Friday, August 31, 2012

Basic Obedience: Week 4

For the past month Athena has been enrolled in a basic obedience class at our local Petco.  See our post about weeks 1-3 training here.

Last week we skipped our training class because B had a class at the same time and we like to be at the training class together.  So, today we resumed our training sessions and attended our 4th class (out of 6 total).

We were pretty excited about being back in class because we bumped into the intermediate/advanced class which meant that we got to be in a training class with other dogs.  I feel like a parent whose kid got on the honor roll!  Go Athena!

Even though we got the doesn't mean that Athena was at the top of class!  There were two other dogs in the class: a 6 month old Australian Shepherd and a 7 month old Boxer-- both are very high energy dogs, but both were pretty rockin' when it came to the day's lesson.

Since we are still wary of Athena's 'dog aggressive' label given by her previous owners (who only had her for 2 weeks), our trainer knew that we wanted to take the dog introductions slowly.  Athena got to meet the two other dogs while on leash.  The Australian Shepherd owner didn't seem very comfortable with Athena meeting her dog and even said, "we don't need any more vet bills!"  I guess I would be cautious too if I heard that another dog is possibly dog aggressive.

But, after some quick introductions we got right to training.  Here's what we worked on in class:

Week 4: 

So apparently everything Athena knows goes out the door when two other dogs join her in class.   At least the trainer told us that her behavior was normal for a dog's first time in class with other dogs.  We totally looked like the owners who don't do their homework and don't practice any commands with their dog at home.  Athena really didn't want to listen to anything we said (even with totally tasty treats dangling in front of her face) and she acted like she had never heard the word 'down' in her life.  I will just say that the experience was challenging.  And if I thought that it was challenging, I can't even imagine how Athena felt.  Not to worry though, when we got home I gave Athena lots of loves to let her know that I love her even though she has doggy ADHD.

Anyways...the hour of class consisted of us practicing down/stays in the training room while the trainer distracted our dogs and got them to move around the room while other dogs stayed.  Next, we moved out into the store and were presented with some major distractions while we practiced down/stay.  Athena really refused to be in a down we just practiced sit/stay most of the time.

Week 4 Homework:
  • Practice 'leave it'-- this once mastered command doesn't work so well when distractions are present
  • Practice 'down'-- diva dog doesn't like to down in the presence of other dogs
  • Implement doggy boot camp-- ok, this is self-assigned homework, but Athena better be ready for some major practicing in highly distractible situations this week because her parents are teachers and therefore like to be at the top of the class!
Overall, week 4 class was bleh.  Could have been better, could have been worse.  But, I'm proud of my little girl for being so stealer in her first month of being with us!!


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Riding in Cars with Dogs

Yesterday Athena told you about how much she loves going on car rides!  Well, we love it that Athena loves the car so much too!  Lately we have been taking her on more and more car rides and expanding her world by going to new places.
We say "up" and Athena jumps up into the car
For the most part, Athena will sit in the backseat and just stare out the window.  Sometimes she stands up and starts walking around in the back and pokes her head at us in the front seat.  I swear she's saying, "Hey guys!  I wanna ride in the front seat too!"
"Hey guys!  What's up?!"
Right now you are probably thinking that we are very irresponsible dog owners for not restraining Athena while she rides in the car.  We do own a Top Paw Pet Safety Car Harness which we bought at Petsmart.  Athena does really well when we put her in the doggy seat belt.  She sits so perfectly and just stares out the window!  I'm waiting for the day that we can use the harness again so that I won't have to worry so much about her getting injured while in the car.

The reason that we haven't been using her car harness lately is because Athena's hot spot has been healing.  I would say that it is almost healed now, but she still has a bald spot where it was.  We have been avoiding all types of harnesses that will rub the delicate area (backpack, Easy Walk Harness, and car harness) until some of the hair grows back.
Sometimes Athena gets tired and lays down for a quick snooze
So, hopefully in the next week or two we can resume responsible dog owner status and buckle Athena into the car using the car harness.

For now, we have been using frequent car rides as mental stimulation for Athena and as a way for her to see new things.  We really feel like Athena didn't get out much in her first year of life because she is fearful of many new things and situations.  Taking her on short car rides has allowed her to see new places, people, and dogs and smell all sorts of new smells.

We take Athena in the car on our way to training classespet stores, parks, and food carts.  I have also been giving B rides to school a couple times a week, so Athena comes in the car to drop him off with me.  I think that if your dog enjoys the car, take them with you (as long as your don't leave them in the car alone)!
Currently we use a blanket that we don't care much about to cover the backseat where Athena sits while she's in the car.  We are trying to avoid getting the seats too dirty and full of dog hair.  In the future we would love to get something like the Kurgo Bench Seat Cover to cover the backseats.

We plan to continually take Athena with us on short car rides as a way to provide her with mental stimulation and to introduce her to new places and situations.  Maybe someday she will even take a road trip with us (we don't really road trip so I'm not sure if that will ever happen, but one can dream!).

Do your pooches enjoy car rides?  What accessories do you use to keep your pet safe and your car clean?


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pitlandia in Portlandia: Cartlandia Food Carts

Wow...Pitlandia in Portlandia at Cartlandia...that's a mouth full!  But, that's what happened yesterday when we took Athena to her first food cart pod in the city!
It was a spur of the moment decision that turned into a great experience for us all!  We have been taking Athena to a lot of new places in the past week to help her with her socialization and fear of pretty much everything.  We thought that going to some food carts would be a perfect opportunity for her to get out of the house and practice her politeness in public!
We decided to go to Cartlandia in SE Portland because it's fairly close to our house and is one of the larger food cart pods in the area.  They have all sorts of different food carts that serve food from around the world.  This time we had some authentic Mexican street tacos from Brother Express and shared a delicious bavarian cream dessert from Cake on a Hot Tin Roof.
There was one other dog at the food carts who barked at Athena the ENTIRE time that we were there.  At first Athena wanted to approach the dog, but we made her heel and walked away.  As we sat down to eat our lunch at a picnic table, Athena kept wanting to see the barking dog.  We practiced her sit/stay and down/stay while we ate and she quickly became uninterested in the very annoying dog.
I was shocked at how well behaved Athena was at the food carts.  I swear that it was like being with a very well trained dog who has been practicing for months!  She let us eat our food (for the most part), got tons of attention from people at the carts, and listened to our commands even with all of the distractions around.  I don't think that anyone would have guessed that we have only had her for one month (and she didn't know any commands when we first got her)!
Now that the summer is coming to an end, I'm a little sad that we might not get to go on too many more food cart adventures.  But, I'm feeling like Athena is on her way towards being a great pitbull ambassador!

Check out our other Pitlandia in Portlandia post here.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Thoughts on Joining a Dog Walking Group

Lately we have been thinking about the pros and cons to joining a dog walking group.  We know that we want to be a part of a group at some point in the future, but we're just not sure when it would be the right time for Athena.
We've never been a part of a dog walking group before, nor have we seen one in action, so we are a bit apprehensive about bringing Athena to a meeting and having it be a total disaster!  B and I have multiple reasons for why we would like to be a part of a dog walking group.  For one, we want Athena to have the opportunity to socialize with other dogs.  We have also heard that it can be a great way for pooches to build their confidence, especially if they lack confidence in being around other dogs (which Athena definitely does).  The bloggers over at Two Pitties in the City shared a post with us about managing a leash reactive dog in the city-- one of the suggestions happened to be joining a dog walking group as a way to work on leash reactivity!

Leash reactivity is actually one of our concerns for joining a dog walking group at this time.  Athena REALLY wants to meet every dog that she passes.  She has had successful meetings with other dogs where it has been very uneventful.  However, she has also had some dog meetings that made her EXTREMELY excited where she jumps up and whines and wants to play with the other dog so badly.  When we see other dogs while out on a walk, Athena will pull so hard on the leash to get to the dog as quickly as possible.  We don't reward this pulling behavior and so we turn in the opposite direction.
Emily from Our Waldo Bungie helped to found the KC Pittie Pack in Kansas City, MO.  She writes about how "the best way to socialize your dog is to be social with your dog" and discusses how a dog walking group provides dogs and their owners an opportunity to practice their social skills.  B and I don't think that Athena had much socialization in her first year of life before we adopted her.  We are now trying to slowly provide her with positive socialization with other dogs-- but, it's hard to find other dogs and owners that we trust to practice with!  Maybe a dog walking group is a good way to start?

We want to give Athena the opportunity to have successful meetings with other dogs so that we can approach another dog calmly.  I just don't want Athena to be the only dog in a dog walking group that can't handle herself and interrupts all of the good behavior from the other dogs!  Another great blogger from Notes From A Dog Walker wrote a similar post to this one about dog walking social groups and how they can provide great socialization for dogs outside of the dreaded dog park.  I'm starting to think that we need to get in a dog walking social group ASAP!

Whether or not we are ready to join a dog walking group right away, we know that in the future we would like to join the Portland Pit Bull Parade.  This local dog walking group meets once a month in different locations around the city to show off the good nature of bully type breeds.  The next walk is being held on September, 14 days from now.

B and I are also interested in attending Strut Your Mutt with the shelter that we adopted Athena from.  This dog walking event is being held on September 29th...24 days from now.  I think that this might be wishful thinking.  This event will most likely be HUGE and way too overstimulating for Athena.  But, it's definitely a goal that we would like to strive to achieve in the coming years!

Some great bully breed walking groups that we have read about include:

Chicago, IL- Chicago Sociabulls
Kansas City, MO- KC Pittie Pack and Friends
NYC, NY- Big Apple Pittie Pack
South Bay area, CA- HikeABull
Cleveland, OH- Pit Bull Zen
Phoenix, AZ- ExploraBull
Seattle, WA- WalkaBulls
Hoboken, NJ- Positive Pittie Pack
Washington DC- Pittie Trails
Toledo, OH- Lucas County Pit Crew

We would love your advice and knowledge about joining a dog walking group!  When did you know that your pooch was ready to join a dog walking group?

-A & B

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Doggy Links

Happy National Dog Day!  Here are a few of our favorite discovered posts of the week:
A random pic of Athena and B to go along with these random links of the week!
How To Get Your Dog To Sleep In His Own Bed (Oh My Dog!) A great post about training your dog to sleep in their own bed throughout the night.  Bed size, placement, comfort, and training are discussed.  We found this post to be very helpful as we train Athena to love her own bed and not want to try sneaking into ours each night!

Nosework (The Second Hand Dogs) As we have been thinking about the great benefits of starting agility with Athena in the coming months, this post has us also thinking about the benefits of nosework.  The shelter that we adopted Athena from offers a nosework class and we have wondered if honing in on this skill would boost Athena's confidence.  This blog posts talks about the great benefits of nosework in comparison to agility training.

When Grandma Doesn't Know Best (StubbyDog) There are many people out there that have misconceptions about pitbull type breeds.  This blog post on StubbyDog talks about a grandma's fear of her granddaughter's pitbull-- something that A can totally relate with as she works to change her own grandma's misconceptions about Athena.

Caution: Too Much Of A Good Thing? (Wilde About Dogs) A blog post about being cautious when introducing your dog to unknown dogs at dog parks or when out on a walk and how caution can often be more harmful to our dogs than we may think.  We are totally rethinking our caution with Athena as we have been VERY cautious about letting her meet dogs while we are out and about because of her shelter label of "dog aggressive."

The Gift Of Learning To Relax (Two Pitties in the City) A very inspiring story of a Chicago Sociabull's participant Honor and her human and how they have been working on learning to relax.  This story reminds us all too much of Athena's leash reactivity (although hers is much more mild than Honor's) and has given us hope that with patience and practice, Athena will someday be able to relax too!

-A & B

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Pitbull After Dark

Lately B has been taking Athena on night time walks.  It has started to get dark here around 8:30, so if we leave the house for a walk any later than this, we take a walk in the dark.
B actually prefers walks in the dark to walks during the day time.  Here are his reasons why:
  • Temperature (in the summer it's much cooler!)
  • Less traffic (we live in the city so there are many cars out and about on day time walks)
  • Less dogs (we have yet to encounter an off-leash dog in the dark and many people put their dogs inside that they usually leave outside during the day)
  • Athena goes right to bed (when we get home from an after dark walk Athena is so pooped that she goes right to bed which means that we have time to write blog posts!
While on a night time walk we always have safety lights with us to make sure that cars, bikers, and other walkers can clearly see us.  B clips the Planet Bike Super Flash blinking light to the back of his pants.  One of us will also shine the Cateye OptiCube LED light as a flash light.  B also uses both of these lights when he rides his bike at night.

We are all about keeping Athena safe during these night time walks, so there are a few more products that we are hoping to get in the coming months.  I found a list of recommended gadgets for night time walks here.  

These are the products that we think are essential for keeping your pooches safe on night time walks:

Nite Ize SpotLite LED Pet Light: Weather resistant, easily clips to collar with a D-ring, glow and flash mode, long battery run time.
Ruffwear Track Jacket: High visibility, durable, lightweight, and water-resistant.
There are other safety products out there including reflective leashes and LED dog collars, but we think that the above products are enough for the occasional after dark walker.

On another note, tonight we took a night time walk on one of our usual routes that crosses the Springwater Corridor.  Usually we will hop onto the corridor during the middle of our walk because it's nice to get away from traffic and other dogs (we have only met one dog on a leash while walking the corridor).  Today was the Hood to Coast run which stretches 199 miles from Timberline Lodge to Seaside.  The race was still going on at 9:00pm when we walked by the corridor, so we weren't able to walk our usual route with all of the runners and their teammates cheering!  It was fun to be a part of the action though, and Athena got some good practice walking through large crowds of people.

What safety products do you use when walking your dogs after dark?

-A & B

Friday, August 24, 2012

Love It: OllyDog Treat Bag Plus

B and I have his and her OllyDog Treat Bag Plus bags.  They are our most favorite things!  We wear them on every walk that we go on with Athena (so, twice a day).
Cute fanny pack, B!
I especially love them because it looks like I'm wearing a fanny pack, so I feel super fashionable when I'm out and about =)  Ok, really they are a bit nerdy, but we love them!

Before getting these treat bags, we would carry treats in our pockets or I would put treats in my Vera Bradley hipster bag.  However, treats kept going through the wash, and my purse started to stink like artificial chicken.

So, we picked up an OllyDog Treat Bag Plus at Personal Beast for $16 which is kind of expensive...but we needed it!

During our walks, B and I often trade off walking Athena in the middle of the walk so that we can both work on training her.  Since we only had one treat bag, we would have to stop to take off the treat bag and Athena's new dog walker would put it on.

We decided that we both needed a treat bag...

B's manly green treat bag
A's girly pink treat bag
We like these treat bags in particular because there are 3 ways to wear them: with the removable waist belt, belt clip, or the Velcro webbing loop.  The opening has a magnetic closure so it's easy to open and close the bag.  There is also a small zippered pocket in the front (I often put my phone in there).

What do you think of the OllyDog Treat Bags?  What do you use to hold your dog's treats while on a walk?


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Off-Leash Dogs Are Crampin' My Style

I am sick of off-leash dogs.  It seems that many of the neighborhood dog owners just really don't care if their dog gets out and chases a pitbull down the street.  Only one of these off-leash dogs has been larger than Athena, so I worried for her safety during the encounter (the dog went in for a neck bite).  All of the other off-leash dogs that have approached us have been small dogs, so in these cases I worry about Athena possibly turning aggressive and injuring the dog.  We don't need to be in the news for owning a pitbull that attacked a stupid helpless small dog.
Every time we take Athena on a walk, we encounter at least one off-leash dog.  About half of the dogs that have chased after us haven't had an owner anywhere in sight.  The ones who do have owners present don't seem to really care that their owner is screaming their name to stop chasing after us.

Maybe I wouldn't mind so much if Athena wasn't so leash reactive.  But when a dog comes running after us, Athena starts hopping off of the ground trying to play.  I really don't want her to play with an unknown dog that approaches us, especially when the off-leash dog goes in and tries to bite her (this has happened to us twice now)!  We have only had Athena for one month so I don't feel like we totally know all of her behaviors.  We don't know if certain situations will bring out any aggression.  The owners who adopted Athena for two weeks prior to us labeled her as "dog aggressive" towards their other pet dog.  This makes us cautious of her interactions with other dogs.

I want Athena to learn how to be calm when we walk by other dogs who are on or off leash.  I feel like her excited energy gets the other dog excited an then they are both trying to get to each other.  I think that most off-leash dogs actually approach us because of Athena's body language when she encounters another dog.
We would love it if Athena could be calm like this when walking by an off-leash dog!
The bloggers over at Two Pitties in the City have mentioned in multiple posts that they carry SprayShield Animal Deterrent Spray in case they are approached by an off-leash aggressive dog.  I think that it's about time that I order a can of this spray to carry with me on walks.  The only thing that I worry about is if I would even be able to get to the spray in time if an off-leash dog did a sneak attack and riled Athena up.  I checked at Petco and Petsmart and both stores said that they don't carry any type of dog deterrent spray...the employees actually looked at me like I was a mean person when I asked if they sold it.
We are looking for some suggestions.  How do you deal with off-leash dogs?  Is your dog leash-reactive especially when approached by an off-leash dog?  We could use some help!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Love It: Nylabone

A couple of weeks ago I decided to pick up a Nylabone for Athena.  I am always on the hunt for dog toys that can stand up to our power chewer.  One of Athena's favorite things to chew on is actually cheap tennis balls, but she destroys them within a few minutes.  She will also sit quietly for hours if we give her a cow knee cap to chew on.

When looking for toys to satisfy our pitbull's desire to chew, I found that many people online suggest Nylabones.  I even saw that Ms. M and Mr. B from Two Pitties in the City have a Nylabone.  However, for how many people that praise Nylabones, there are just as many people who are against them.

Nylabones are not actually real bones, but are nylon bones that are flavored and shaped like actual animal bones.  When dogs chew on them, small pieces of nylon come off from the bone.  It is said that the nylon is safe for dogs to ingest because it comes off in such small pieces.  However, many people caution the use of Nylabones for dogs who are able to chew off larger chunks that could cause blockages.

When we first introduced Athena to her Nylabone, we supervised her the entire time and continually checked the bone to see if she was able to chew off large pieces from it.  We continue to inspect the bone after each time that Athena is allowed to chew on it.  So far, Athena has not made any large dents in the bone, but rather has made one side kind of jagged.
Whenever we crate Athena, we always give her something to chew on.  Often times we leave her with her Nylabone, however we have found that she is much more content in her crate if left with a cow knee cap (we are currently working on her minor separation anxiety while crated).

Athena is currently chewing on the BIG Beef Bone.
The next time that we buy her another Nylabone we plan to get the large DuraChew Galileo Bone because I have read that is the strongest in the Nylabone brand and our trainer also suggested it to us.
The only bad thing that I can say about the Nylabone is that it starts to look really gnarly.  It seems to collect all of Athena's fur that she has shed and anything else that is lingering on the carpet.  But, she doesn't really seem to mind =)
Don't mind the ick!
Oh I forgot to mention that Athena is only allowed to chew on her bone for small periods of time because if she has it for too long she decides that it's time to play and will whip it around the house almost causing injuries to us and the furniture!

Do you let your pooches chew on Nylabones?  Which ones have you found to work best for power chewers?

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Wanted: Doggy Water Bottle

***Update as of September 11th, 2012.  We bought a new water bottle!  See our choice here***

We are in need of a good doggy water bottle!

We started with the Hand-Drink Instant Dog Drinker that we bought at Petsmart.  However, this product is really lousy.  I usually carry it in my bag while walking Athena and it ALWAYS leaks!  It's also not easy to get the bottle to stand up in the drink bowl like the picture shows.  We don't really use this anymore because it's more of a hassle than a convenience.
Now we have moved on to using the very fancy plastic water bottle as demonstrated below.  B has mastered the technique of pouring a gentle stream of water into Athena's mouth...however whenever Athena sees me whip out the bottle she turns her head.  I think she knows that I'm not very good at it and she's likely to be splashed all over the face with water instead of getting any in her mouth.
B's perfect pouring action
So, we are looking for a good dog water bottle to take on walks with us.  Here are a few that we are considering:

Dog Is Good Water Bottle $19.99
This water bottle is BPA-free, stainless-steel, and has two openings: the small one on top is ball-bearing which allows you to hold the water bottle upside down and the dog's tounge moves the ball to get water out (like a hamster water bottle) and one large opening for filling and cleaning.
OllyDog OllyBottle $13.00
This BPA-free bottle is also a detachable bowl.  The separate bottle and bowl allows for the owner and the dog to drink from the same bottle without sharing slobber!
H2O4K9 Stainless Steel Dog Bottle & Bowl $14.99
Made from recycled materials and BPA-free, this stainless steel bottle comes with a lid that doubles as a dog drinking bowl.  The cool thing about this bottle is that you can also buy a Neosling ($9.99) to carry the bottle on walks, because really, I never know where to put the water bottle!

Orrrrr....should we go the collapsible bowl route?

Ruffwear Quencher $14.95
This collapsible bowl comes in three different sizes and is easy to fold up and carry while out and about on walks.
What do you use on your walks to keep your dog hydrated?

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The People Behind The Camera: Q and A with A and B

When I read other doggy bloggies I always wonder about who the humans are behind the camera.  We know that you have been learning all about Athena, but we thought that you might like to know who A and B are!

Well, this is us:
We met during our first year of high school and have been together for 8 years.  Athena is our first dog =)

Meet B:

How old are you? 23

How long have you lived in Portland? 23 years (lived in Eugene during college)

Where did you graduate from college? University of Oregon (BA in History, minors in Ethnic Studies and Special Education)

What do you do? I am a part-time graduate student studying secondary education

Why do you like living in Portland? Food, mild weather, (most) people are friendly, lots of places to take Athena on a walk

What are your hobbies? Video games, sports, movies, dog walking

What's your favorite thing about Athena? She's pretty lazy and is good at resting while I do my homework.  I also like how small she is.

Meet A:

How old are you? 23

How long have you lived in Portland? 21 years (lived in Eugene during college)

Where did you graduate from college? University of Oregon (BS in Elementary Education, minor in Special Education), Portland State University (MEd in Elementary Education)

What do you do? I am currently an unemployed elementary school teacher.  Jobs are scarce in the Portland area, so I'm on the hunt!  This summer I have been tutoring 1st and 2nd grade students and I will be substitute teaching starting in the fall.

Why do you like living in Portland? Food carts, no sales tax, the weather is not too hot and not too cold, it's a small-big city, the people are pretty friendly for the most part!

What are your hobbies? Sewing, quilting, crafting, Zumba, dance, reading, Pinterest, Ducks football

What's your favorite thing about Athena?  She's so stinkin' cute!  I love how snuggly she is and how she doesn't bark!

Is My Dog Normal?: Bike Reactivity

Yesterday B showed me a new route to take when walking Athena.  Sometimes we get annoyed walking around the usual neighborhood because there are so many dogs that live outside and like to majorly bark at us through their fences, off leash dogs, and just bajillions of people who do weird things (like the time a PERSON barked at Athena!).
B thinks Athena is saying "save me!"

Our new route takes us along the Springwater Corridor which stretches 40 miles from Portland to Boring (yes there's a place called Boring, OR!).  We are lucky enough to live only a few blocks away from an entrance to the corridor.

Most people who use the corridor are bike riders who like to say things like "one your left," and "on your right" while we are walking and I have to quickly remember which one is my right and left so that we don't get ran over!
Check out that view of Mt. Hood up ahead!

When we first got Athena and began taking her walks in the annoying usual neighborhood, we would encounter quite a few bike riders and people on skateboards.  I don't think Athena had ever seen any of these devices because she was very reactive to them.  As soon as a bike or skateboard zoomed by us she would be pulling to chase after them!  This was a bit frustrating when we were trying so hard to train her how to walk on a loose leash.
A thinks Athena is saying, "weirdo!"

The weird thing is, this bike reactivity only lasted a couple of weeks.  Now that Athena gets out on at least two walks per day, she seems to be more used to the everyday distractions that pass us by.

We got to really test Athena's bike reactivity while walking on the Springwater Corridor because there is always at least one bike in sight.  Athena didn't even bother with ANY of the bikes that we saw on our walk!  Yay!!
Here comes the reaction!

Since it seems that Athena might not mind bikes too much anymore we have been thinking about how great it would be to start bike riding with Athena.  B bike rides, I don't, so this can be his little project.  A trainer had suggested bike riding with Athena as a way to exercise her to expend her excess energy.  The trainer suggested using a Springer Dog Exerciser to attach to B's bike that would allow Athena to safely run next to him.  We plan to look into this fancy device in the coming months.

Is your dog bike reactive?  Do you bike ride with your pooch?

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