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!
Ernie and Bella
This is your new blog post. Click here and start typing, or drag in elements from the top bar.
Yesterday I worried my new friends, two pugs named Ernie and Bella might not be ready for trail hiking. I and their owners (family) had been inspired by the image of the puggies experiencing the sense of freedom that comes from being leash-free on the trail.
But at the High Park off-leash area, Ernie had roamed too far and although he was found on the other side of a fence along the path, he had traveled and stood alone and somewhat confused away from Bella and our pack. He had visited with me at our house before the walk, sharing Frida's toys and treats, and being cuddled by me and my daughter Caroline. I always do this with new dogs, as well as with dogs who hike regularly with us. I think it helps develop a powerful bond - we become relatives.
Anyhow, Ernie and Bella's family reassured me: they had thought Ernie might get carried away, but they had been willing to have him hike off-leash. They suggested Ernie stay on lead if I felt more confident, but should I sense a shift in his staying power, I might give free rein another try.
Yay and yay! Today we came home for some quality bonding and then headed out for Humber bay Park East. Ernie gets anxious in the car, so he likes a reassuring arm around his torso. Bella watches over him.
At first I kept Ernie on leash, but within five minutes he was running through the bushes and along the path. Whenever he came within arms reach I'd call his name and give him a peanut butter star from Fetch on Roncevalles. I like to think the honest affection I felt for both him and Bella helped keep both Puggies (as well as for Giselle who shared the hike) within range, but I know those treats were tempting.
After the hike, Bella and Ernie came home with us once again, briefly this time. On the way back to their house, Ernie was calmer in the car. From time to time I'd say "I know, it's not easy for you" and I'd hold him close. He didn't understand the words, but I do believe he felt my empathy. There seemed to be a certain flow between us, deepened by our hiking time, and I felt honored.
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.
Dogs Need to Hike!
Tomorrow is a busy day. I'll pick up Q., a Boston who adores both Frida and me (affection which we return), in the early part of the morning, before the Aussiedoodle arrivies for his one-night stay-over. Frida does much of the welcoming; she has a gentle, enthusiastic way of putting dogs at ease. And I think, in my human way, I greet in a similar fashion. And then we'll go for our second hike of the day -- a wonderful shared time and natural way to bond.
At noon, we'll return home: I shall eat lunch with my daughter Caroline, and then off we go, Aussiedoodle, Frida and I to pick up a pug/French bulldog for a hike along Humber River. The pug loves to explore, but all my canine friends do. More and more I feel their joy in running through forest trails. They have their own rhythms, running after smells, each other, easy-going walking, dashing off again, returning for a treat and happy word; I have become committed to hiking with my dogs who come into their own on the trail.
And later, a stop-off at T.'s place, who is missing our hikes due to a recovering sprain on his right leg. We're just walking along the blocks near his house. He goes about sniffing and generally enjoying our stroll, but it's not the same.
This week I am determined to bring my dogs to Clareville. I'll report back after that hike.
This is Tono. His owner was desperate to find a dog walker; he needed someone to walk Tono three times, something he usually did, but as he would be out of town, and so on. "Keep him on leash. Make sure no other dogs are around. And only take him behind the school (Dundas and Bloor) at night and early in the morning."
"Can I let him off leash if the gate is closed and no one is around?" I said. "And do you ever let him off his leash?"
The owner roller blades and bike rides with his dog in tow. Turbo is eleven years old and in amazing shape. I put a harness on him for our walks. He pulls and for an eleven-year-old dog, he's still powerful. Each time I visited, he was thrilled to see me. Of course I brought my organic dried lamb treats.
I walk and board dogs and I see their profound pleasure in playing with their own species. Tono deserves this. Neuter your dogs!
(The name Tono is a fictitious one.)
Art for Puppy Giselle
Busy with Frida and Giselle today - High Park, home, park behind AGO, walking dogs in Kensington - wanting to give the puppy Giselle a full experience!
Letter to C., upon Miloh's Stay-Over
Just wanting to let you know everything is wonderful. I took Miloh and Frida to Humber Bay East and they played ball, and even swam a bit. They even learned to share one ball, taking turns and so on! Miloh is just so curious, and he adores playing. Frida has a squeeky animal with squared off sections he really has taken to.
Also went to High Park so they could play ball in the field - it never fazes them to locate the ball in the dark, of course. Anyhow they are getting along perfectly. Frida is really relaxed.
Miloh has now settled down on this fake fur in the kitchen. I had a feeling he was tired, so I put a pillow down on the living room carpet and lay down. Sure enough, he lay beside me and settled down. What a fine, bright, loving dog! It's so interesting how we had to discover each other's rhythms.
Hope you're having an enjoyable time. Not to worry about a thing!
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.