Pup links!

German shepherd in flight. Photo by Flickr user LauraXJayne.

Dog-related links from around the Web this week:

Bonding with Dogs–or Not. Trainer Nicole Wilde reflects on that emotional challenge of not “bonding” with a dog instantaneously. This was encouraging to read. For the first few weeks we had Pyrrha, I didn’t feel really bonded to her–and I felt really guilty about that. My deep and sincere attachment to her has, of course, grown over time, but it’s nice to hear someone admit that it’s not always immediate. (Wilde About Dogs)

State of Pet Health Report 2012. Well, this is really dismal. Banfield’s annual assessment of pet health has recently come out and the results are rather disappointing. For instance, obesity among household cats has risen by 90% since last year. Gross and sad. There are also some interesting trends here: Pets are fattest in Minnesota, South Dakota, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. What’s curious is that these states have low obesity rates for humans (Colorado has the lowest obesity rate in the country). So, what’s happening here? I don’t know, but it is a sad state of affairs for American pets. (Victoria Stilwell)

What Shape Is Your Dog’s Ear? I had no idea there were so many different names and variations of canine ear shapes! This is a helpful pictorial glossary for those who, like me, are curious. (Psychology Today)

Urban off-leash Shibas (and others). M.C. has collected some great photos and thoughts about how city dogs live elsewhere, like in Taiwan. Very interesting! (The House of Two Bows)

Furminate Me. This post has pretty much convinced me to shell out the cash for a Furminator. I now know all too well that German shepherds take shedding VERY seriously… (Tales and Tails)

Rumble: 8 Weeks! Oh, I am just… consumed with ENVY. Is this not the sweetest Aussie pup you have ever seen?? And he has a tail! Could look at photos of him all day long. (Elite Forces of Fuzzy Destruction)

Dog a Day. Here’s another great dog-a-day project! Illustrator Bethany Ng is drawing every dog in the AKC in her signature, modern style. She just posted the German shepherd dog. Love it! Has she drawn your favorite breed yet? You can also buy her prints here. (Dog a Day)

You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. This boy and his dog seemed to have worked out quite a nice symbiotic relationship. (Three Dogs Night)

Off-leash encounters and a long, hot hike

Heat stroke?
Post-hike heat exhaustion.

Sunday morning, I was determined to take a hike with Pyrrha–even though the temperature had already reached 95 degrees Fahrenheit when we left the house at 9:45 a.m.

There’s a long, paved trail that winds along the river, somewhat near our house. I had waited to take Pyrrha on this trail, since I knew there were several off-leash portions of the trail and I didn’t want to risk any unfortunate, stressful encounters. But, for whatever reason, I was feeling brave on Sunday and decided to take her with me.

She walked happily by my side, on leash, for the first hour or so. We saw a few other dogs on the trail, but they were either too busy swimming in the river or off in the brush to pay us much attention. Pyrrha seemed fine with this. She sniffed everything and vigorously followed every squirrel or song bird. I love being with her in the woods, near the river; dogs always seem happiest to me when they’re deep in nature, away from houses and cars and city noises.

Meeting dogs off-leash

We turned a bend and suddenly a small, blond mutt came springing out of the woods. Pyrrha and I were both a little startled. The dog looked at us for a second, but then heard her owner’s voice and dashed back into the woods. We moved on ahead of them, but Pyrrha was very distracted, as the mutt and her canine companion were following behind us off-leash.

Finally, we came to a point where the off-leash dogs were about to overtake us. The two women called out and asked if Pyrrha would like to greet them. I explained that Pyrrha was shy around other dogs and could be nervous around them, but the woman recommended I drop my leash. I did–and marvel of marvels, Pyrrha acted like a confident, normal dog! She dashed up to the little mutt, named Lucy, and was all happy wags. The two started to even chase each other around in happy circles. I was delighted.

Pyrrha then tried to run up to meet Ramona, the other dog, but Ramona was very shy and tried to run from Pyrrha, tail between her legs. This behavior started to make Pyrrha mirror her, and soon, both dogs were in an anxious, agitated state, so we pulled them away. That mirroring behavior was interesting and unexpected to me.

Going off-leash herself

After we parted ways with Ramona and Lucy, I decided to tentatively try Pyrrha off-leash for the first time. There were a few reasons why I felt like this could be a good time to try her off-leash:

  1. The trail was comparatively quiet, with few other dogs, cyclists, and runners.
  2. It was a legal space in which to go off-leash.
  3. Pyrrha was very tired and hot and not really in the state of mind to be running off.
  4. I knew that she liked to stick with me, even when she was on-lead.

To start, I let her drag the leash for a while. This seemed to annoy her considerably, but she put up with it. I tested her recall by allowing her to fall behind me and then calling her to catch up. To my delight, she responded very quickly and happily. After testing this out for a few minutes, I unhooked her leash and let her go.

I was very vigilant the whole time she was off-leash, scanning the trail for any upcoming traffic, other dogs, animals in the woods, etc., but Pyrrha was great. She was far more verbally responsive than I thought she was. When a cyclist zoomed past us, I was able to call her back to my side very quickly.

Do you walk your dog off-leash? How have you improved your dog’s recall?