Leave it

Yesterday I took the dogs to Dana Point Harbor.  It is a lovely place to walk the dogs; there are lots of other dogs, beautiful scenery, fresh air and a crazy amount of squirrels.  Depending on the time of year there can be a lot or a ridiculous amount, yesterday was the ridiculous amount. I mean truly, there are so many that I was shaking my head much of the time.  It was obviously baby season watching the 4" little critters crawl around everywhere until Mom would shriek and they'd all go running for cover.  The old timers, the big guys just sit and don't bat an eyelash when you go by.  They know that the dogs are on leashes.

The last time we were at the harbor there were just a few or least we only saw a few.  Anyway we worked on our "leave it."  Elsa did amazing and quickly moved her attention from the little creatures to Mom and kept walking.  Luke on the other hand is a diehard sled dog when we are around the squirrels.  He has always had a problem around them and gets into his "zone."  He no longer lunges and dives at the squirrels but pulls hard and steady due to his level of excitement.  He has dilated pupils and is very difficult to even talk to.  At 11.5 years old I have given up trying and often opt for a bungee leash for our harbor walks.

We were doing pretty well at our walk until a giant family decided that they should dart from one side of the path to the other willy nilly style.  There were adults and babies, the adults ran straight across while the babies ran around a bit before getting to their destination.  This was more than any dog with drive could take and the dogs commenced to pull so hard that I had to brace myself.  "Good grief," I thought as we veered off the path to get some sort of composure.  Once we were back we continued the walk without another crazy incident like that one.

I had a lot of treats with me, I always do but next time I will bring higher value treats.  The whole thing with the leave it exercise is that you have to have something good enough for your dog to leave whatever it is that they are wanting.  Will they leave a squirrel for a cheerio?  Not likely.  A piece of chicken, maybe.  It all depends on what a dog likes.  Luke would not take any food when we first got to the harbor but once we got underway the craziness of the squirrel diminished to just a high level of excitement so he then accepted treats.

We walked past a couple with a brown lab watching the squirrels.  The dog sat in a trance like posture, his stare fixed on the squirrels.  He looked like he might burst any second but he didn't.  He was much older and that in itself is a huge difference between dealing and unglued.  Luke can sit and watch the squirrels but he will not leave his "zone," until we leave the harbor.  Elsa is so young that she reacted to every squirrel she saw, but she did not have dilated pupils which was nice.

All dogs are different, drive is different and how they react to a chase object is different.  Tilley use to get into stalk posture, way down low and did her entire walk this way.  She was like a panther in slow motion.  Even her head turning was slow, it was the only mode she knew when around so many squirrels.  Dogs are dogs and when put in the middle of a whole lot of critters?   Well........they will be dogs