Saturday, February 18, 2012

Troublemakers, Reformed!

   My dogs have a lot of energy. There's a reason we run together 2-3 times a week, and visit the dog park once a week. And why I have Mary Ann come over periodically to spend time with them. And confine them to the kitchen during the day, so they don't go on a mission of destruction in the house or chase Gypsy while I'm at work. They go wild when I return home, whether I'm gone for ten minutes or ten hours. We have a lil' howl-fest in the kitchen every day; that burns some energy. And while they sleep in their beds, they are leashed up to the nightstand, so they don't go on a nocturnal rampage. 
   ...And all this on a normal day, when they don't have all kinds of pent up energy from being sedentary during the excruciatingly slow process of letting my ankle heal.
   While I was in LA visiting Kelley, Brett graciously came by and picked them up for a long hike in Shawnee Mission park, which they no doubt loved. But two weeks of very little exercise was creating a ticking time bomb. And it went off this week!
   I came home Thursday night to find that they had torn into the bag of recycling that was hung on the door. It has been there every day for weeks, and they've never touched it. There's nothing to eat in it: just junk mail, newspaper, bits of plastic. No matter: they used it to make confetti and have a party in the kitchen. I was not overjoyed to find it, but their expressions cracked me up. I posted this photo on Facebook and it got a ton of likes and comments. I was amused.
   Friday night, however, when I came home from work, I was no longer amused. Taylor (presumably) had reprised his dog-burglar role from December, in which he used the handle of the stove to scale the countertops, snatching a plate of cookies and cake and gorging himself. (Not to mention leaving telltale claw marks all over the handle, which Mary Ann repaired beautifully!) This time he snatched an unopened newspaper and shredded it. Now, I can't argue that the KC Star is probably better shred than read, but this was just bad behavior, and it has to stop.
   I wasn't sure yet what to do, as I am not yet up to more than a little walking, much less running. But today I needed to run to the east side of town to pick up Gypsy's prescription food and medicine at the vet, and that gave me an idea. I loaded up the brats and...
   NO, I didn't drop them off at the animal shelter!!! We drove to Happy Tails dog park in Lee's Summit so they could run to their hearts' content while I stood around. The park has a flat, circular, paved path all the way around, so I knew I could take it easy.
    Happy Tails also has several pieces of agility equipment, and I had brought a pouch full of small treats. I couldn't run, but I walked between obstacles and led the dogs around and around, scaling the a-frame, walking the dog walk, jumping through the tire, traversing the tunnels, and jumping over the bar. Over & over again.
   Aki had fun. And Taylor... is a NATURAL at agility! He flew through the obstacles excitedly with little hesitation, and he even hit all the contact zones properly. For a beginner, he was fantastic. Turns out that being full of energy and being HIGHLY food-motivated is a boon here!
   We spent a full hour at the park, and for most of that, the dogs were attentive, despite being off-leash, and despite the dozens of dogs and people milling around. They had their share of running and playing, but were amazingly focused while I was working with them. I'll need to start training them one at a time, but I think they both will be really good at this!
      And okay, they may not be completely reformed yet... but this was great progress! Hopefully after a few more weeks of healing, I can look into an agility class for my boy. And read my newspaper, unmarred again.