It is interesting how a simple situation morphs into a very complicated event.
Me being busted was the result of such a situation. My only reason for visiting the park was to give Toni a copy of my book (Challenges and Rewards.)
While the park officer was talking to me, because he’d spotted my dogs running free, a couple with a leashed dog was quietly standing about a hundred feet away.
After the officer left in his white pickup, the couple came over and asked, “Did you get a ticket?”
“No, just a warning.”
“We saw your dogs and couldn’t get here in time to warn you. We walk our dog here every day.” The man shared that several people come here every day and walk their dogs.
“All of us let the dogs run free. We just keep a lookout for that guy. Once a white pickup appears, we leash our dogs until he leaves. Then we unleash again.”
It was interesting information. What made it even more interesting was the fact that less than two hundred feet away was a very wide and long fenced dog exercise area. It was a recent addition to this massive grassy park.
It had both small and large dog areas. Each area had facilities where the dogs could drink water. A large covered shelter with a picnic table allowed people to rest while their dogs enjoyed mingling with other dogs.
As I mentioned this, we both looked at the dozen or so dogs captured within the exercise area. There was lots of activity as the dogs ran around and the owners either followed them or gathered in small tight groups and talked.
“Yep, and that’s what caused the entire situation,” he said. The exercise area was built two years ago, and lots of people use it. It is very popular.
However, this past summer, the entire exercise area was closed for repair. Not just for a few weeks, but for the entire summer. The dogs had no place to go, so eventually, the owners continued to come to the park and exercised the dogs where the couple and I were standing.
According to the man, many of the dogs were not leashed. I guess it was common to see fifty or more dogs running around at any one time.
This huge park contains at more than a half mile of grass. Several different organizations have staked a claim for their activities. Sit Means Sit had an area where Toni and her assistant conduct both basic and advanced dog training.
Basic training consisted of the commands: place, come, heel, sit and down. All commands are conducted with the dogs leashed.
From Day ONE, all dogs are equipped with an electronic collar. The remote device is held by the dog owner. The owner is trained with the dog. The owner initially triggers all commands by activating the remote device.
Toni prepares each owner with precise instructions and has the owner ‘test’ the effectiveness of the electric ‘charge’ the dog will feel.
How does it feel? Will it hurt the dog?
Good question. Most people have no idea what it feels like to be ‘zapped’<grin>
Seriously, people get shocked all the time. You have. It gets your attention, but it doesn’t hurt you. It’s called static electricity. Oh yeah… you know how it feels.
So, does the dog.
Dogs are smart. They quickly learn to pay attention and associate a command with a response: OBEY (or else).
Once the dog pays attention, the rest is easy. Repeat and repeat and repeat.
Toni has a cute sentence stated on the side of her vehicle. “We don’t train husbands or children.”
Advanced training continued with additional commands. Leashes are not used in advanced training.
Somewhat nearby a group of men played Cricket. I never understood the game. The players are enthusiastic and run around. Yelling and cheering but my attention focused on an empty spot where frisbee used to be played.
A dozen or people would line up with their dogs, each about ten feet from each other. The people would fling a frisbee, and the dogs would race out and catch it by leaping high into the air and return the frisbee to its owner.
As I entered the park, we passed the agility competition area. It was vacant, but once a month there is an organization who holds agility competition. It is a popular event, widely attended by both participants and spectators.
Around the edge of the field, tents are set up, and caged dogs are sheltered from the sun while they wait their turn to compete. The agility obstacles are strategically positioned in an area that has to be at least a hundred feet square.
There is a twenty-foot tunnel the dog has to race through. A dozen three feet high stakes are placed close together. The dog has to weave between them.
There is an inverted ‘V’ shaped ramp to race up and down the other side, and I think a raised hoop to jump through. There are other fun obstacles as well.
It is a timed event. It is fun to watch. I don’t know what is more fun… watching the dog race through all the obstacles or watch the handler trying to keep up with the dog.
Yes, the agility competition includes the handler. I don’t think the handler is timed.
He or she, quite a few of the handlers are women. They encourage the dog to run faster. The handler runs in front to guide the dog which obstacle to race to next… or trys to catch up as the dog seems to know the correct path to take.
Chis would be great at agility stuff. He’s extremely fast. However, I’m not.
He wouldn’t be good at the frisbee game. I tried that once. He gleefully ran after the frisbee. It came down before he could catch it. He ‘worried’ it for a few minutes and then left it lay.
So much for frisbee.
So much for frisbee Period.
When I finally had an opportunity to talk to Toni and gave her a copy of my book, she told me the unintended consequences of closing the dog exercise area for the whole summer.
All those loose dogs resulted in lots of people complaining. There were hundreds of people who use the park for a picnic area or to stroll around. They didn’t have dogs. They complained about all the loose dogs.
The park decided to solve the problem. The enforced the leash law. It meant that the frisbee group could no longer play frisbee. Toni didn’t share how she handles off-leash training.
Here’s Toni with her copy of my book. Her story is Chapter 33 of the 111 stories.
She has been training dogs since a teenager. She is highly sought after. Trainers from other states have her come to give specialized training. I was very fortunate to be trained by her.
Before the class started, I wandered around and talked with a few of the folks who are currently taking a class. These folks were just beginning their training.
This is an interesting photo. In the foreground, you see a green stick with an orange tennis ball. The man flicks the stick, and the ball will shoot out more than a hundred feet. All it takes is a flick of his wrist. You try throwing a tennis ball a hundred feet.
When you play a game with a dog, you are going to repeat tossing the ball more than a dozen times. This flexible item is a must-have when playing ball with your dog.
Lena is the kneeling woman with a white band around her head. She is an assistant trainer. She is an Occupational health tech.
Her dog, Aurora is a Belgium Sheepdog. It is a highly intelligent, quick dog. Many of them are skilled agility dogs. As its name implies, they were bred to herd sheep.
Aurora. He is only a youngster at five months.
This beauty is Belgium Tervuren. He is also five months. I had one when I was in northern German back in the early 60’s. They are wonderful, loyal dogs and eager to please. He belongs to the man with the orange ball.
Belgium Sheepdog and Belgium Tervuren are both European breeds. Both classified as working dogs.
Kelly told me this is her second class. She came one week and then was on vacation for two weeks. Look at the calm Doberman on her placemat.
Her dog, Zara is only five months old. She has already learned “place.” Each dog has a placemat. ‘Place’ is one of the early taught commands. It is an easy command to teach and once the dog understands ‘place’ they know exactly where to go when you say, “go to your place.”
During the time I was wandering around and talking with Toni, Bernie and Chris were lounging in the car. Had I not already had a run-in with the park authority, I would have had both dogs with me.
When it comes to ‘dog authorities,’ I follow the advice ‘Once bitten, twice shy.’ The dogs are comfortable in the car.
The class was about to start, so we said our goodbyes, left and came home.