Sunday, May 1, 2011

Just a Walk in the Park

It's Sunday, so I tried to sleep in a bit today.  10:30 instead of 9:30, so sue me.  Elka split the difference and put all four of her paws in my side at 10.  I let her out of the bedroom and she went downstairs to my fiance, Jim, and indicated that she wanted to go out  (she actually says "out", but in a very open mouthed, no-consonants, doggie way, which I will one day catch on video so that people believe me).  Jim leashed her up, and then went outside.  Elka sniffed a bit, and then headed to the end of the driveway, and Jim followed, as it doesn't make much difference where she empties.

She got to the street, sat, and looked both ways.  Jim asked "What are you doing?" and she looked backwards up at him, and then off up the street again.  Knowing I would be preparing to take Elka for a walk, Jim brought her inside and told me the story.  The next noise Elka made at us sounded like "Walk", and so we saddled up and went.

We walked slightly off of our "regular" route, using the clicker and treats to maintain loose leash and attention, and when we got to one of the parks in town, I put Elka in a sit, put the clicker and treats away, and clipped her 20 foot leash onto her collar.  I put the short leash around my waist; it has a brass ring on the "handle" loop that might be for other things that more intense dog people know about,  She looked at me.  I looked at her.  I said "go see" and gestured at the park.
I found it particularly interesting that, on the long leash, Elka did not pull.  She picked the distance where she mostly wanted to be (which was pretty much at 19 3/4 feet) and maintained that, periodically pausing to check in with me.  If she headed in a direction I didn't care for, I said "stop", and she stopped walking and looked at me, and I would point in a different way.  We continued.
We roamed around for a long time, with Elka pretending to be a tracking dog and me following her, just the two of us relaxed and out in the sun.  Nobody else was in the park, though a couple of people walked past the far edges at various times, and overall it was a low stress and very nice trip.  

To make it educational, we worked on recall a bit, which is a difficult thing to take a picture of with a digital camera and only twenty feet between yourself and your dog.

See the further tree?  That's where she was when I pressed the "take picture" button.  She's a fast one, my Elka!  Her send away (go away? Send out? I forget the proper term. It isn't outrun, as that involves sheep, typically) isn't too bad either.  She doesn't mind being interrupted, as she has a notion that she'll be allowed to go back to what she was doing  (it's just the Wikipedia article, but you can read about the Premack Principle if you'd like).

We also found a smallish Disney Princess ball that Elka snorted at for a few minutes (while my camera spontaneously decided to stop working) and then she left alone to continue on her Imaginary Track.  I wonder what she thought she was after; she completely ignored the squirrels without any input from me! And squirrels in that part are like cornish game hens, they're that fat.

After awhile, we completed our circuit of the park, switched back to the short leash, and headed home.  On the way, we passed several yards or houses with barking dogs, none of whom were actually corrected or redirected by their owners.  As Elka looked up at me without wavering, and I clicked and treated her for it, I told her "It's the responsibility of the owner to, among other things, make sure his or her dog is not a nuisance to others.  Aren't you a good girl?"

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