Friday, March 1, 2013

Back From Vacation - New Challenges Ahead

Spent the past week up in snowy Lake Placid, New York, where we did some skiing down Whiteface Mountain (absolutely gorgeous, and all the challenge we could handle, even though everyone in our group pretty much stuck to the green "beginner" slopes!) and let Dog Mob romp around the belly-deep snow.

Dog Mob had a grand old time, but the same can't be said for all the dogs who encountered them.

At some point in the past month, Crookytail developed a bullying streak. He's always been a wrestler, but in the year-and-change I've had him, he's always self-handicapped to the level of the dog he was playing with.

The first time he ignored a playmate's signals to lay off, I had hoped it was a one-time aberration -- he's always been so good at reading and respecting other dogs' social signals, and he had played beautifully with that particular dog just a week or two earlier -- but it's now clear that we need to work on this. A lot. Immediately. Because at 75 pounds (probably closer to 80 now), Crookytail is considerably bigger than most of the other dogs at our dog park, and his rough play has the potential to cause real hurt.

On top of that, his recall is lousy. No, "lousy" isn't strong enough. It's nonexistent.

Pongu recalls on a dime with a huge smile on his face. He is just thrilled to run back to me as fast as his legs will carry him through the snow. He's always had a brilliant recall that needed very little training; it's the one and only benefit of his fear issues.

Crooky, on the other hand... not so much. On hikes he stays close to the group, but when we stop moving, he's gone. He'll turn up later, on his own schedule, whenever he gets tired of exploring. But "recall" is not a word in his vocabulary right now.

Between those two issues, Crookytail spent the last couple of days on a makeshift longline (really just his leash clipped to Pongu's, since Pongu didn't need one). I couldn't trust him to come back when called and I surely couldn't trust him to play safely with strange dogs.

He had fun anyway, but it wasn't as much fun as we all could have had.

I'd like to take him back out there next year, but we need to do a lot of work before then. Above all, Crooky needs a better recall and more impulse control when it comes to playing with other dogs. So we'll be working on those two things intensely: the recall, and a "take a break" cue to interrupt overly enthusiastic playing.

I had hoped to get into a new sport with Crookytail this year, since he didn't like Rally and there's a nosework class starting up soon, but before we do that, life challenges take precedence.

I can't take his good behavior for granted anymore. And maybe that's a good thing; I'd really slacked on his training these past few months, and now I cannot do that. We have to work, the Crookydog and I, so that he can go back to being a good ambassador for rescue dogs and not the terror of the playground.

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