Sweet Eloise today on our hike!
Eloise had her best hike ever today. I was so proud of her. Here is why...
When Eloise started hiking with us many months ago, she had a tendency to be quite startled and reactive when we came across people on the trail or anywhere near the van. She became quite vocal and although her reaction was never even close to aggressive, it startled our fellow trail users and showed that Eloise wasn't so comfortable when she encountered things she couldn't anticipate. We embarked on a training program to help Eloise learn to be more calm and confident so that her over-reaction would no longer be her go-to choice.
Our training program had three goals:
- Achieve a 100%, rock-solid recall.
- Maintain a calm state when encountering people, dogs, animals etc. on the trail.
- Look to me for guidance when she isn't sure what to do.
I am happy to report that today, Eloise achieved all three goals!
Stevie and Eloise mid-chase!
We have been working toward this success for months and it feels so satisfying to see this girl having so much fun in a confident, relaxed way. Today I took Eloise and Stevie to a park that I know is well-used compared to some of our more remote hiking spots. I purposely wanted to test her around other people and dogs.
When we first arrived, I took Eloise out of the van, sprayed her with K9 Expeditions' own natural bug spray, got her ready and secured her so that I could do the same with Stevie. As I was working on getting Stevie ready, another dog and his owner were returning to their vehicle and the dog was barking at us. In the past, Eloise would have been quite anxious and vocal about them being so close to our van. However today, she sat calmly and received lots of treats and praise for her behaviour. How fantastic was that?!!!
At the beginning of our hike we accessed a large open field for some play time before we hit the trails. As the pictures show, Stevie and Eloise had a blast.
Rays of Sunshine!
Once they got this out of their systems, we hit the trail. About three minutes in, we encountered a couple with three dogs who appeared quite suddenly from a bend in the trail. Before I could even react, Eloise came running to me and sat in front of me. I think this is the result of all of our recall work, especially when we encounter anything unusual or fellow hikers. Of course she got a huge treat and lots of praise for that!!! Wow!! This is a huge payoff for all of that training we've done. I was definitely impressed!
Eloise exploring the hydro field we accessed for part of our hike today.
We chatted for a few minutes with the couple, during which Eloise sat calmly and politely, then went on our way. Our next encounter occurred about 15 minutes later, just before the above picture was taken. We met a dog walker with five or so dogs with her. Eloise seemed quite interested in the dogs, but because I don't know the dog walker or the dogs, I recalled both Stevie and Eloise and both dogs turned on a dime to come back to me. Again, I was so pleased with them both. The dog walker passed with her pack and we carried on.
The next part of our hike was uneventful in terms of meeting animals or people on the trail, but Eloise's next challenge came when we got back to the van. A large work truck was parked next to the van and a couple of workers with orange work clothes on were hanging out laughing and talking loudly while enjoying their lunch break. Eloise didn't even seem to notice them. She and Stevie were on leash at this point, but they both just headed over to the van to get groomed and settled back in their crates for a well-deserved rest.
What made today so magical wasn't just that Eloise passed all of her tests with flying colours, but also that our hikes are safe, relaxed and enjoyable for all when the dogs can trust their human hiking leader to take care of any situation they encounter, and the human hiker can trust the dogs to respond to their direction.