String Cheese and the Crime Scene Field

I have found the secret to Leo’s success. Cheese. If a bike, jogger, or another dog is far enough away, I feed him chunks of string cheese to counter-condition him with a positive association to the scary thing.

All summer, I walked him around the nearby college campus, which wasn’t very crowded off-season, but where we pretty reliably saw a bicycle or two. The fun thing about working the CARE for Reactive Dogs protocol is that my goals and my attitude changed. Instead of dreading bicycles, I sought them out, and would be disappointed not to see one on our walks.

Imagine how different it is for Leo to have the other end of the leash thinking, “Oh good, a bicycle! Time for cheese,” instead of “Oh crap, a bicycle. Cue the barkfest.”

Lately, I’ve been wanting to walk the dogs together. I discovered that I can cut through a community garden to a big empty field that I call the Crime Scene Field, because I feel like an FBI agent on the job with my search and recovery dogs.

To get from our driveway to the community garden, we have to walk a short distance on our fairly busy street. So far, we’ve timed this perfectly not to encounter anybody on our evening walks, but just in case, I’ve been putting Leo’s ThunderCap on him for this part of the walk.

While, yes, it is a little embarrassing to think of passing drivers wondering why I blindfolded my dog, the benefit is huge. Not only does it reduce Leo’s vigilance, but it calms me down, because I’m more relaxed as we pass the three houses between ours and the community garden. Again, imagine the difference for Leo between this and having me on the other end of the leash frantically scanning the sidewalks for potential triggers.

Sadly, this evening walk site will be short-lived, because it won’t be safe after dark. Time to find a new well-lit, low-populated path, or revisit an old one.

walk your dog

This post is part of the National Walk Your Dog Week Blog Hop from Oct 1-7. Blog hop hosts, Cascadian Nomads and My GBGV Life, will be adding daily dog walking posts all week long.

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It’s also Fit Dog Friday, a blog hop brought to you by SlimDoggy, To Dog with Love and My GBGV Life.

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Published by Kari Neumeyer

Writer, editor, dog mom, ovarian cancer survivor

14 thoughts on “String Cheese and the Crime Scene Field

  1. Thanks for joining Walk Your Dog Week with the awesome pictures and successes of your early autumn walking adventures. The darkness is indeed looming. We have had a few dark walks this week. It was weird to break out the collar lights. I have recently found out that my dogs enjoy revisiting old walks that I think are boring. Sometimes walks are for me but most of the time, if the dogs have fun, I have fun.

  2. Thank you for joining and for staying fit with your pups! Mom feels like she is looking for a crime because these days she is taking little sis Bailie tracking in big fields where humans don’t usually go. She is always scared she will find a body or something one day. String cheese is a wonder treat for many dogs. Lots of dogs use it in nose work because wriggling it brings out the prey drive which makes them more excited about finding odor. String cheese is a wonder for all!

  3. I use a low tech version of the calming cap sometimes. I’ll just hide Mr. N’s eyes sometimes if we’re walking right by a dog. It usually works as long as we’re some distance away from the dog first.

    1. I used to do that in the car, before we got the Calming Cap. It made me sort of giggle, that I could distract him so easily. But only if my hands were free!

  4. We love the power of cheese too. I have been working a lot with our foster dog Steeler on reactivity issues and cheese is our go-to reward.

    1. I had a hard time coming up with a high-value “special” reward, since we feed our dogs so well! A lot of people use cooked chicken, but Leo’s allergic to it. Cooked liver is good, but messy (and smelly!). String cheese is perfect!

  5. This looks a lot like our empty field! I do creep myself out sometimes wondering what we’ll find in the marshy gully…

    I need to try string cheese for Ruby. So far, there isn’t a treat or toy in the world that can really calm her down once she is in meltdown mode.

  6. Your GSDs are gorgeous! That looks like a fun back up walking route to have

  7. I’ve used string cheese with Milo too. The first time I took him on a float trip to the river, he was not so please about the water. He was in a life jacket but wanted nothing to do with the water. I stood in a few inches and made him come to me for a chunk of cheese. He grabbed it and ran back to dry land. I kept backing up and getting him to come to me, and he retreated each time. The last time I actually got him deep enough that he had to swim a few strokes. Then he ran back to shore and wouldn’t come back. LOL. He never did develop a love of water, but he tolerates it now. And the cheese definitely helped!

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