#VACAY We just got back from 7 days in the Northwoods - a classic experience with a lake house, campfires, hiking, paddling, swimming, porch sitting, beer drinking, loon listening, lounging and dipping toes off the pier. The whole shebang. With all three dogs.
When we first talked about taking our three-dog crew on vacation it sounded like anything but - I mean, the packing and unpacking, keeping dogs on leash in a new area, behavior at a rental house (with rules like, no dogs on furniture!). Who would the neighbors be and how close, what wildlife would roam into the yard and on and on and on.
However, it was our anniversary and we'd just cashed in on my parents' generosity to watch two of three dogs the week before. So, sometimes you just need to go and let go. We did. And, oddly enough, there is not an ounce of sarcasm in this blog title. It all worked out great. But that was no accident.
Engineered for a Chill Experience Any multi-dog household either knows the lengths in which you must go to manage, or exists it total and utter chaos. We are, for the most part, a tightly run ship. However, the theme on our ship is "ditch the routine." In part because our life is not typical, in part because I firmly believe that doing the same thing at the same time every day is the definition of insanity. While no day really looks the same, the gang gets daily exercise (sometimes on leash, sometimes off, sometimes a combo), mental stimulation, fun time, quiet time, kennel time and bouts of training. This bodes well for vacation life.
Kick It. On Your Boundaries. While kicking up our feet with a cold beer would have been awesome way to start vacation, getting out the training mats and a Kong was far more lucrative. Within 30 minutes, the pups, despite having 3000 sq feet of new home to explore, happily settled onto their training mats with a chew. Later, we could check out our new living space together, calmly.
Leash Law of the Land My monsters have the luxury of a fenced yard at home, so they have daily whirling dervish time, as needed. However, we do spend a good deal of time happily on leash, which comes in handy when the vacay house is sandwiched between a highway and a shoreline with deer everywhere, birds of prey a plenty and black bear abundant (though unseen on this trip). While it limited what we could do with the dogs, waist leashes are amazing as is a dropped leash with a wicked recall.
All Heightened Everything For those who live with a reactive dog, you may very well understand the concept of the full bucket, or stress threshold. To be blunt, it's the capacity a dog has before he loses his shit. For those without a reactive dog, you may see behaviors that you'd describe as "selective hearing" or "being a brat" - all dogs have a threshold. All dogs need time, a good 3 days, to recoup from an over-threshold episode. Keeping that in mind, I have 3 dogs, all experiencing so much new and different, all with different thresholds and all who tend to be slightly more sensitive as a merry band of three. The key to holding off a meltdown in the moment? Balance. Excitable periods must get equal or more rest, quiet time (collapsible kennels are wonderful) and calm-inducing activities. For my gang, it's jam-packed, frozen Kongs on the deck or car rides.
Sweat Therapy Here's the thing, while hanging out at the rental home is nice (and when combined with snuggles and power-binging on Twin Peaks is hands-down THE BEST use of vacation time), we definitely wanted to explore a couple of the parks in the area. Again, planning saves the day. Knowing that a trip to the state park would likely be a bucket filling experiences, we brought amazing treats, kept a good eye on our dogs' body language and provided plenty of quiet time during the afternoon and evening. Before heading to the parks, we also did a little research with Wisconsin State Park Dog. Our pal, Lucky, and his mama have traveling to state parks with dogs dialed! We had two days of beautiful, totally successful Northwoods hiking.
All in All It was a super chill time. It took us about a day to get into the groove, but there's no question that we relaxed, had tons of fun, slept well, ate well, and achieved exactly what we needed on this trip. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
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Our rescue dog, Rizzo, is finishing class, which offered great practice on important foundation behaviors around the distraction of other dogs and people. We also just wrapped up three sessions of one-on-one training with Jess to improve his focus and walking skills. I cannot express how wonderful our experience was. Jess brings such an incredible energy to each lesson and truly cares about your dog and how training is progressing. Her lessons are well-planned, but keep the dog engaged and having tons of fun. If you are debating signing up for a class or one-on-one -- do it. You will not regret it! We can't wait to sign Rizzo up for more." - Anna S.
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