Growing up?

It’s been a while since I posted. I’ve been pet sitting for the last month and a half. Sage has been staying with my younger sister. I admit to a human frailty: I was a little worried that Sage would bond to my sister more closely than she has to me. That doesn’t seem to be the case, though. We did go through a puppy manners class together and it seems to have bonded Sage and I pretty well. It goes to show that even dog trainers need to be reminded once in a while of the advice we give our customers. I always advise new puppy or dog owners to take a basic or puppy obedience class to better bond with their dog. Obviously my advice is sound because it worked for me!

So Sage and I are now both home. I like to take my dogs with me when I go for a bike ride. They generally run alongside either on a loose leash or on one of the many bicycle attachments available out there. Unfortunately, my favorite attachment is the Springer but it doesn’t fit on the bike I have. So Sage and I had her first bicycling lesson yesterday. I had her on a 6′ leash on a combination of her regular collar and a prong collar. The prong collar was to prevent her from pulling out of the regular collar or from pulling too hard if we got to the point where I could actually get on the bike and take a little ride. We didn’t get that far but that’s okay.

I pulled the bike off the front porch and set it up in the yard so that when I brought Sage out we were all ready to get started. At first, Sage took one look at the bike and stopped dead, doing the “What the heck is that?!” crouch typical of an Aussie who is a little nervous. I let her drop back and went on down to stand beside the bike with it between us. When Sage expressed any curiosity or interest in the bike, I clicked and tossed a treat on the ground near the bike (about 2-3 feet away). Within just a few moments, Sage was standing willingly next to the bike and even going so far as to dive under the bike to grab treats when they bounced there. At that point, I figured it was time to start moving. I never actually got on the bike but we managed to get out of the front yard and down to the corner of the block a few steps at a time, me clicking when Sage was near the pedals of the bike and saying a disappointed “Oh, no” when Sage tried to get in front of the bike. Sage is still a baby at 6 months so even if I get her to the point where I can start actually riding the bike while she jogs alongside, we won’t be going very far. There’s a park with a bike path just a few blocks away from where I live. My goal by the time Sage is a year old is to be riding leisurely over to the park and back.

One other piece of advice that I pass on to my students is that a dog needs as much mental exercise (or more) as they do physical exercise. A mentally tired dog is a lot less likely to get into trouble than a dog that is simply physically tired. By training Sage to run with the bike without the benefit of a bike attachment, I’m hoping to supply her the opportunity to use her mind–which is truly a thing of beauty.