her body (very cute). She wanted nothing more than to bat at Helo’s face and play with him, but he wasn’t comfortable with her behavior. He gets a little snappy when dogs want to jump on him or bat at him with their paws. That’s just not the kind of behavior he does in public with other dogs, which is a good thing I guess. Isn’t that what I wanted? For him to control himself around other dogs and not act like a lunatic?
I guess I got what I wanted, but his detachment to puppy play society is also a bit unnerving. I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about, but I’d like for him to be more playful when he DOES get to meet new puppies in public. He has just started to romp around with Sally and Leera at the dog park, so hopefully the more comfortable he gets with being knocked down and pushed around, the more likely he’ll accept strange dogs doing this behavior.
I really regret my actions, or lack of, in these last couple of months. I’m afraid Helo has missed out on a very important part of learning as a puppy. For nearly two months straight, we didn’t go anywhere. We just stopped. I was having a difficult time personally, and my dogs got the short end of the stick.
Anyway, Lya is our new Springer Spaniel friend. She is so sweet, and only six months old! She starts puppy class at Petsmart next Saturday with the trainer I blogged about previously — the one who wanted to insinuate that by using a prong collar on my dogs, I’m being abusive and inhumane. I did say that I didn’t like this trainer ever since then, but really I don’t have a problem with her at all. I respect the opinions of others. Even my good friend Christine refuses to use prong collars. I’m okay with that. I honestly wouldn’t use a prong collar for her dog, Layla, because she knows more than anyone else what that dog has been through and how far along she’s come since she was rescued.
Prong collars aren’t for everyone, or every dog. As a personal preference, I use them. But I also use other tools, too. I’m not just stuck on using prong collars because I want to hurt my dogs or instill fear in them (which does NOT occur when we use a prong collar, as everyone seems to wrongfully assume). I use EasyWalk Harnesses and GentleLeader head collars, too. Personally, I dislike the EasyWalk Harness, but I recommend them all of the time! For some people and some dogs, it’s a very effective tool.
I used to use one for Sammy. I’ve never used a head collar on her, and I don’t think I ever will. There’s just something about having full control over a dog’s head that makes me uncomfortable. For some dogs, I don’t think it’s a good tool to use because neck or head injuries CAN and DO occur (sometimes this is because the tool is not used correctly or because the owner is not correcting or training their dog with it).
For dogs like Helo, I think a head collar is appropriate if he is a puller — fortunately, he’s not a bad puller. However, he’s not exactly in his teens yet and will eventually start testing my authority to see what he can get away with (I am patiently waiting for that day to come).
Anyway, I’m getting a little off track. Lyra is starting puppy class. I’d love to take puppy class with her, because it would be cool to know someone in the class. I just don’t think Petsmart training is all that good, and I don’t want to pay $109 for Petsmart training, when I can do the same, or better training on my own!
I don’t think ALL pet store training programs are bad. It really just depends on the trainer. I’ve just heard so many stories from people who simply didn’t like training at Petsmart, and called it a “joke.” It’s probably because the trainer was not very good. I was considering signing up for the class that Lyra is in, if it isn’t too late, but the only reason I would go is because it’s a good social experience for the puppies and Helo really needs an extra boost on socialization since he missed out on a lot these last two months…
I feel like Petsmart, Petco, and Care-A-Lot training is a “starting point” to training. You’ll learn basic commands and get a general idea on how to communicate with your dog. It’s a remarkable bonding experience when you really get into training. Pet store training programs kind of open the door to training for some people, like Piper’s mom for example. She took classes at Care-A-Lot (Piper was always at the top of the class), and now she’s doing other training programs — Piper is even going into herding, now!
Helo and I may go in next Saturday to Petsmart to do our “routine” around the store and watch Leera’s class for a little while from the side. Leera’s mom seems impressed by the trainer, which is VERY important — and I have no doubt that it will be a great experience for she and Lyra. Lya is a smart girl, and I seriously bet that she’ll be top of her class! Can’t wait!!!