I did it folks. For the first time ever, I walked all 3 dogs together. I was a little concerned about how calm I could remain, how frustrated I would be by the time it was over but things have been going so well on our 2 dog walks, I figured it was time to up the ante.
For those who haven't been following this blog for long, our Maggie has a history of leash aggression and Sadie is leash reactive. Hurley didn't get too many walks with them in the beginning so their bad behavior didn't rub off on him. Meanwhile, we have been working hard on their issues and both were finally ready for 2 dog walks earlier this year.
And it went very well. Hurley was the worst with Maggie & Sadie virtually perfect. How did I get here?
1. Our first 3 dog walk was today and it is cold, wet, snowy, slushy and just downright not fun walking weather. I figured this would result in dogs that were less than thrilled to be out and about in it and therefore, a bit calmer. Mission accomplished!
2. We've practiced loads of 2 dog walks in the past few months. The Hubster has especially been great at getting them out together while I do at least one multi-dog walk per week with more individual walks throughout the week.
3. Perfecting single dog walks. We've spent the majority of our time since we got Hurley working on everyone's individual walking behavior and only recently working on multi-dog walks. Sadie & Maggie finally seem to understand that our expectations are the same whether it's just one of them or the whole lot of them. They are finally understanding a lot of things that previously they struggled with - something I attribute to the addition of Hurley.
4. Our dogs "earn" each block they gain access to. When we first started multi-dog walks, we just walked back and forth for a half hour on our block only. And in the middle of the street. If they were good, then we walked one block up and did the same back and forth. It's amazing how quickly dogs start walking well on a leash when they get bored sniffing the same thing over and over and over...
5. I don't have the same expectations in terms of 100% loose leash when I am walking all 3. At this point. So even though Hurley was not great, he wasn't terrible and that's about all I can ask on the first 3 dog walk (technically, the 2nd as the Hubster took them all 3 out once, which was a "disaster" as he called it). This one is most important for me - the level of my frustration/anxiety directly corresponds to the crazy leash behavior. The calmer and more laid-back I am, the better they all are. The less I push them to be "perfect", the better they are in comparison to the last experience. So I let go of any expectations that this walk would be a success, just decided to try it so I would know what we needed to work on and voila! It was pretty darn great.
6. I carry a water bottle on our walks to spritz Hurley. Because he thinks walking with another dog is a great time to play bitey face. I only need to use it once, when we first start out and he's fine the rest of the walk. My hope is that over the next month, I can phase out the use of the water bottle entirely. I much prefer to use this than attempt any leash corrections (which I still don't get how to do them correctly and don't believe they are the best training method for achieving a dog happy to be on the other end of the leash, a critical attitude needed for working on leash reactivity). And since bitey face is a result of Hurley getting amped up, I try not to use a lot of treats at the beginning of our walks as that just amps him up that much more. I wait until he is calmer about getting to walk with his sisters, then we pull out the treats for practicing "watch me"s and sitting nicely at corners. Today, I didn't try either of those though as I just wanted to get a feel for where they all three were at when it came to walking as a pack.
7. I use front clip harnesses on all 3 of them. They pull less and when they do pull, it's less jarring on my arm. This results in me being able to react and control them better as opposed to just trying to keep my arm from being pulled off.
8. I walk the dogs between 8 and 9:30am. This seems to be the perfect time in our neighborhood for the least amount of encounters with people, dogs and cats. All of these things puts the dogs into a tizzy so by walking at less busy times, we are able to achieve better walking behavior. Once we are 100%, we will start upping the ante by walking through a local park, at busier times, etc but we're not there yet.
I was really happy about how Maggie & Sadie were content to walk side by side and didn't try to compete to be out front alongside Hurley. When Hurley was walking between them, we had the best success and for a few precious minutes, all 3 were on very loose leashes, all walking side by side with no side trips to smell grass, no jostling for position. Then we reached a puddle which Hurley had to jump over (Hurley doesn't do puddles) and the peace was broken but those few minutes showed me that we're not far away from entire walks that calm and peaceful.
I have to say Thank You! to 24 Paws of Love. They posted today about the one behavior that they wished magically could be fixed. Theirs was walking behavior as is mine. Their post inspired me to just give the 3 dog walk a try. It was only my uncertainty on how it would go that stopped me from getting to this point. So I decided to wave my own magic wand, bite the bullet and just do it. Sometimes, that's all it takes. I'm sure we're are going to have absolutely terrible, frustrating, awful 3 dog walks in our future. But we started out pretty darn good and we're gonna keep going, no matter what.
In other news, Hurley saw snowflakes for the very first time today and had no reaction. Zero. Zip. Nada. It was disappointing because Maggie & Sadie love romping in the snow and I get giddy excited at the possibility of seeing any here in Portland. Not only did the weather let us down by not snowing steadily for more than 2 minutes at a time, none of it stuck. They say we may get more tonight but I'm not believing those deceitful weather people who toy with my emotions any longer. And how could Hurley not even take notice of the white flakes falling on his nose?. Not even notice! Disappointed, dude, disappointed.