Positive outlook for the new year

His shit-eating grin says, "I may have lost my off-leash privileges, but it was so fun I'd do it again."
His grin says, “I may have lost my off-leash privileges, but that was so fun I’d do it again.”

I’ve taken the dogs to the above secluded beach a few times where they’ve romped happily off leash. There’s a short cliff leading to a road above, and Leo made my worst fear come true for about two minutes on New Year’s Eve, when he raced up to the road and ran back and forth along it. Here I am releashing him after he ran back:

It had been really cold leading up to New Year’s, and I wanted to take them somewhere nice during the day, while I still had time off.

The good thing about bad weather is that it makes walking a leash-reactive dog easier. Fewer people are out and about when it’s cold and dark. Rob and I have been dutifully walking the pooches in the evening hours, sometimes as late as 9 or 10 o’clock.

Most of the time, we have a perfect walk and don’t even see another person, dog, or bicycle. Or, better yet, we see a person, dog, or bicycle, and I say, “cheesy,” prompting Leo to turn his head to me and nibble the string cheese in my hand.

We do best if I carry the cheese in my hand the whole walk. Several times, a stimulus has approached, and I’ve been too slow to get the cheese from my pocket to Leo’s face.

When I have the cheese at the ready, amazingly, it has prevented reactions. Maybe I’m teaching him something after all! I’d pretty much given up on de-reactivating Leo, thinking there would never be a time that he could withstand a bicycle whizzing by us. But he’s done it!! He takes the cheese really hard, scraping his teeth against my fingers (though he hasn’t drawn blood the way Isis used to). But he doesn’t bark. As long as I have the cheese in my hand.

On our walk last night, I told Rob about the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop and said that I didn’t know what to write about. “I have our success with string cheese, and I have Leo’s little romp on New Year’s Eve, but those two things don’t really make a whole blog post.”

I also had Leo’s little escapade a couple of weeks ago when Leo slipped past Grandma out the front door and raced around the front yard for a few minutes. At the time, and again on New Year’s, Rob asked if I was going to blog about the security breach. “No,” I said. “It’s not really a story. My worst fear, yes, but short-lived.”

THEN… I saw a person on the sidewalk ahead of us. We crossed the street and I prepared to cheese Leo. I noticed the person was actually a pair of people, and they had a dog. Mia crouched to poop. “We don’t have time to stop,” I told Rob (on the other end of Mia’s leash) as I hustled Leo along. The dog across the street saw Leo. Leo saw him. Leo barked. The other dog barked. Mia barked.

Honestly, this was low on the reaction scale. Just dogs saying hello, as far as I’m concerned. Not super-aggressive strings of barks, just a woof back and forth. The other dog owner said, and this has never happened in the history of our conscientiously crossing the street to avoid collisions, “Thank you.”

Rob and I felt just swell about this exchange, although we had left the poop behind, and I have a strict no poop left behind policy.

The area where Mia pooped was grassy, not sidewalk, and shaded by bamboo. On the way back, I asked, “Are you going to cross the street with me to find that poop?” Rob didn’t want to, but I said, “If someone else had failed to pick up their dog poop on that stretch of grass, we would have stepped in it tonight!”

I didn’t need his permission, because when Leo and I started to cross the street, Mia came along with. Rob didn’t have much choice in the matter. Directing my headlamp on the grass, I scanned for poop, hoping Rob wouldn’t step in it before I spotted it.

“Mia, where did you poop?” It seemed like we had walked too far. Had we missed it?

Rob asked, “Do you recognize these cars?”

“What?” I looked up at him.


Yep. I stepped in it. As I bent down to baggie the poop off my shoe, Leo alerted to a man and his dog across the street. I had a bag of poop in my hand, not a piece of string cheese. So he barked at the other dog. A lot.

These things happen. But at least I had something to write about.

Speaking of poop! I almost forgot to shout out where a shout out is due! Notice my accessory in the above photos? Not the pink thing, that’s Mia’s harness. The roundish black thing, sort of turned around so you can’t see the paw print design, is my PoopPac, recommended by Cascadian Nomads, one of the hosts of this blog hop.

Hey, here’s some big news! My book Bark and Lunge is free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers right now! And the Kindle version will be free to everyone Feb. 1-3. Mark your calendars.

This post is part of the First Mondays Positive Pet Training Blog Hop hosted by Cascadian Nomads, Tenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days.

Positive Training

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Also, why don’t you swing by the BlogPaws Wordless Wednesday Blog Hop:

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Published by Kari Neumeyer

Writer, editor, dog mom, ovarian cancer survivor

20 thoughts on “Positive outlook for the new year

  1. Oh no!! Sorry about Leo running around on the road!! This has happened to me twice when we’ve gone to the beach, luckily I was able to get the dogs back without incident!! That’s awesome you found something that works with Leo’s reactivity! I believe Emily Larlham (kikopup on youtube) used to carry the food in her hand as well when she was working with her dog’s reactivity. LOL about you stepping in Mia’s poop!! I wish people were as responsible as you at my apartment complex!! We are having a huge issue with people not picking it up. I’ve been spending way too much time outside cleaning up after everyone and the management won’t do anything.

    1. It’s bewildering when other people don’t pick up. Haven’t they ever stepped in their own dog’s poop? I have, and I’m a diligent picker-upper!

  2. Before I even started reading the post, I saw the first photo and shouted out loud “Oh yay! You got a PoopPac!!!” (It’s a good thing I never take my laptop out in public.) I like the purple one.

    I also have a strict no poop left behind policy and was recently laying awake feeling guilty about poop I forgot to clean up at a campground we stayed in eight months ago. I have stepped in my own dogs poop while searching for it, an embarrassing amount of times.

    With reactivity, I have learned that success is success, even if one successful encounter is followed by dozens of bad ones. I once thought that Brychwyn was not being reactive because of the treats, until one busy, city walk when I ran out of treats. I tried to remain calm but I was terrified. That day was when both Brychwyn and I learned that he would also work/behave/not go bonkers at other dogs for praise! Someday when you don’t have poop on your shoe and a bag on your hand, Leo might not react without cheese. You never know!

    Happy New Year! Thank you for the shout out and for joining the hop this month.

  3. Thanks so much for joining the hop – you had plenty to blog about! Don’t you hate it when nature calls at the worst possible time? I can’t tell you how many reactive incidents I’ve had due to a poop stop at an inopportune time. I’ve had to abandon the poop and run before as well, but I always go back to scoop.

    I’m going to have to try this magic cheesy stick…like you, I often think there is no way I will ever “deactivate” my Border Jack Terror, but that doesn’t mean I should stop trying!

  4. Re: “carry the cheese in my hand the whole walk”: Where we live it’s too cold at this time of the year to spend much time outside with a bare treat-filled hand, and taking the time to whip off a mitten, reach into the treat bag, and get the treat to Habi in time was basically impossible. Therefore our winter walks used to be very short. Finally last winter a Eureka moment: keep a handful of treats in my hand inside the mitten. It works like a charm.

    Habi used to be extremely reactive to bicycles. We had worked on this in a desultory fashion with not much improvement, so I planned an afternoon at our local greenbelt with a whole pound of pea-sized chunks of beef heart, to be doled out every time we saw a bike approaching. I think the breakthrough happened when I tripped and spilled the bag. She had a fabulous few minutes hunting down all the treats scattered all through the grass, while bikes whizzed past fifteen feet away. We left after that high note, and her next encounter with a bike was MUCH less fraught (and amply rewarded), and she progressed rapidly after that. Talk about serendipity!

    1. Major progress! I’ll hold the cheese in my gloved hands if necessary, but I’m not as dexterous that way. Although chain mail gloves would help protect me from Leo’s teeth when he’s particularly stressed.

  5. Aww wow!! The Cheesy training is really working! Yay to that owner for acknowleding what you had done… far too many don’t, nor do they do anything to tackle a confrontation themselves.
    I sympathise with the break-free’s… I’ve never written about it either because it’s *hopefully* short lived and, maybe a more experienced writer would be able to, but I couldn’t put into words those moments of sheer panic and fear!
    Hugs, Carrie and Pups x

    1. I wrote about it three times in my book about Isis. It almost feels like old news. As terrifying as it is for me, and as grateful as I am that he hasn’t run out into traffic (lately), I can tell he’s having the best time racing around! The frustrating thing when he slipped past Grandma was that everyone else (Grandma, Grandpa and Rob) all grabbed treats to throw at him to lure him back. I said, “Stop giving him treats! You’re just rewarding him for running away!”

  6. Bravo…someone else who believes in cleaning up after their dog. Sadly, I think I’m one of the rare few in my community who does. Anyway, my Willy is great on the leash except for barking at other dogs and walkers. I think he picks it up from me that I don’t like my doggie-owner neighbors (ie. the dog pile leavers) so he barks. I need to try the cheese. I’ve tried training snacks but they aren’t tempting enough for him.

  7. Oh my what a story! I used the cheese method with reactive dogs when I was a dog walker- it’s all about using WHATEVER it takes for that particular dog to maintain their focus! We always did a happy praise session after the stimulus had passed- and those dogs were always so dang proud of themselves- just like I was 😀

  8. Oh, the romping on the street must have been scary! Like your cheesse, I carry organic hotdog slices for Rita. I keep the bag in my pocket, but really should have it out and at the ready all the time. If I don’t get the hotdogs out quickly enough, she can sometimes hit her threshold and then no mere hotdog slice will help. But… if I get those suckers out in time, it’s usually a quiet branching. I was just thinking today “I wonder if I’m ALWAYS going to have to carry these hotdogs on our walks.” But at least she’s gotten WAY better. Bikes and trucks don’t bother her anymore and it’s only certain dogs that set her off.

    Marking my calendar for the book!

  9. Oh, I had a similar moment of fear once letting my coonhound off leash at a deserted beach. Thankfully, kid toys in a yard distracted him while I caught up with him, before he hit the highway. It is so much fun dog training, ha!

  10. I’ve always had to carry treats the whole way as well. I’ve just recently discovered re-usable camping tubes to use with my reactive dog. I just hold it and then squeeze it into his mouth when needed. I like that I can also make up my own mixture. Those simple, cheap little tubes have been life changing for both of us!

  11. I had a similar moment of fear a few weeks ago when Mr. N jumped out of the car as a car was driving by. He’s normally pretty good but he was sick that day so who knows. I screamed “wait” and he stopped but I could see his life flashing in front of my eyes!

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