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rescue dogs

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A Plea on Behalf of Dogs in Toronto: "Please Leash Me"

This is a subject that hits close to home. I have two dogs who need their personal space. They don’t dislike other dogs, but park and sidewalk greetings need to be managed. They can sometimes be reactive on leash, but we’ve worked on this a lot with positive reinforcement training and the results are amazing. Walks are now much less stressful and far more enjoyable. However, as the dog population in Toronto rises, so does the number of off-leash dogs in areas where they’re not supposed to be, like sidewalks and on-leash parks. These also happen to be the areas where I need to walk my dogs, since they’re not “dog park” candidates. When we encounter off-leash dogs running up to us, it’s impossible for me to work with my dogs to manage the situation. The result is a lost opportunity for positive reinforcement and a setback in our training. Training that requires distance.

Off-leash dog owners usually defend themselves, or try to appease parents and other dog owners by loudly declaring “It’s OK, he’s friendly.” Bluntly: WE DON’T CARE. IT’S NOT OK. What the off-leash owners need to consider is that many of us have dogs that are not comfortable around strange, new dogs. They may be fearful, anxious or elderly and it’s up to us to protect them and find ways to reduce stress.

We have every right to walk our dogs on-leash in parks and on sidewalks without having to be on guard for approaching off-leash dogs. But when other owners take this right away from us, they are negatively affecting the lives of our dogs. Dogs who are sweet, loveable and deserving of a stress-free walk. Worse, they make all dog owners look bad.

I know professional dog trainers, whose dogs have perfect recall, who would not take the chances I see many Torontonians taking every day. Like the guy in the windstorm last week walking his Weimaraner off-leash down Queen Street - does he know for certain that if a sandwich board blows over and hits his dog, that he won’t bolt towards home?  Or the woman who walks her pit bull off-leash at the top of Trinity Bellwoods Park - are you kidding me? She has an obligation to protect her dog from the ridiculous BSL laws in Ontario. I could go on and on.

After too many negative experiences with his own two rescue beagles, the owner of When Hounds Fly has started a campaign: Please Leash Me. Oh my dog! is a proud supporter and I hope you will be too. Go here to download and print the poster. Display it somewhere, share it on your Facebook and Twitter pages. Read this page to gain a fuller understanding of why this is so important. Click here to view a list of campaign supporters and to add your own pet related business/organization.

Bottom line, letting your dog off-leash where you shouldn’t isn’t OK. It’s selfish.

Please Leash Me

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Cami the Husky from Attawapiskat: Positivity and Consistency Reign

When I got a call from Jonathan, a potential new client who had just adopted a dog from Moosonee Puppy Rescue, I was a bit skeptical it would work out. Nevertheless, I agreed to meet with them just because he was so nice and Cami, their new dog, sounded like a lovely gal. 

No one is completely sure of what went on in Cami's past, but it's believed she lived mostly outdoors, tied to a porch. She was rescued with her litter of pups and that's about all we know.  Dogs who've had this kind of start in life are often difficult to integrate into city living and into a dog walking group, as they often come with a lot of "baggage." They can be very fearful of loud city noises, aggressive around food, or lack the social skills needed to get by in a dog-park setting. (don't get me wrong, sometimes they're perfect.)

Upon arriving to meet with Jonathan, Eryn and Cami, we were all pleasantly surprised that Cami greeted me a the door. Until this time, she was still shy and kept her distance from guests.
We talked for a long time about the structure of my walks and how I would help Cami acclimate to life in the city. All the while she laid between the three of us soaking in the affection and belly rubs. 
After the first week, I didn't really know if Cami was benefiting from the walks or even enjoying them, but she wasn't miserable and I knew Jonathan and Eryn badly wanted her to get out during the day and interact with other dogs. I stuck with it. On each walk, she would go off on her own and sniff the perimeter of the park and then eventually plant herself someplace and look off into the distance. I would approach her at least 20 times on a walk and offer her a small treat. She took about 8 out of 10. If there was another dog too close, she refused the treat, or if there was a strange noise coming from somewhere, she would spit it out. 
One day, a couple of weeks in, Cami played with a dog who was not in our group and it warmed my heart. I knew in that moment she was having fun and, there was hope. As the weeks went by, I continued rewarding her for things like making eye contact and just for "being."  She was however, still completely ignoring me when I called her to "come." But she wasn't running away from me and she was happily getting into the car when it was time for her walk ... I thought, she can't be hating this so I'll keep trying.
Then about 3 or 4 weeks ago, Cami began playing with Gus, a dog from OUR group. My heart nearly exploded. Especially since Gus's owner doesn't think he really plays with other dogs :) From then on, I made a point to walk them together as often as possible. The first few days was just wrestling and bouncing, but then it really started! Cami began running big wide circles, and Gus couldn't resist chasing. A week later, Rueben, a 4-month-old Ridgeback joined the gang. For whatever reason, they welcome him into their play sessions, encourage it even. They're like the three musketeers, still.
Here's where it gets really good: About 2 weeks after Cami started really enjoying her walks, I thought "this is a good time to start trying out her recall again." From a large distance, no response. So I began to close the gap. Finally from about 2 feet away, "Cami come" actually worked. I know, you're thinking "who cares!?" I CARED :) 
Once I had her happily coming in for a reward from 2 feet, I gradually increased it to 3, then 4, then 5.... and now, from across the park! This process took about 4-5 walks. 
And here's where it gets totally awesome: Not only is she happy to come when called, she follows the pack as we move around the park and constantly "checks in” on her own. She's loving it and she likes me and the rest of the dogs! Which is good, 'cause we adore her.
What brought Cami around and gave her confidence? A loving home with loving, patient, calm, owners and positive conditioning. Never doubt the power of positivity. 

Here are some photos and video of our favourite husky before and after. 

Then

Now
Video Then:
And NOW!!!

 

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