Squash and I have been taking baby steps towards scootering together without Maisy while she recovers. My immediate goal was to make one full loop with him around the road we’ve been training on without stopping. A year ago I would have thought this an impossible dream.
But, a few things came together this week for us. One, he has matured considerably over the summer and fall. We’ve been in a foundations agility class and have really clicked with each other as a team. I’m pretty sure that, at almost 4, he’s the oldest dog in a class full of dogs younger than 2; it’s amazing the difference I see in him compared to where he was when HE was the youngest dog in a class.
Then, I got some very good advice from Squash’s first mom at Hoof and Howl Sled Dogs:
1. Shorten his line. You can see in the pictures from our previous outing that I left his (red) line attached to the main (black) line.
I think this was partly because of habit and that it just never really occurred to me that I didn’t need it, I’m just used to hooking them up that way. And I think partly I was a little afraid the main line by itself would be too short… but it really wasn’t.
2. Be generous with the brakes, the restraint and a touch of frustration can build drive. In retrospect, it makes sense that some oppositional force would kick in – on walks he is happy to pull against leash pressure. I definitely need to work on my braking skills, it’s tricker for me than it seems like it should be to keep a constant pressure on, but I’m getting there.
Then, I also tossed in a little bit longer pre- and post-run walks. I had noticed on hikes and canicross recently that he seemed to be fairly nosy, distracted and scattered at the beginning and then settle in to some serious out-front pulling later, so I thought it might help get his mind in a good place to get some sniffs and pees out of the way before we got down to business as well as using it as a reward for a job well done. And it never hurts to have a longer warm-up and cool down.
So overall, putting these measures in place made a huge difference. There were a few close calls where he lagged a hair and a few where I had to kick the scooter, and I had to do a lot of cheerleading (not audible since the current handlebar mount blocks the microphone) – but we didn’t have to stop once!
As evidence, I am including the full video here, but I wouldn’t blame you for not watching all four minutes of it. Just keeping myself accountable.
I’d like to repeat this a few times before I get too cocky, but then the next goal will be to straighten out the zig-zagging and keep him actually in front for the whole loop. Then after that, keep him actually pulling for the whole loop.
Maisy, meanwhile, has been doing stretches and going on walks. She’s cleared to wear her harness on walks which makes her SO happy, although she still has to be on a very short leash so she won’t try to do anything crazy.
So for now, Maisy is recovering, Squash is growing, and I’m learning more about training. All is well in Mush Puppy land.