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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