Pupdate #9: The Walking Dread

Winston's schedule consists of three 20- to 30-minute walks per day. Usually around 11 a.m., 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. We go for three shorter walks a day rather than two longer ones because it fits my schedule better and the late night walk helps to get him a little tired before bed. When I come home from teaching a class or coaching/performing in shows, he's a little boisterous. I still have a bit of energy myself, so a late night walk has been beneficial. However, the quality of the walks usually disintegrates throughout the day. In the morning, he is calm and relaxed

Last night we had a bit of snow on the ground and Winston kept attacking my boots as they kicked through the snow. He would attack the ground and start digging through the snow, jumping sideways in weird, excited circles. He kept eating the snow and snapping at me whenever he received even the smallest of corrections.

Oddly, as I was writing that last paragraph, my mother sent me a message on Facebook noting that someone told her dogs see in black and white, so they don't see very well at night. This is actually the opposite of what is true. The following excerpt is from the section on vision on the Wikipedia page about dogs:

As crepuscular hunters, dogs often rely on their vision in low light situations: They have very large pupils, a high density of rods in the fovea, an increased flicker rate, and a tapetum lucidum. The tapetum is a reflective surface behind the retina that reflects light to give the photoreceptors a second chance to catch the photons. There is also a relationship between body size and overall diameter of the eye. A range of 9.5 and 11.6 mm can be found between various breeds of dogs. This 20% variance can be substantial and is associated as an adaptation toward superior night vision.

Tonight, when I got home, we went for a brisk walk. This is the best Winston has behaved on any walk, morning, afternoon or night. We hoofed it around the neighbourhood, up and down the blocks and he just walked, walked without distraction, without pulling, without sniffing the ground or turning to jump on me. Great! Hopefully it's a sign that he's really catching on to who's in charge around here.

I think I mentioned in previous posts that I've also been training him to sit when we stop. He did that well tonight, though he needed to be told. Nevertheless, he did it without protest. I've also been training him that he has to wait on the mat outside the front door and allow me to go in first. He's getting the hang of that and, tonight, with a quick prompt, he sat, then almost immediately he laid down with his ears back. Awesome! As soon as he showed me that calm submissive posture he was allowed to come right in.

After we got back, we worked on our basic commends (sit, down, stay, come) with the clicker and he did a fantastic job. We even incorporated the command "crate" into the exercises and he went straight on in. He was rewarded with a few bites of his high-end chicken flavoured treats that need to be kept in the refrigerator. Fancy.

I feel like all the hard work we're putting in right now is really going to pay dividends in the future. Adopting a dog can really suck in the beginning, but if you invest a lot of time in teaching your dog to be calm and submissive -- with a lot of discipline and fun for both of you -- you will save yourself a lot of headaches. Oh, and watch every episode of The Dog Whisperer you can. Cesar Millan's techniques have really helped my guide Winston's development. In only 10 days, the improvements are dramatic and will help you keep your sanity.

On another good note, my friend Tara came over tonight and made an undercooked Pad Thai dinner for us. She has agreed to stay at my place and dog-sit Winston while I'm in North Carolina for NCCAF. The only downside to this is that she works long days -- 10-12 hours, usually 3 or 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. -- so I'm going to have to find someone to walk Winston in the afternoons and at night. Otherwise, I'm really glad there will be a stable, dog-loving person in the apartment while I'm away.