Walking with Tica: the other side of the leash

Even on dark winter mornings, dogs like Tica need their exercise. Photo by melissajonas.
Even on dark winter mornings, dogs like Tica need their exercise. Photo by melissajonas.
All of my posts so far have been about me and my experiences as a pedestrian and neighbor in Beacon Hill.  I’d like to share some of my observations about sharing my life with an athletic, social animal.

Tica turned 10 in June.  She’s still active and continues to demand (and deserve) regular exercise, but at a much more gentle pace.  We go out for 20-30 minutes in the morning and again in the evening.  From age 1-5, Tica had to be engaged for at least a couple of hours every day.   She is a smart, social dog and it was fun to find ways to keep her entertained.  It was also a lot of work.  I trained Tica using a “clicker” and positive training methods.  This approach worked miracles with my high-energy dog.  Using positive methods strengthened our relationship and helped Tica become more trusting of strangers.  Clicker Solutions is one of many online resources for this method.

My mantra in those years was “a tired dog is a good dog.” When Tica was younger, she got bored easily.  When she was bored, she’d find ways to get my attention–barking, whining, digging, chewing… behaviors I couldn’t ignore.  I realized that keeping her busy on my terms was a lot easier than trying to deal with her behavior after she got bored.

If you have a spring puppy, you’ve probably both been basking in the incredible weather.  It’s easy (and fun!) to take long walks and extended trips to the dog park while the sun is shining.  It’s a lot more effort when the sun goes down at 5:45 and the puddles are past your ankles.  Make the effort to keep your dog active–it pays off!

Wondering how you’re going to keep your dog active & happy this winter?

  • Wear a watch. Make a commitment to take the dog out every day. Most experts recommend 60-90 minutes, especially for high energy and/or younger dogs.  You know your dog and your lifestyle.  Set a goal and stick to it.
  • Dress appropriately. You’re more likely to take the dog out if you’re comfortable.  Wear weather appropriate shoes, invest in a good raincoat, and get several hats.  Keep visibility in mind–you want drivers to see you on dark November afternoons.  I don’t wear headphones because I want to be aware of my surroundings.
  • Keep your dog safe and comfortable. Some breeds are prone to ear infections, especially in wet climates.  Watch for discharge coming out of the ears and/or extra scratching.  Some breeds (Greyhounds, pit bulls, etc) need a sweater or rain coat to stay dry and warm on long walks.  Talk to your vet if you have concerns.
  • Trade doggy play dates and/or get together with a friend. Take turns bringing the dogs to the park, or simply getting them together to run around in the backyard.  You’re less likely to put off that walk when you’ve made a commitment to another human.
  • Play indoor games with your pooch.  Teach new tricks, hide dog treats behind the couch or in the bathtub, or practice a quiet “down, stay” while you’re making dinner.  Mental stimulation and social interaction keep dogs busy & happy.  Your dog still needs to go outside–but make the most of indoor time, too.
  • Take classes. Seattle has too many dog resources to list.  Agility, obedience, herding, conformation…there’s bound to be something you and your dog will both enjoy.  Many classes are in a covered or indoor area.
  • Hire a professional. If you’re too stretched for time to meet your dog’s needs, consider paying for a dog walker or taking your pup to a doggy daycare.  A responsible teenage neighbor might just be the perfect answer for getting your dog out of the house.  Be sure to interview critically–this person is going to be alone with your pet and may have access to your home.  Check references.

In every season, remember to be a responsible neighbor: carry bags and clean up after your dog, keep her leashed, and be respectful of others.  Many people are afraid of dogs–including some dog owners.   Tica is medium sized by my standards (45lbs), but to some people she looks intimidating.  I don’t force the issue.  Observe dog and human body language and keep your dog under control.

It takes a village…

A new baby, illness, injury, increased or changed work schedule… sometimes there are times when the responsibilities of a pet are too much. If you need help, ask.  If your neighbor needs help, offer.   A dog walking service is a great baby shower gift!  There are also lots of pet charities who need your support.  Donate food, litter, and other supplies to help others care for their pets.  Encourage your animal-loving student to consider volunteering at a shelter when assigned community service projects.

8 thoughts on “Walking with Tica: the other side of the leash”

  1. This made me laugh–yes, absolutely. We went out early in the fresh snow and I let her run. Great accompaniment to a lecture on responsible dog ownership, eh?

  2. Good advice that some of us parents need to take as well for our “critters” need “walkies” as well…and incidentally which is why we don’t have a dog – I’ve spent all my good (animal)parenting energy on the kids.

    Cheers to you for your compassion and continued enjoyment of that funny character you have on your hands!

  3. I’m glad you brought this up, Adam. It can be awkward to compare kids & pets, but it’s really true–ALL of us critters need exercise, companionship, and mental stimulation.

    Enjoy the winter with your energetic little ones!

  4. Mostly just musing. I guess people could add videos to the flickr pool. I don’t have any ideas about what kinds of videos people could (or would want to) share. Time lapse traffic and/or plant stuff? Every single one of Joel’s hilarious dog videos?

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