Golden Retrievers Speak: Loose Doggie!

Josh:   A topic I can sink my teeth into – roaming and (nearly) getting lost.   When I was young and mobile, I was able to sneak out of the yard three times!

Jeter:  I got out a couple of times – once when daddy threw the ball over the fence and didn’t even realize he did, and once when a trick-or-treater rang the doorbell!

Alanis:  I had one try at being an escape artist, but didn’t get far…

Josh:  The first time I got out was due to a fire in the front yard.   Someone knocked on the door, and my daddy ran outside to see the fire at the edge of the lawn.  In his haste, he opened up the back gate, and you know where this is going – he left it open!   Within a few minutes, I roamed outside the gate, only to hear my mommy frantically screaming for me (more on that later in daddy’s summary).  I ran back into the house, and thankfully, the fire didn’t get very far.    The second time, my daddy (who is full of fun stories of his complete incompetence) was getting ready to mow the lawn…and again, left the gate wide open for me to walk out of.  Next thing he knew, I was all the way down the street (and this is not a quiet street….).  He yelled and told me to come, and I obliged.   The third time, the guy reading the meter came into the yard to get a closer look and didn’t close the gate.  I again wandered outside, but this time, I only went into my neighbor’s yard.  My Mommy saw me and I ran back into the house.  All three times, I was the only dog living here.    Those were the days…..

Jeter:   Much quieter days, I am sure.     Josh always had a roaming tendency – he liked to see the world!  Me?  I am the type that wants nothing to do with being alone.   My daddy once threw the ball over the fence without knowing it went over.   I came back without a ball and he told me to go get the ball, so I obliged by digging under the fence (I was still very tiny!) and grabbing the ball.   I just sat there after I got it – no incentive to move away at all until he got me.  The second time was more exciting!  A group of kids came for trick-or-treat, and as soon as daddy opened the door, I bolted.   I just wanted to play though.   Within a minute, my adventure was over.    Those are the only two incidents in my entire lifetime!  I am too attached to people and my dog pack.  I seriously have no drive to wander away.

Alanis:   No, you don’t.  You hate being alone – if mommy and daddy dare leave the house without Jeter, may as well get the violins out, because Jeter is going to mope.    Anyway, one day, my daddy was outside talking to a neighbor who was at their window.  I heard him and essentially ran run through an opening in the fence!  As soon as he called my name, I stopped and ran at him to greet him.   I am certainly the type of dog they have to keep a close eye on – not that I WANT to get out, but I am so hyper and insane that nobody knows what would happen if I actually DID get out!

Jeter:  You’d probably run up and down the street, barking look a lunatic.

Josh:    And likely eating anything that is on the ground – whether it be rocks, leaves, acorns, or heck – she may even try to eat the black top in the street if given enough time.

Alanis:   I am who I am….

Jeter:  One strange dog is what you are…..

Alanis:  No denials here.

Me:   I don’t care who you are – you have likely dealt with “loose doggie!” at least once or twice in your lifetime.  And I know exactly what the instinct is:  Run after the dog!   Right?  You don’t want the dog to get hurt, so you run after them, screaming at the top of your lungs.   You wonder why the dog keeps going AWAY from you as you do this!  The answer to that is simple:  He thinks you are playing with him.    Do you want to get a dog to come back to you?  if they are still in your sight, the easiest way is actually the exact opposite:  Get down on their level – sit down, lay down, whatever.  Don’t shout and scream. If you have a solid “COME” or “TOUCH” command in their vocabulary, use it!    The dog should eventually come back towards you.  If the dog is out of your sight, that is another good time for the “COME” or “TOUCH” command.   If all else fails, and you can’t find your dog, the good old-fashioned hopping in the car will have to do.   There are also several groups out there (many on Facebook!) who are Lost Dog specialists.   People who find lost dogs will often take them to the nearest shelter.    If your dog is away for an extended period, call the shelters.  I would even recommend you go to a shelter, if possible, to check out all the dogs who were recently brought in.   Dogs CAN change in appearance rather quickly!      And one last piece of advice for you:  Get your dog chipped, as that is the FIRST thing a shelter or a vet will do if a lost dog is brought to them – check to see if they have a chip!    

Don’t feel like a terrible dog parent just because your furry friend got loose – it is a part of their instinctive drive.  Just try to find them as soon as possible, and take whatever safeguards you can to help avoid the incident from happening again.   

Golden Retrievers Speak: Going for a Walk

Josh:   When mommy and daddy first brought me home, I wasn’t very good at the walking thing.   I would keep my head to the ground for pretty much the entire walk, refusing to look up at the world around me.    I was interested in the occasional squirrel, but for the most part, if I put my head any lower, I would have bloodied my nose!

Jeter:  Daddy started me off slowly with walks – he would walk me around the block slowly, just to get me used to it.    He found out quickly that, just like with training class, I was a natural when it came to walking.    I would pull on my leash if I saw a squirrel or cat, but for the most part, I stuck by his side, refusing to get too far ahead.   My daddy would often stand back a bit to let me get ahead, and I would just stop and look back at him.

Alanis:  I was a bad walker at first.  A very bad walker.   I would often walk down the street and stop in my tracks.   There were certain streets I refused to walk down for reasons only I knew.    After 15 minutes or so, I was ready to go home.  For the first several weeks, he refused to cross over busy roads with me in fear that I would stop dead in my tracks, so we stuck very close to the neighborhood.   I would pull and tug at the sight of another animal, and I would bark uncontrollably if something bothered me.

Jeter:  I can attest to all of this, since Alanis is my walking partner!

Josh:   Suffice to say, due to my immobility, I don’t go on walks anymore.  There was a time when I would go with Jeter for the first walk of the day, and Jeter would go with Alanis on the second walk of the day.

Alanis:  Correct, Josh!   Jeter would get TWO walks while we would get ONE!  And they say there aren’t any favorites!

Me:   To be fair, Jeter is the most enthusiastic walker in the house and giving him a double walk always worked out well.  Nowadays, Jeter and Alanis just go for one long walk…..

Jeter:   Thanks, Daddy…..of course, during one of those Alanis/Jeter walks, we had what is famously referred to as the “Raccoon Incident”.

Alanis:  Funniest freaking thing ever!    Middle of the day, broad daylight, and Daddy walks right into the path of a rabid raccoon!   I understand he has a knack for some weird stuff happening to him – but this was really weird!

Jeter:  The jackass started running away from the critter, and feel squarely on his right shoulder, spraining it.  Thankfully for him, Alanis and I scared away the raccoon AND neighbors saw the incident (if only they got video!) and were able to come out and save Daddy (and us, who Daddy lost control of when he fell!)

Alanis:  This still makes me laugh – I know, it isn’t funny.  Yet, it is.   Daddy going to the emergency room over a raccoon!

Josh:  I wish I was there to see it.  Knowing me, I would have sniffed the raccoon and walked away.   Anyway, back to my original story, I eventually figured out “how” to walk.   For the next several years, I would hold my head up high when I walked, prancing along as if I didn’t have a care in the world.  My Daddy would always comment that if we didn’t live in a busy area, he could walk me without a leash.

Jeter:  I have essentially maintained my walking discipline, though I have figured out that if Daddy lets me go ahead of him, I should just keep prancing along – I have gained a lot of confidence.  And yes, even at seven, I still get very excited over squirrels and cats.   I am not fond of other dogs though.

Alanis:  Yeah, Jeter can get a little snippy if another dog enters his “space”.

Jeter:  I will warm up to a dog eventually, but people need to understand that it makes me nervous.  I know I am a cute, happy Golden walking down the street, but I have some insecurities, just like everyone else!

Alanis:  I am like Josh used to be – I want to socialize with everything, though I do it through barking, which tends to scare people more than anything else.  I am trying to be friendly!

Jeter:  Funny, isn’t it?   People are more afraid to approach Alanis with their dogs because she is barking, while they look at me as being more “dog-friendly” because I am quiet.     If only people would first talk to my owner before approach!

Me:  Indeed, Jeter.    Jeter is obviously a fantastic dog – but he gets nervous if strange dogs invade his space and will get a bit snippy.   If you have a dog like this, try to keep the dogs apart the best you can.   (Especially if the approaching dog is loose!).   KNOW YOUR DOG!  If you have an Alanis-like dog, explain to the other owner that the barking is more of a “Look! I’m here!” bark than a “Get away from me!” bark.   If you have a dog like Jeter, explain that your dog doesn’t like being approached and if you want them to meet, best to do it in a more controlled environment first, or to let Jeter do the approaching.   Also remember to watch the body language of the OTHER dog.  Sometimes, owners simply do not know their own dogs, and think they are friendlier than they actually are.    I have often turned my dogs in the other direction if I see another dog walking towards me.     I do that for safety reasons, mostly (I am walking two big dogs, after all!).  If a loose dog comes at us, I stay very calm and just try to keep the stray dog and Jeter apart, if possible.   As I said above, it all comes down to one big principle:   KNOW YOUR DOG.  

As an aside, the “raccoon incident” happened in August, 2015.  I still have lingering affects in my shoulder, but it is probably 99.9% healed.   If you get into this situation, you will have to use your best judgement – a raccoon in the middle of the afternoon is NEVER a good thing.   You also want to watch out for deer (especially if it is a mommy deer and you see her babies nearby), etc. Be alert of your surroundings and you should accomplish a healthy, fun walk for both yourself and your dogs.

Golden Retrievers Speak: Training!

Josh:   My daddy never took me to a training class, so I guess I don’t have much to say here.   I came to them as a trained 18-month year old dog.

Jeter:   Training was my specialty!   The first class I went to, I was scared to walk into the room.  My daddy picked me up, and the trainer instead shouted at him to put me back down again.

Alanis:    I was also afraid to walk in the door the first day – the difference is that I was already too big to pick up!   They needed to lure me into the building.  Interestingly, it got to the point later on where I never wanted to leave the building once I was in!

Jeter:   On my first day, I had trouble with the “down” command.   Daddy thought this was going to be a process…little did he know….

Alanis:  On my first day, I did a lot of barking and very little listening.   I was a bit of a handful, to say the least.

Jeter:   Well, you still are a handful.    Interestingly, after I finally learned the down command, something clicked in my brain.   I suddenly became an obedience savant!      I started learning (and remembering!) commands on the first try.    When they taught me “Leave it!”, I picked up on it in an instant.    I wouldn’t break a “Wait” command regardless of the temptation they put in front of me.  I became the teacher’s pet.  If my Daddy wasn’t such a klutz (I knew the commands better than he did!), who knows what I could have been?   To this day, I still know my commands even if they aren’t used often.   A few weeks ago, my Daddy yelled “Look!” at me while I was laying down, and I instantly turned around and looked at him.  He hadn’t used that command in YEARS.

Alanis:   Yeah, yeah – I heard all about you, Jeter.   Stuff of legend, I guess.  I am legendary in my own way!   My trainer has told me that I am very lucky that I found my current Mommy & Daddy, because many people wouldn’t be able to deal with my insanity and quirks.  I don’t learn commands on one try, but once I do learn them, I want to do them over and over again.    An object I hate one week can suddenly become one of my favorite objects the next week.   I know 35 or more words, but can’t do obedience at the Jeter level (who can?).    I love to work.  I am at my happiness when I am in work mode – even if that is nothing more than chasing a toy (or wrestling around with Jeter).

Jeter:  I am very enthusiastic about pleasing my owners.   You tell me to sit and stay, I won’t move until you let me – whether that is ten seconds later or five minutes later.     Obedience is very important to me – just like a properly placed colon is important for an editor.

Alanis:   It is tougher for me – I can’t hold commands like Jeter does.   I am more into the tricks, and using the tricks as a way to keep me disciplined.  You have to make things interesting for me – and don’t overdo it, or else I will stray off course.   If you work hard for me, I will work hard for you in return.

Jeter:   You are definitely more of a tricks dog than an obedience dog, while I am more of the opposite.  I know my tricks, but I seem to gain more joy by successfully holding a wait command for a few minutes.  That gets me very excited, for reasons only known by my brain.

Alanis:   One thing is for certain:  We will both do ANYTHING for food!

Jeter:  That goes without saying….

Me:  I strongly recommend training!   Josh came to us mostly trained as an 18-month old dog, but to this day, I wish I would have taken him to  a training class.   The classes are great for bonding with your dog, in addition to teaching them commands that could potentially save their lives if a bad situation presents itself (dog gets out of your yard, dog approaches food they shouldn’t eat, etc.)   While training facilities are typically better than going to a brick-and-mortar store like Petco, the most important thing is finding a class for your dog, regardless of where that may be.   If you have a young dog (or puppy), you will probably start in Puppy Kindergarten.   If your dog is a little older, you may be told to start them in a class that is a little more advanced than Kindergarten.   You can also hire someone to come to your house for personalized lessons – this can be very handy for a dog that wouldn’t do as well in a “traditional” class.  Some dogs are just not good in an environment where there are several other dogs.     If your dog came from a shelter, it can take them a while to get fully accustomed to you and your home.     A good trainer will assess your dog before coming up with a good training plan.   Makes sense, right?   If your car stops running, a mechanic won’t just jump under the hood and rebuild your engine.   He first needs to find out WHY the car isn’t running.   If your dog is not adjusting to your home the way you hoped, you would want a trainer to first assess WHY that may be before jumping into a way to correct it.  

A solid training foundation will lead to a more successful relationship between your family and your dog.    Whether you have a Jeter (who figures it all out in one try) or an Alanis (who is always going to need some reinforcement), you will find that you will have a better dog after training than the one you had before training.   That is the ultimate goal.