I can teach Mugsy and Banjo all the cool tricks I want, but if Banjo can’t calmly watch a hiker pass us, or a cyclist ride by he isn’t going to get the life he deserves.

Dogs aren’t born to live in a house with occasional access to a fenced yard. Dogs are social animals. They thrive when given the chance to be our companions into the world.

Think about the sort of cabin fever you get when told you have to stay inside all day. Can you remember those early school days sitting in a classroom just waiting for the opportunity to run, to play, or chat with friends?

Now picture your dog. Waiting for his best friend (that is you by the way) to walk through the door. Think of the unconfined joy you witness as they run circles, jump, whine, or wiggle their butt upon seeing you.

Now think of their face when after that greeting you leave to go out to dinner, or to a bar with friends, or to take a walk to clear your head, and they can’t come with you because they are too much work.

This is fair at this point in your training they probably are too much work, but it doesn’t have to stay this way their entire life.

You can build up to bringing your pup with you. It seems impossible, and I suppose it might be, but your pup will thank you, even if you don’t completely reach your training goal.

I am in the process of building up to the point I am confident taking both dogs to a dog friendly patio again.

It’s a process, I  have to build up to it.

Banjo still gets over excited by cyclist and runners I don’t have the solution for that yet. I think it going to end up being practicing passing cyclists and runners over and over again just like I did with Mugsy.

Mugys can handle cyclists and runners passing us the majority of the time. He gets over excited when he sees a runner running with a dog, but I think that is just because runners with dogs aren’t as common as runners and cyclists by themselves so he isn’t as practiced with calmly passing  them.

To begin to build our confidence high enough to return to dog friendly patios I set the smaller goal of having a nice peaceful walk with both the dogs at the park.

The park in question has three fields, a play ground and a nice busy bridge. It’s winter in AZ, this means the weather is perfect out door weather, slightly breezy around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The park is bustling with activity, scrimmages of flag football and soccer in various portions of the fields, children playing on the play set and Kindly elderly women collecting pine cones. I’ve been told the pine cones are just starting to smell nice enough to collect.

The path winding in between the fields is ideal for learning how to ride a bicycle.

The first two weeks I went I took the dogs individually. First Mugsy, and then Banjo.

The first time I went was after a nice long hike. The pups were just physically tired enough to be ready for some mental exercise.

Mugsy was perfect  he stayed at my side, kept the leash slack, and kept his little mouth shut. We stopped and watched a youth soccer tournament. Then went to another field and played frisbee. This wasn’t too surprising to me. Mugsy had spent every morning of puppy hood walking through this park. 

Banjo required a lot of stop and go. He is still mastering the art of keeping a leash loose. So when he pulls I stop moving until the leash is slack. I had to be careful to keep a certain distance from runners and cyclists, and it was a lot of playing “Look At That” 1A training game where you start by having a dog calmly watch the distraction from a large distance and rewarding before gradually moving closer, rewarding at each new distance for calm behavior whilst watching a distraction. We didn’t get to play fetch. Banjo was too distracted for that. He did watch the soccer game like a pro though.

The second time we went was after our normal hike. This isn’t exceptionally tiring, but it was enough. Once again I brought Mugsy, and then Banjo to the park.

It was bustling with activity like it always is in the middle of winter on a Saturday. I brought my camera along this time. I had more confidence that I could divide my attention away from Mugsy and toward getting a cute picture of him. I got some adorable pictures and Mugsy proved to me that the seemingly pointless days of teaching him a loose leash and not to bark at distractions in his puppy hood payed off. 

We played Frisbee and Fetch too. It was the sort of day I imagined having when I went and got my puppy.

Next I brought Banjo to the park, and to my surprise I was able to move him closer and closer to distractions than the last time. He was able to maintain the focus required for playing a short game of fetch. It was progress and I was happy.

Earlier today I felt a little nervous and stressed about clipping a leash on both dogs and heading out to walk to the park. I brought my camera because if I was going to walk both my dogs through a busy park I wanted to document it. I wanted to be able to prove to myself that it had happened.

There was no long leash.  I’m not that confident yet.

We did it! We had a nice leisurely stroll through a busy park. We learned about pine cone collecting, and my pups posed for pictures. Banjo set calmly next to his brother whilst a runner passed us only a few yards away.

This is what I always dreamed having two pups would feel like. I couldn’t be happier with them.

It took time, and practice but we reached our smaller goal. It’s a process and we are several steps closer to being ready to conquer dog friendly patios.

I don’t want to leave my buddies behind because they are too much work.

Whats your favorite activity with your dog?





References   [ + ]

1. A training game where you start by having a dog calmly watch the distraction from a large distance and rewarding before gradually moving closer, rewarding at each new distance for calm behavior whilst watching a distraction