Calming his Mind
I had gone out of town for a few days, leaving Spence home in good hands with family members. He got plenty of exercise, however it was all off-leash hikes. No leashed pack walks. To top it off the days were very hot and humid. The night I returned I could see Spence had a lot of energy during a time when he is usually very tired. I had the kids take him for a nighttime off-leash walk in the fields where he ran and played with Bruno. When they returned I put Spence in his crate as usual. Instead of plopping down and going to sleep like he always does he yipped. I took him outside to make sure he didn't have to go to the bathroom. He peed and I waited long enough to make sure he didn't have to poop.
I put him back into his crate. The pup yipped again. So unlike him.
I lay in bed listening to him yip realizing he had never gone that long without a walk where he heels on a leash. I had two choices: either let him yip himself to sleep knowing his mind was not calm, or get out of bed and take him for a real walk where he was heeling beside me.
I decided for the latter, got out of bed, got dressed and snapped on the leashes. I took Spence and Bruno for a leashed walk at 10:30 p.m. It was night but it was still hot and humid. When we returned 40 minutes later I had sweat dripping from my nose, but I also had a tired, content puppy that just wanted to go to sleep.
While out on a walk with all four dogs I passed a skate park with a handful of teenage boys riding their skateboards. Something about the noise of the skateboards rolling across the ground and the crash as they came back down onto the pavement after a jump freaked Spencer out. His eyes were wide, his tail was tucked between his legs and he stared at the rolling, crashing creatures. His first reaction was to bolt, to get out of there. I quickly realized the plan for the walk was no longer to finish at the other end of the woods, but to get Spencer over the fear of the skate park. I stopped the puppy from bolting. Besides not wanting that to be his reaction to fear, bolting while on a leash is really bad manners. I blocked him and had him sit down. Spence watched the creatures roll back and forth. We then practiced walking past the park. Over and over again we circled around. I had to resist the urge to reach down and scratch him behind his ears. The pup needed leadership, not affection. Petting him at that time would have been telling him good boy for being afraid and very well could have been the beginning of a life-long fear of skateboards. I was grateful that the teens did not call over and ask me any questions or try and talk to the dogs. Now was not the time to talk to the pup. I had to be careful not to give him any affection or reinforce in any way that I agreed with his fear. I walked all around the area, not allowing Spence to bolt and asking him to heel until I saw that his tail had moved from being tucked tightly between his legs to his normal relaxed position. That was my cue that I could now move on and leave the park area.
Tacoma the Great Pyrenees used to be afraid of that same skate park and I had done the same thing with her; walked her past the park often, giving her leadership, not affection. She is no longer afraid and was a very good girl as we showed Spencer that a skateboard was nothing he should be afraid of. We'll have to walk past that skate park a lot in the next month or so to get him to completely realize he has nothing to fear.