The past two years have been a huge exercise of balance between limits and liberties. The two of my dogs have different limits and knowing them is key to giving them the liberties that they’ve earned in a safe way.
And if you know Loki, you know he has extreme anxiety over the smallest thing. Just think about what horses and cows did to him when he moved here. Ya, it wasn’t pretty. And it was always very loud.
Remember the first time he and Juno saw a horse and rider? The horse came up quietly behind us in an open field, trotting while my dogs were off leash. The dogs saw him and bolted. Loki got off a few barks but returned immediately and you all know we ended up chasing Juno and the horse and rider for 20 minutes through the farm fields. The horse and rider had tried many times to turn her back and gently encourage her to go away. But she had none of it and kept on trotting–happily, curiously and non-aggressively, along with them. I was pretty embarrassed. Today, if she and Loki see a rider and they’re off leash, they will return to me on recall to be leashed and wait for the rider to pass. Even leashed, Loki used to go insane when the horse and rider passed. It would take handfuls of treats, eating them machine-gun style, one after another, just to recondition whatever crackery he had going on in his brain to a calm happy feeling around a horse. Today, he barely needs any treats and a horse and rider can pass on a trail just like this without a single bark from him.
And cows? I couldn’t get within a football field distance with him on leash to pass a cow. Today he passes them easily, with barely a glance in their direction. Oh sometimes the temptation is hard to resist. Passing a cow laying inches from the barbwire fence and on a skinny trail with very little ability to give distance, sure, he’ll push my buttons and put his nose where he shouldn’t. So he gets leashed. But from where he started, barking his fool head off at every farm animal to passing quietly, is just sometimes too amazing for me to realize how far he’s come.
He’s not perfect and I still watch him and Juno like a hawk when we walk in the forest. You never know what to expect. A herd of cows, a herd of deer, goats, chickens, all practically free ranging. On our walk in Fribourg last week, we heard hundreds of hunting dogs, in training for the upcoming hunting season.
And that was something I didn’t even want to test off-leash. Juno wouldn’t think twice about abandoning me to go flirt and hunt with the hunky boy hounds. And Loki would be going ballistic with jealousy. So we high-tailed it out and back deep into the forest.
We know our limits.