Blog me like a hurricane!

If you have not already done so, you must now mentally prepare yourself and unleash the falsetto metal god within. (I am lookin’ at you MBIH!)

Here i am…
That’s all for the topical weather related commentary, but i think a fairly good intro to something new here at the bone. In the tradition of great writers and hacks alike, this marks the beginning of the first serialized set of stories at Bone of Contention. I can tell you that it is all about dogs, dog training, a wide-ranging though not exhaustive discussion on leashes, and a weird lady. It is currently 10 single spaced pages without pictures, and I have it broken into 5 semi-equal sections. It isn’t going to change the world, or make your cry, but it does give me a chance to share a few things and more importantly, work on the writing. I did largely start this blog to get me to keep writing and working on storytelling, and this story was very good practice. (And you thought i just wanted to complain to the universe about web browsers!)

And one more bit of pre-post business. I don’t know what is happening with the formatting here. The text fields and where i have made paragraph breaks look different in the wordpress post creation screen, full screen mode, and preview mode. Why this would be, i don’t know. Sorry about that.
I had an oddly fascinating/annoying/just-plain-weird encounter yesterday (August 26th) and decided to share it here with you all.
You will be shocked to learn that, first, there is some back story. I believe anyone who reads here is familiar with this fella…

Mighty Lucas rids the world of another groundhog.
Mighty Lucas rids the world of another groundhog.

Only three of my pals have met Mickey and Max (and I think only one of them reads this).

Lucas, Mickey, and Max
Lucas, Mickey, and Max

Right now, Lucas and i are living with Mickey and Max and their two bipeds. We used to go on our walks together – at least two bipeds and the three dogs, but as Lucas gets older, this has become more and more difficult. Lucas does not like to walk quite as far as he used to. He often walks just long enough to do his thing then he stops in the middle of the path and turns to face the car and stands there until you recognize your error and go with him back to the car. (The guy is 15 so it is hard to blame him.) Lucas also gets bored quickly. He likes to go to new places and take new walks.
Mickey is about 3 and Max is about 5 and they have different needs. We can’t do what we used to do. I get up about 6 every day and take Lucas out. I used to take everyone. At first, the other boys were frustrated that we did not all go together, but Lucas and I solo are always back inside before 20 minutes passes and that includes the round trip drive in the car. My friend takes his guys out later and they do about an hour. I take Lucas to a different park in the afternoon and my friend takes his guys out a bit later. I walk Lucas alone a bit in the evening, and then I walk Mickey and Max around the neighborhood.

Everyone is adjusting to the routine pretty well. Mickey and Max do like the routine of going on the same walk twice-a-day every day. They understand what is expected of them. There are no cars. There is plenty of water for cooling, playing, drinking.

Mickey, Lucas, Max
Mickey, Lucas, Max

There are lots of smells and animals and other dogs. It was fairly common that we would end up in a pack of 15 or so dogs as we walked this mile and half (one way) stretch of path through the woods.
Several months ago (maybe March?), i started working with Mickey and Max. They are pretty well behaved and have been trained to do certain things, but they are young still and they need to improve their skill set to be able to easily go to more places. They were both raised on those extendy retracty leash things. I don’t know what they are called because i have never bought one or looked at it in the store. While i concede and can envision that it is possible that there may be some very small market in which these are useful, i do maintain that these are evil.

For most everyone out there (dog and person) these are a terrible idea and can seriously limit your ability to actually train (much less control) your dog. I am not coming down on my buds who have used these on M+M, or you if you have one and like it. The physical tools are the least important aspect of training. Your interaction with the animals, that bond and that love and that joy in being together. That is what gets it done. That and consistency. Build a schedule and stick to it. Same rules and expectations. Same rewards and punishments. But good tools can help and inferior tools make things harder. The retracty leash thingys may be fine for most dogs and people out there if you are only dealing with one dog. Once you have two dogs (or meet other dogs or runners or babies or whatever) it is much harder.
M+M know “sit”, “come” or “to me”, “off the road”, and they are around 80-90% compliant with their male biped and when we started, 60-90% compliant for me. I started out simple with them. Mickey actually listens to me a little more than Max at this stage, but Max stays closer to me and is less likely to bolt after something. I kept Max off leash from the start and left Mickey on his retracto device for the first quarter mile or so just to get him settled a bit, to keep him close until the path gets to an area with decent sight lines, and to get him used to listening to me early on in the walk. Then I let Mickey free as well and pretty much leave them alone to play and enjoy the rest of the way out.

On the way back, I start to impose a little more order – shortening the distance that I let them roam, talking to them more often, having them sit every so often just to get them used to it. Once we get back to the area where the sight lines get worse, near where I let Mickey off leash on the way out, I corral the guys and teach them “heel”.
My “heel” is different from many other people’s “heel”. All I am looking for in a “heel” command is that the pack actively gives over the “point” position to me. I go first and the dogs stay behind me (relatively close, but they don’t have to stay in a geostationary position). They can play and sniff and switch sides or whatever, as long as they stay behind me. It does not take them very long to get this. After they have it down, I show my buddy and he likes it. After we quit walking together, he keeps this up and finds it very useful…

Stayed tuned for the next chapter, Part 2.

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