By Katherine Teeple from Eastonofthewild - June 24, 2019
Everyone has challenges and we are no different. Instagram has this way of making everyone look like they are living the most perfect life. I get asked all the time how I travel so much - it looks like I’m out and about every day hiking and exploring with E. Sorry to break it to you, that isn’t the case. Yes, we hike when we have time and travel when we can, but we have every day lives too. And as people that have normal lives, we have normal problems as well - like training a dog and getting them in trouble when they eat something they aren’t supposed to. So let’s break it down - challenges living with my dog.
Challenge 1: Leash pulling
Easton is not the best on leash and this is something we keep working on. He is great off leash - thinks about what he’s doing, listens well, and sits when he sees another dog. But when he’s on a leash, it all goes out the window. He stops listening to us, begins to pull to smell things, and gets barky over other dogs coming up to me (I wouldn’t call him leash reactive though). So how do we train him to walk on a leash better? We actually train him off leash. We work on his heeling so that he learns to walk by our side. Then we put the leash on and use the same techniques so it’s consistent. Sometimes, it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But what we do is keep trying and praise him for the progress he’s making. Do I get frustrated sometimes? Absolutely - I just do my best and try not to let it get to me; remind myself that we’re learning together.
Challenge 2: Eating food off the ground
As a puppy, he used to eat everything off the ground - it was all fair game. We were the dog parents that forced our dogs mouth open and stuck our finger in there to scoop it out (we’ve all been there - I think). Easton has this…thing…about him and I honestly think it’s the cutest thing ever. Whenever he does something he knows he’s not supposed to do, he cowers and rolls over (without our prompt). It’s like he has a guilty conscience and just can’t hold it in. We use this cue a lot when we think he’s eating something off the ground. If he did actually do it, the moment we make eye contact with him, he rolls over like it’s all over. BUT…how did we get to this point? We worked on the commands drop it and leave with treats that he could have, so we replaced what he couldn’t have with what he could. Over time, he understand that he could smell it but not eat it (we also gave him treats for just smelling and not eating it). He’s not perfect, but we know he feels bad enough when he rolls over.
Challenge 3: Barking
Surprisingly, this only became a problem after he turned 2. He was a very quiet pup and didn’t speak much - just walked away if he didn’t like it. But, he turned 2 and something switched on in his brain and he began to bark at other dogs. He also began to bark when we played with him. Now, it is almost never an aggressive bark, but if it ever was, we intervene immediately. The only time I am ok with an aggressive bark is if he’s being attacked. You may disagree with me but there are times that you need to intervene and times that you need to let them work it out. I am all for letting dogs work it out - as long as they are both safe. Many people think that barking is a sign of an aggressive dog and I have to say that I disagree. Barking is how they communicate to each other - and loud barking (as annoying as it is) is sometimes just communicating.
That being said, I understand that when you live in close proximity to people (like apartments or have roommates), barking can be a very annoying thing you want to control. My advice, work on the command ‘quiet’. As you can teach a dog to ‘speak’, you can also teach them ‘quiet’. How do I do this? It’s a lot of trial and error but when your pup is barking, and you say quiet, and if they stop, give them a treat. There are other methods that you can find online. There are also shock collars where you can turn the shock off but use a beeping sound instead - sometimes, it’s enough of a distraction to get them to stop. Every dog is different - so do what you think is best for your pup.
Our struggle: One thing that I struggle with when it comes to barking is meeting other dogs. When we meet other dogs, Easton has this ‘protective’ nature where he barks if I pet another dog. Even if I pet him while I’m petting the other dog, he can’t handle it. I have tried treating him while I pet the other dog. I have tried ignoring it. I have tried telling him to stop and be quiet. He just can’t handle it. He is never aggressive - just in need of attention from me. This is something we have been struggling with for probably more than 2 years and we are out of options…SO…if you have advice for me, I am all ears! (I also do not think that not petting other dogs is an option since I would pet every dog if I could haha).
Fun fact about E: When other dogs are playing, he likes to bark at them as if they are doing something they aren’t supposed to. We call him the ‘fun police’. He does play with the pups but most of the time when there’s more than one dog that he doesn’t know, he is barking at them like he knows best (haha). Sometimes, the playtime just breaks apart and other times, the dogs talk back and tell him to back off. When he does this at the dog park, we usually leash him up or we split up and play hide and seek (to distract him from the other dogs…so they can play with each other). We just accept that Easton doesn’t play well with all dogs and therefore dog parks are not the best spot for him; too many dogs, not enough space. So we opt for hiking with small groups so that he can get to know the dogs and learn how they behave and how to cope with it.
Challenge 4: Anxiety (in a dog)
Easton is the least anxious dog we could have asked for. I think part of it was trusting that we would come back (home after going out to run errands), and also having a safe place he could call his own. It took us about 2 nights to crate train him. First night was a lot of whining…second night, not so much…and by the third night, he slept through the night. His crate has always been his safe place. Even after switching to an impact crate and using it for flying, he gets in his kennel every time we ask him to without hesitation (full disclosure: treats are involved as well). This was all we wanted - for him to feel safe.
But lately, things have taken a weird turn. E now stands outside the bathroom door when I am in the bathroom, he has to get up and check on us if we move from the living room to the kitchen, and can’t settle when we have out shoes on in the house. We think that this is just developmental and that as he gets older, he becomes more attached because we are all he knows. With that being said, I have tried to take some precautions to calm him down because let’s be honest, I never leave him behind. I have heard great things about CBD oil and using it to help your dog’s anxiety…I, myself, have never used it. I use essential oils in my diffuser to create a calm effect. Honestly, I’m not sure if it works for him, but I do love having essential oils in my house since it calms me down. I find that when I’m calm, Easton seems to be more at ease as well.
One thing that I have slowly tried is to leave him with my husband while I go and do things so that he gets detached from me a bit. I personally think this started while we were in Colombia since he was ALWAYS with me - all day, every day. My husband would always be out and about working and I took him to work with me, went to have lunch with him, went to the mall with him - not just because I wanted to but because I could and it was easy to do so. We can’t really do that here in Canada since not every place is pet-friendly. So, both E and I need to readjust to the North American way of life - which is a pretty good life.
These are just a few things that we struggle with every day. We are not perfect nor do we have the perfect life. BUT we are perfect for each other and the life we live is perfect for us. I don’t know if I would trade it for anything in the world. As much as I would love to be a stay at home dog mom, I love my job and I don’t see myself quitting anytime soon. We travel when we can and adventure when we want to. That’s a good enough life for me.
Stay golden friends.