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January 12, 2012

best dog blog, champion of my heart, new year's eve graphicThe whole New Year thing bugs me. I’m not big on resolutions because the truth is that every day could be considered an important threshold — not just December 31. So, this little reflection takes root in one dramatic realization that came with the onset of truly cold temperatures.

Here’s how it went down.

While walking Lilly a couple of months ago, we crossed the county road at the corner so that we could walk on the far side. This strategy — assuming the really mean dogs that live on the other corner are not loose — gives Lilly extra space from the dogs on the inside corner who charge the fence and bark at us. (Unlike most fences around here that are set back due to easements, this fence butts right up to the road, so there is no buffer zone.)

The trouble with being on *that* side of the road is that it’s often in the deep shade from the mountain to the west. That means:

  • The road is always icy this time of year.
  • The air temperature drops significantly.

Sure, it helps that the mountain also blocks the ridiculous winter winds we get, but it’s dark and chilly for about an 1/8th of a mile.

I’m glove-challenged. Truly. I’ve got the worst dexterity while wearing gloves. I once told one of our agility trainers that I simply could NOT think straight while wearing gloves. She laughed and said, “Why are your brains in your hands?”

With gloves on I cannot hand Lilly treat after treat to help her past the barking dogs. I can hand her a treat here or there with them on, but in situations when she needs rapid fire treating to get past a fear-causing trigger, I’m required to remove my glove on my right hand.

Since Lilly gets increasingly more shark-like when she is fearful, my fingers take a beating as I hand over treats. That’s a major drag in normal weather, but it’s downright, eyes-watering painful in the cold.

It @#$@# hurts.

On the walk in question, I found myself FURIOUS about how much it hurt.

Now, it was tempting to blame Lilly, but the fault is entirely my own. I never taught Lilly to have a “soft mouth.”

I regret that.

The whole incident got me thinking about other things I didn’t do very well when Lilly was young. Here is my list of things I wish I’d trained better or addressed earlier:

  • Soft mouth
  • Resource guarding and being bossy toward Ginko
  • Barking, in a variety of scenarios, including while playing
  • Recalls when Lilly wants to play with other dogs (Since she so rarely wants to engage with other dogs, I just didn’t teach this as a separate skill.)

I suppose that isn’t such a terrible list, considering. With future dogs, however, I’ll be much more careful about training this issues early (and often).

What’s on your list?

P.S. I got a real giggle out of Dog Lover’s Digest’s list of realistic resolutions for dogs.



About the Author Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related.

I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

  1. Teach my dogs not to eat wild mushrooms that they find in the forest… yes, it’s really my number one regret that I didn’t nip that problem in the bud.

  2. Interesting thoughts.

    I regret not working with my Lab, Alie, more intensively on her fearfulness towards humans when she was younger. She used to be terrified. Now she will warm up in about 10 minutes or so if a stranger has a hand full of caviar (i.e. high-value treats).

    While she is a great demo dog, skill-wise, I have a hard time visualizing her ever passing a CGC evaluation.

  3. We used to play a game with Cali where we would grab her paw and she would pull it away and bark . .now drying her paws and clipping nails is pretty impossible (silly us!). We also used to laugh when she barked at dogs on TV – now we can’t watch anything with dogs, and she knows every commercial on TV that has a dog in it and she barks before they even appear! The kitties really wish we hadn’t encouraged this behavior 🙂 I think we learn from our training mistakes. I second the notion of the gloves with the mitten covers – I have a pair and I love them!!

  4. I also don’t like making resolutions in the new year Roxanne. But, your post actually made me think about what I could be doing now to train my dogs. Those are actually goals I would enjoy and could accomplish.

    I think each new dog in our lives teaches something we didn’t know before or makes us realize things about ourselves we didn’t see or couldn’t acknowledge before. I know Daisy made me realize that I am a very impatient person. I learned patience from her. Knowing what I know now about working with puppy mill dogs, I know I would do differently with Daisy had I to do over again, but I learned.

    BTW – as a former professional dog walker, I also have a glove issue. I had to wear the thin kind that are really for much warmer weather if I was walking a dog because I couldn’t do treats or hold the leash very well if I wore thicker ones. And yes. the snarking at your hand while in the cold is painful. I feel so bad that you have to deal with this. It sucks.

  5. We did that “Ouch!” bit as well with Ned as a puppy…it worked out really, really well. He has a super soft mouth now at age four. I think we got turned on to it in one of those puppy books…had never really thought about it before that but it made a huge difference.

  6. Hmmmmmmmmm.

    I like the Dec 31 tradition of making a “resolution” for the year. True, every day there is a new threshold to cross, and it’s not just the 31st that we should celebrate the planning and preparing to cross it. I just like that it IS celebrated…even if the masses only recognize it on one day of the year.

    I bettttchu that you will make excellent headway with Lilly this year, including teaching that “soft mouth”. Yeowch. (I still have to tell my dog to be easy when she takes the treat – especially if it’s one she particularly likes. So, in that regard, if you come up with some ingenious method to fix that problem…. please share ;____; )

  7. There’s no way to avoid the ‘winter training hands.’ I get them every year and usually the tips of my thumbs crack and bleed.
    I regret not having better leash manners with Pitsch and he has now passed his bad habits down to Lulu.

  8. Oh – and I love the food tubes ‘cus you can put yummy squishy food in there that’s much higher value than dried out bits of whatever.

    And I have a zillion things I wish I did differently with Charlie =-/

  9. Have you ever considered a food tube? I use it with Charlie sometimes because he can shark too. Also, look into those gloves with cut off tops and mitten covers that come off and on – I had a pair that had a magnetic closure and I loved it dearly (lost it somewhere over the years). It won’t save your fingers from sharky BC but it makes on/off really easy and the rest of your hand can stay warm!

  10. Buster is also very sharky – especially when he’s nervous and I know how it can hurt when your fingers are cold! Buster’s even drawn blood a few times. The good news is, when I miss the body language, his teeth give me a heads-up as to how nervous he really is. And, it’s something we’ve been able to improve over time – when he bites I say “ouch!” and stop treating him. His mouth has gotten a lot softer since we found him.

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