Monday, September 10, 2012

We Joined a Dog Walking Group!

A couple of weeks ago we posted about our thoughts on joining a dog walking group.  We received some great feedback from Two Pitties in the CityOur Waldo Bungie, and Married with Dawgs about their experiences with dog walking social groups and the many great things that can come from joining one.
We decided that we would try out a dog walking group as a way to add to Athena's socialization and to work on some of her behaviors that we would like to curb (leash reactivity, crazy play when meeting new dogs, fear of new experiences, etc.).  So, yesterday we met up with the Portland Pit Bull Parade at Westmoreland Park in SE Portland for a walk and a picnic.
Upon entering the group we were greeted by the group's founders who welcomed us and shared some information about the group's history.  The parade began shortly after we arrived and B and I stayed towards the back with Athena so as not to overwhelm her with this very new experience.  This was the first time that we had ever been in one place with so many dogs around us, so we expected that Athena would display some unwanted behaviors.
It was clear throughout the entire walk that Athena was very anxious because she pulled on the leash SO HARD!  We haven't had too many issues when walking on leash since fitting her with the Gentle Leader head collar.  But, this apparatus apparently doesn't work as well when surrounded by a large pack of dogs!  B and I now sympathize with those who deal with leash pullers on a daily basis.  Wow is that a workout!
I stick my tongue out to having to walk politely!
The little puller in action
Leash pulling aside, we managed to meet so many great people in the parade.  Most of them were also attending the parade for the first time.  We enjoyed hearing their stories of how they adopted their dogs and how their dogs share similar traits and behaviors to Athena.  It felt so nice to be in a community of pit bull lovers who understand the prejudice towards the breed and are working to bring awareness to the good nature of the dogs.

Following the walk was a Bully Walkers appreciation picnic.  During this time we met even more amazing pit bull owners and their dogs.  Athena got to meet quite a few dogs (most everyone enforced the "no face-to-face" greeting rule) and she didn't show any aggression towards any of them (we had her wear a "dog reactive" red bandana during the parade just in case).
As we have mentioned before, when Athena meets a new dog she thinks it's play time.  So, every dog that she met (or even got close to) during the parade she wanted to initiate play with them.  Everyone laughed and reminisced about their dog's puppy years and their desire to always play.  These interactions were what had me thinking about Our Waldo Bungie's comment on our original post about dog walking groups:  "My favorite thing about being a part of a dog walking group is that you are able to work on your dogs' less-than-stellar behaviors in a safe environment, where you won't be judged by your fellow walkers."  We weren't judged for Athena's desire to play with every dog that she met, nor were we judged as owners for not yet having a handle on this behavior.  Even during the embarrassing moment when Athena started play mode and her leash slipped out of B's hand leaving her running around in circles around a group of a couple dogs and their owners, we were not judged.  Instead, someone quickly grabbed Athena's leash and everyone laughed off the incident.
Getting a bit of training in with distractions
B and I were very impressed with the Portland Pit Bull Parade and we plan to continue attending the monthly parades as a way to show our pride for the breed and to continue on Athena's journey towards becoming an outstanding ambassador for the breed.

11 comments:

  1. Yay! So glad you enjoyed your first group walk experience! I promise that Athena will get better and better with how hard you guys are working with her! Plus, it's a great way to make new, like-minded friends!

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    1. We were glad that yesterday was as successful as it was. Hopefully next month's group walk will go well (the weather is starting to change here though, so we will see how many people go out with their dogs in the rain!).

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  2. I have the habit of crying when I read blog posts where I can totally identify with the feelings and emotions--bottom line, this made me cry!! I want this outlet for my dogs! I am going through major owner guilt right now for not having the money for formal training and the time for some of the other things. We have totally thrown ourselves into fostering and neglected training that should have happened ages ago. The plus is my pups are great at sharing their space with new dogs and different personalities but they have little to no formal training. UGH! When the next two get adopted...then we will focus hopefully.
    I'm so jealous you had this opportunity! The close-up shot of Athena is perfection!!

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    1. Emily- I can relate to you when I feel guilty that once our 6 weeks of training at Petco are over, we may not have the money to have Athena in formal training consistently. Because we would love to keep her in some sort of training class, we have been seeking out places in our area that offer discounts or have sales on their classes (the shelter we adopted Athena from offers a discount for shelter dogs, Petco/Petsmart often issue $20 off training coupons, and we recently found a local trainer that is offering $50 off a training class if we sign up before next Monday). So, we are hoping that these deals might allow us to continue Athena's training for a few more months.

      I am also a lover of YouTube and can spend hours watching dog training videos on there! So many people (and professional trainers) post videos of commands and how to teach them to your dog. Since I've never had dogs before, I'm pretty clueless as to how to train a dog. These videos have helped me to learn how to have confidence in myself as a trainer.

      Even though we have enjoyed having Athena in a basic obedience class at Petco, I don't think that the class has actually been what has been training Athena-- B and I have done all of the hard work on our own. The class has mostly just shown us basic commands and how to teach them to Athena (all of which we could have learned how to do from YouTube videos or training books). We then spend our time outside of class teaching Athena the commands. Pretty much we love going to class so that we can bug the trainer about some of Athena's behavioral issues and get advice on how to deal with them (nipping, leash biting, jumping up, etc.).

      So, don't feel bad that you haven't put your pups in formal training! It's very possible to train your dogs on your own at your home. Even if you only have 15 minutes a day to spend training, use it! That little bit of time each day will be a huge help in the long run! You are also lucky that you have the ultimate distraction to practice with....other dogs! The only time that we get to practice our training with other dogs around is during our training class or if there are any around when we go to the park.

      P.S....we always appreciate your very thoughtful comments =)

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    2. That's helpful advice, thank you! Some days you feel like the best dog owner in the world, and others you are overwhelmed how so many people out there who seem to have dogs that could run for president...

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  3. Dog walking group is an amazing idea. Its a better way to socialize with friends and you can spend time with your dogs. Even your pets also enjoy the company of other pets.....

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  4. Hiya! How do you think, have your writting skills improved lately?

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