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Exercising Balance

Exercising Balance

March 21, 2011
Posted in: Dogs | Reading Time: 6 minutes

My whole life, balance has been a recurring theme. And in dog handling, it's no different.

Green grass and rolling hills. Tons of places for dogs to safely run.  It's what I envisioned when Mr. Wild Dingo proposed moving to Switzerland.

Yet the first few months here, I never let either dog off-leash for fear of the strict Swiss dog laws.  In reading Swiss dog laws, it appears any form of compulsion is not allowed, yet strict control of your dog is expected. And I struggled to find an appropriately "legal" way to have complete control  while  letting them get the exercise they truly need.

I recently found this lovely trail (The Trout Trail) very close to our house where tons of people walk their dogs off-leash. I'm almost afraid after writing this post that it will come back and bite me in the ass the next time I'm out there and we're off leash. Because as we know, Loki and Juno are not perfectly behaved around livestock just yet, but we're working on that.


The other day I saw a chocolate Labrador on the busy farm trails where we bike and walk the dogs. The lab had an e-collar on. And I was never so happy to see that.  I stopped and spoke with the woman. Yes, e-collars are prohibited here, but apparently, most farm owners would prefer you control your dog as well as allow them to run and exercise in a safe environment. What I understood (and I could be totally wrong, my French is still so poor) is that they aren't as adverse to seeing an e-collar used in the country but she wouldn't use it in the town.

I know e-collars are a controversial tool in dog training. But to me,  it seems like for the person who's disciplined enough to learn how to use them properly and is consistent with or without the e-collar, that it's a good life insurance policy for a dog who enjoys being off-leash.   I'm so sick of the morons who claim "animal abuse" with e-collars and work to get them banned when in fact it could be the very thing that saves a dog's life. Just the other day I read an article about a man who beat his dog with a leash. I wonder when the "animal rights activists" will start a ban on leashes?

Like any other tool, leash included, you need to put in the time to learn how to use it appropriately and fairly. If I hear or read one more time from some imbecile claiming that the e-collar is like putting your hand in a live socket, I'll be forced to plug  that person's finger into a live socket myself.  I have actually been on the receiving end of live AC power when a plug blew up in my hand (check it out) a few years ago, and believe me, I'd happily take the strongest stimulation from an e-collar any day over that.

To me, it's all about finding balance for exercising your dog safely and with control.

Loki has been  helping me herd Juno when she gets too far away from us. The other day, Juno was walking in the river while Loki and I were on the trail above her. It got to a point where it was too deep, yet there was no way out as the embankments were too steep to climb. So I sent Loki to get her.  He ran back to the bridge pictured above, down into the river, then herded her up the embankment behind her and then passed her to lead her over the bridge and back to me on the other side. It was beautiful. He's herded her many times for me. And it cracks me up that he even understands exactly what I want him to do because every time I send him, he responds.

Unfortunately for Juno, his herding style involves a lot of "neck corrections" and sometimes he goes a bit far and keeps giving her corrections even when she's back with me. He listens and stops when I tell him.  Frankly the more I let both dogs off leash, the more I learn about them. It fascinates me when Loki knows Juno is too far away and when she's not.


As usual, Loki above, is checking on me to make sure I'm close by. He is always checking to make sure everyone in his pack is together.

He's even herded me a few times on the bike when I get going a bit too fast, he'll make a huge, safe arc around the front of my bike, that forces me to safely slow down without slamming on the brakes, then he'll fall into a slower pace on my right side. Twice he's done it and I finally realized it was his way of "herding me" to his pace because he couldn't keep going at a full run. As much as I joke about Loki's brains, I know deep down he's quite intelligent and the more I can read him in a natural way (off-leash for example), the more I can trust him.  I can tell he enjoys his job of keeping the pack together.

Just when I thought I was the only "fool" in the world who let her husky off-leash, we ran into these two on the trail.

Notice the white husky is off leash and the "shepherd" mixed dog is on-leash. WTF?

Loki was smitten with this nice floofy lady snowball.

And engaged in a few flirtatious zoomies with her.

Juno, on the other paw, was all "talk to the jodhpurs Snowball."

I've also noticed Loki's even been much happier since many of our walks (not all) are off-leash and involve a lot of running, whether on a hike or on the bike. He's calmer and actually more obedient than ever. The exercise is a huge stress relief for him and we all know he can use as much stress relief as possible. He can get so happy, he forgets about his dainty feet getting wet and jumps into the river with Juno for  drink.

Or he climbs the embankment and zoomies himself silly while Juno and I roll our eyes.

It seems like we found a nice balance to safely exercise off-leash. I just hope neither one of them screws it up for us!

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16 comments on “Exercising Balance”

  1. Its great to see these two working so well as a pack and its fantastic that you have found a safe place to let them run free. Khumbu would be gone in the woods, he thinks he is Mr Hunter extraordinaire.

    Beautiful to see both Loki and Juno looking so happy.

  2. So, those of us with huskies need a herding dog to keep them in line? That's brilliant!!! Will keep that in mind if we ever decide to add a third. (Probably not going to happen though, 2's my limit.)

    Loki is a good boy to round her up & bring her back. Very cool! I take it by e-collar you mean an electric shock collar, not an Elizabethan collar (what I call an e-collar). We used one to teach our very social chatty Rottie-Aussie girl to curb her post-midnight barking, and it worked well. An owner still has to take responsibility, but I agree, control collars do have their place in training.

    Ouchie on your hand - that looked pretty bad! Got my hand between my kiln plug & the socket once - zzzzzap! Won't ever do that again!

  3. I keep trying to get up enough nerve to do the off-leash thing with Morgan. Growing up in town, until I met, "the greatest girl ever" (would you believe she makes me call her that? LOL) I had never even thought of having a dog off leash. Being a farm girl (not that there's anything wrong with that) Mrs Taleteller always had her pups off leash.

  4. duh, where did the post go?

    will try again…..
    Loki is a good boy for herding Juno home. I think you've struck on something brilliant here - husky owners just need to adopt a herding dog too.

    I agree, e-training collars have their place. the owner still needs to be responsible for training, but they can help with that immediate correction.

    We used a shock collar to help train our very social rotttie-aussie girl to curb her post-midnight barking rants. I think the whole neighborhood appreciated our efforts! Still heard some dogs barking all night, but it wasn't mine!

    Jack & moo's Mom

  5. We're still working on the 'off-leash' thing in an extremely controlled environment, where extremely controlled environment means me walking Fi/Abby (I haven't been brave enough to try both at once yet...) 'off-leash' while my dog trainer has a very light hold on a 30ft light leash. Both Fi and Abby respond well to this, but we didn't get into it until late last fall, and I haven't had a chance to work with them over the winter (we did this in parking lots, and parking lots half full of snow make for stupid drivers and unsafe conditions to work with the dogs). Maybe in the spring we can get back to you.

    Love Juno's reaction to Ms. Snowball! 😀

    -Dr. Liz (the girls are napping; it was a busy day at daycare)

  6. What a great post!!! I have to say, I really admire your honesty & bravery - I totally agree with you 100% on the e-collar thing (as you know!) but it is so controversial and so prone to getting people jumping down your throats that I avoid mentioning it on Honey's blog. Also because I know a lot of people just rush out and do something they read online or see on TV (that whole "don't try this at home" thing - some idiot always does!) without preparing & researching first - and since this is a specialist tool which CAN cause problems if used incorresctly, I hesitate to mention it in case someone sees that as promotion and skips all the "professional consultation with an experienced trainer," etc, etc...I know positive methods can cause problems too but there is slightly less risk of people doing stupid things (and giving that tool a bad reputation) when they're using things like clickers. It's the same for a check chain - which I happily show Honey wearing but I don't go into detail about using on the blog since I know there will always be idiots who don't read properly and skip steps and want a "quick fix" and besides, there are some training technques & tools that are just too complicated to explain just with words online - they really need to be guided & supervised in person. They really need to find a good trainer to work with them - But of course, people ALWAYS want to just find a quick fix solution online, don't they??!! 🙄

    Anyway, am so happy for you that you have found a good balance and a way for you to achieve the control needed to give the dogs their necessary freedom for happiness & health. I totally agree with you about the off-leash - I think dogs exercised that way ( providing they are under control) are MUCH happier, less stressed, much healthier physically & mentally - it's just more "natural" isn't it?


  7. More Siberian Showoffs!!!

    PeeEssWoo: Chekhk out the ears on the pup on my Monday MOMday post! I think Loki might go full swoon!

  8. People will be idiots about dogs with any means available. How human is a buckle collar if your dog is all pulling and choking? I know you will be mindful of folks who are not as aware as you are when their dogs are off leash. Just the other day I was out with Dex and I guy let his off leash dog charge us without any word or question. Idiot. On the other hand, we also ran into a guy walking a dog who paused about 20 ft away from us and asked if it was OK to approach. That's right, ALWAYS ask.

    I like Loki the herding dog. I see a movie in his future, "That'll do pig." I suspect once he starts neck correcting Juno it feels so good that he doesn't want to start. Maybe he secretly whispers to her to take off just so he can show off.

    Mango Momma

  9. Boy do we know all about the herding dog! Nikki is particularly prone to herd Lucy and McIver herds us. Nikki is our cracker dog. It truly is her intelligence that makes her cracker though. We are preparing to train Nikki on the e-collar. Her previous puppy raisers were older and TOTALLY bombed the e-collar training. Our program director had to take it away. I am not real happy about using it. However, there are some issues that I think the e-collar could help us with. There are many tools in training dogs and each tool has a purpose and each dog has his own issues to address.

    Mamma Heartbeat

  10. I will be honest, I never thought I'd ever use an e-collar, but I am glad I reconsidered with Morgan. After the broken window incident, it was a wake up call. I still don't feel great about having to use it, but she can be so darned hard-headed sometimes. I'd rather have her safe and under control than keep battling it out with her.

  11. Your post is very courageous! In German dog forums discuss such a question would be hard.
    I could say much the idea, but not sufficient for my language skills. This leads to misunderstandings.
    You're right. And I see my dogs happier without a leash. No stress, free!
    The command "here" I have to practice again and again. Airedales, like many other breeds stubborn and headstrong

  12. Oh my goodness I love that Loki herds Juno! You should videtape that sometime. 🙂 I'm glad you found a place where they are exercise off leash. That's so fantastic.

  13. I missed this post the first time around. We pretty much always walk off- leash (in a special place that we have to drive to) but like Mango's mom said, we always have a leash with us and stop and ask about the other dog. We have lots of dog friends whom we walk with at this place and everyone gets along well.

    I don't know if you watch The Dog Whisperer. There's one episode about Molly, a heeler, who chased her owner's tractor. She'd been hit multiple times because he couldn't see her and he worked alone. Cesar used an e-collar, set very low, to help them define a safe permiter for Molly to have near tractors and trucks. It was minimal, like a pager set on vibrate. Worked like a charm.

    I'm so glad Loki and Juno are getting to go off leash. It's the best - as long as that recall's in place!!

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