To the fine parents of our Happy Trails Dogs,
Just a short note about dog licenses - this past Thursday, we had a bit of a scare with one of our dogs scurrying under a boulder at Humber Bay Park. The city was incredible! Two animal control trucks arrived; three workers dug and moved rocks for perhaps two or more hours; and the police arrived via boat. Had we needed additional help, the fire department would have been called!
The sweet pup we were searching for had found her way into a crevice, but could not find her way out; the exit slope was quite muddy and deep underground. A loud whoop went out from all involved when our Belle was finally retrieved!
Heartfelt thanks to Swagger, Frida, and the amazing puppy Maize who waited patiently, sitting, sometimes softly crying, as the workers struggled to free Belle. Swagger and Frida were able to locate Belle's exact location and they never wavered from their watch.
Sasha, Zorro's human, also helped in the effort. He stayed for the whole time, helping, and comforting. Another fine individual, Rita, and her boxer Bonsai stayed as well. These fine dog lovers and their sweet dogs never wavered in their watch. Heartfelt thanks to Sasha, Zorro, Rita, and Bonsai!
The boulders at both Humber Bay East and West are truly hazardous ground for small, inquisitive dogs. Our Belle will now remain on leash at these locations, and although I do love trails, there are those dogs who may be in danger while they enjoy their freedom. (This fox terrier is an alert, bright, playful dog with a most amazing sense of smell and instinct to match!)
Another note - please make sure your pup has his/her Toronto Dog License and that it is up to date. The fee is $25 (for neutered or spayed pets). Here is the link: http://www.toronto.ca/animal_services/licensing.htm#01
I am looking forward to sending news of a sweeter nature (although this ending was thankfully a happy one) as your dogs and I continue our explorations! I love them all!
We are all glad our Belle is safe and resting this weekend after her ordeal!
A letter from Swagger's mom to me -- one month ago, Swagger came to me with a muzzle on. Here he is today!
"I had him off leash this weekend for the first time. This saturday my cousin and I went for a dog walk with Swag and his dog Buckley (a big happy go lucky blonde shepherd lab mix) and I was super hesitant about letting him off but he was amazing at greeting other dogs, humans and running around with Bucks. I saw how far he has come Janice and it took my breath away.
Absolutely he still has a long way to go. Thanks you so much for getting him to this point!Have a great day Janice and thanks for caring about him as much as you do. He is a lucky boy!"
I gave Swagger the opportunity to run on a trail and across large spaces. I truly expected him to be able to shed his fear-based aggression. I loved him from the start, as did my sensitive lab, Frida. I think Swagger knew we trusted and loved him, and he responded by making magnificent leaps every day.
Our popular Swagger is the individual holding the stick.
Story to follow.
Within one month, an aggressive dog becomes the most popular dog of the pack!
JANICE!! This warmed my heart. I am so proud of him and can't thank you enough for teaching him how to be sociable again. I see these changes on my walks with him. I no longer muzzle him!.
I had one incident when he threw out a growl at a girl walking by but I quickly corrected that behaviour and he has not so much as barked at a person or growled at a dog since.I take him to the tennis courts to chase ball as I still don't feel fully ready to let him off leash in the park to play ball.
I loved your blog and attribute such a fast change to you and Frida teaching him in your sweet manner. He is learning and I know he wants to be such a good boy - I see it when he knows he is doing something wrong and throws me a side glance from those doe eyes of his.
I want to keep this momentum going and was wondering if you would be able to come again next week Tuesday and Thursday??Thanks again Janice for the updates! I love that he was swimming in February! Unbelievable.Kyla
I adore this dog! And from the start I felt if he were on the trail and gently meeting dogs during the course of the hike, he could be muzzle-free. In an environment unlike the one (dog park) in which he was attacked, he might roam and explore without the muzzle's constraints.
My Frida seems to know (as dogs often do) which dogs are friendly and which dogs to be wary of. From the start, she had a fondness for S. and his playful ways. They both play in the wrestling lab way, although S. loves a good run!
Today, alone with Frida in the car, S. did not wear a muzzle. And for the first time, at the park, he met other dogs when he was wearing his collar without the muzzle attachment. He was wonderful -- smelling, taking his time, and learning how to be sociable.
I was always nearby, of course. But he was so happy! I didn't know he loves to swim! He did swim out to Frida's stick every time and she was quite gracious. I don't expect they'll do much swimming this winter. Still, it was so warm today and they were so eager!
An update on S. who is happily muzzle-free! From S.'s initial reaction to my lab Frida, I had a feeling he could be peacefully muzzle-free on the trail. As seen in the previous post, he and Frida are wonderful friends. Here are some more photos of S. and Frida at Humber Bay East today.
I am not sure S. would have been this relaxed at a traditional off-leash dog park. His memories of an attack on him by two aggressive dogs might be activated and his behavior altered. But here in a wide open space with water all around, he was sociable and happy. I was so thrilled for him!
I do watch carefully to see if other dogs, not known to S. are approaching and on such occasions, I put his muzzle on (offering him a treat after). His play with two new friends was so joyful; I really wanted to remove the muzzle, but held back. As S. gets used to Frida and other compatible dogs, he will be able to enjoy his hikes free of the constraints of a muzzle.
He's a lively, happy, loving dog who is watchful now because of an attack. I want to uproot these memories, but planting one of free open running and playing on the trails and surrounding countryside.
I am so proud of him!
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I knew he was going to be a friend and hiking companion the moment I met him. S, is a mastiff/Shepherd mix with doe eyes and a compact physique. He barked when I first entered the apartment - my Frida does the same. I knelt down (I am not fond of hovering over, even if I am only five feet tall) and did a combination of chatting, treat offering, and simply appreciating. This is a fine dog, I thought. "Love at first sight" is what his human emailed his previous owner.
The story is S. was attacked by two dominant dogs and emerged scarred physically and even more, psychologically. When he feels cornered these days, he takes no chances. Our first walk (our getting-acquainted hike) took place on a Sunday morning at Humber Bay East. Also on the hike were my Frida and the finest, most gentle yet spirited Shepherd who is boarding with us.
I had a feeling S. and our Shepherd would get along famously. They ran and covered so much ground - I just stood and watched and laughed. Three dogs on the trail who had spent time in our back yard and then inside our home becoming acquainted (over forty minutes) before setting out for a car ride to our selected trail. By the time we hit the trail, they were fast friends sharing in the joy of free running and exploration.
Needless to say, S. doesn't wear a muzzle anymore.
Note: this is not true of all dogs who have become aggressive, but the case of one dog who, after being attacked in a dog park, was able to find peace and freedom on the trail.
Trail Walking vs. Dog Parks
_ I've been meaning to tell you how much our puggies have changed since walking with you. Over the holidays we were visiting a lot of different households where, in the past, the puggles were not necessarily praised for their manners and calm behaviours! But this year... what a difference!!! They're so much more relaxed and happy, Chris and I are overjoyed!! I'm so grateful you came into our lives!
It's not me (well, maybe a small part) - it's the trails!
Is Your Dog Trail-ready?
I love trail walking with my canine companions. And I wish all my dogs were trail-ready. Before I take a new friend on a trail, we go to High Park. Some dogs will explore and check back in. Others share their discoveries alongside. Occasionally, a new friend will get too carried away with roaming.
And so I ask all humans of the dogs who hike with me whether their dogs are trail-ready. I always hope they are; but dogs can get lost on a trail. And human voices cannot carry far enough or may not be heeded. I walk such a dog, a bright, energetic fox terrier who finds a scent and follows it. In our trail walks, she will have to be on lead, followed by a romp with other dogs in an enclosed off-leash area. Her human is working hard to improve her dog's recall. And when the time comes, they will both accompany me on a test trail walk.
So it's vital to inform your walker/ hiking guide of your dog's habits and tendencies. Trail walking may commence immediately or may become one of your primary goals for your dog.
My Frida has been hiking with me since she was a puppy. She acts as canine guide and companion and was born to this work. When the hike works, everything is in sync, dogs, human, earth, sky, all.I am wishing this for you and your dog.
Home-Boarding with Heart
So we are practically neighbors! I have fashioned Happy Trails after my own personality and it seems dog lovers recognize the heart that has gone into this service. I just realized today that I adopt as family members the dogs who stay with us. It's not boarding, really, and I love that concept.
It sounds as if you're an individual after my own heart, and you love/raise your Fynnegan as I have our Frida. What a sweetheart you have! Thank you so much for the photos! He is beyond cute!
Frida also had a very sensitive stomach when she was a bit younger. I tried the best kibble and then started cooking for her, after which I went to a holistic vet who suggested Frida eat raw food (as well as lightly steamed vegetables etc.). This vet clinic (East York Holistic Veterinary Clinic) is truly inspiring; they patiently guided me with Frida's new diet, which she loves! I will watch Fynnagan;s food intake so it remains just as you have provided for him.
It will be a joy to have Fynnegan stay with us.
See you both on Monday!
I Tell You - It's the Hike!
_A copy of a letter sent to a dedicated owner of two pugs who may be sharing our trail hikes.
"Starting January, I will be adding a fox terrier to our hiking group. That's around Ossington and Dupont, right near you, I guess. A few questions - what are your dogs' recall like? Are you comfortable with my letting them off leash if we're on a trail? The dogs I walk (except for one who has just been re-homed and is learning) will wander a bit, but will generally stay within viewing range and return when called.
The dog who has just found her new home cannot go off-leash yet, as I worry for her safety. Having one dog like that on our hikes is no problem, but I've decided that dogs hiking with me should be able to be off-leash. They love to run in the forest and open spaces, and I feel city dogs need this. I think this is one important aspect, and the other would relate to the nature of the dog. It's hard for me to walk aggressive dogs. The pleasure of the walk is really vital for all the dogs in the group, so I seek dogs that get along with others. I do walk some dogs who have certain difficulties, but they hike alone with me and my lab Frida (and the fee is slightly more).
And lastly, what time would be best for your dogs and how many times a week are you thinking of? Trail hiking is such a joy really and I must share this - this weekend I am boarding a Springer Spaniel who arrived crying and unsure and unable to settle. I was wondering what to do, really. But as always, my voice and ways are gentle and when boisterous, still gentle and loving, and I decided to go on three hikes a day with the Spaniel (and my Frida). The dog also suffered intense anxiety on the drive to and from the hike.
Well, he just loved crashing through the forest! It was such a joy to watch him relax in a natural element. This is his second day here. He has stopped crying; he is learning how to play (with his mouth and front paws rather than attempting to mount other dogs); and for the first time, he sat beside me in the front seat without barking, panting, and crying! He sat there, alert and curious. I am so proud of him! I tell you, it's the hike!
On our weekly hikes are a Golden, a pug/french bulldog, Chihuahua, until mid-December a Bernease/Border Collie/Shepherd mix, a fox terrier, a Boston, and my lab Frida. I take out only 3 at a time (plus my Frida) so our walks so I can attend and relate personally to all the dogs hiking with me.
To get started, I come over to meet with you and your dogs, at which time I also take your dogs out for a short walk in a nearby park. I am not concerned whether they heel while walking. I want my Frida to walk beside me when we're on the sidewalk, but on the trail, that's not important. Recall is.
Also there are some forms on my site which you could fill out for me - one is for boarding, so that one is not necessary.
I think your love for your dogs shines through in your brief letter about them and I really value that!
Thank you for your patience in reading all of this. I look forward to learning more about your Beau and Belle "
Janice is the founder of and primary caregiver at Happy Trail Dogs Service. She is also the founder of an arts-related non-profit and worked in the fitness industry for over two decades. She is an artist, editor, writer, and mother of two wonderful women and a glorious lab named Frida.