Red Lights and Rainy Days

On my way to pick my dog up from the vet, I hit nothing but red lights on a rainy Friday afternoon. Oh, and ended up behind buses. Given the chance, I would have abandoned my car and helicoptered to the vet’s office. The red lights, rain, traffic, and vet’s instructions quickened my pulse. Such instructions often make dog owners cringe. “Two weeks of rest. No, not even walks.”

My dog has 2 speeds, on and off. She does all the things with full terrier force. She bolts into the backyard to chase squirrels. She runs full force and flings herself onto the couch. She asks for 5 seconds of petting before tearing across the floor on her next adventure. She follows me around the house and clears each room secret service style.

At each red light I gave myself a pep talk. “You’re a trainer.” Drive 2 feet and stop short. “You’ve given other people advice about mandatory rest periods.” Drive 10 feet and almost make it through the intersection but stop at red light. “Nosework!” Hit a green light and think things are looking up when a crossing guard stops traffic. “Food puzzles.” Refuse to let anyone merge in front of me because I’m having a day. “But what if she gets fat?” Finally speed up to 35 mph only to stop at another red light. “Is it too late in the afternoon for donuts?”

After reuniting with my dog, bringing her home, and resisting the donut shop, I did what everyone does in a crisis. I asked social media for help. How does one keep a good terrier down? By teaching tricks, using food puzzles, teaching cooperative behaviors for vet visits, and behavior modification of course!

These are tricks suggested by my creative friends on social media:

  • Grab a tissue and hand it to me when cued “Achew!”

  • Cross front paws.

  • Hit “Easy” button with paws.

  • Dog goes into her crate and shuts the door herself.

Thanks force-free colleagues Susan Sanderson, Susan Kennedy, and Genevieve Warner for the fun ideas!

Food puzzles are great. Being mindful of the drastic reduction in physical exercise, I use canned pumpkin and green beans as food puzzle filler. These veggies add fiber without adding many calories, thus helping prevent weight gain. Frozen food puzzles for breakfast and dinner.

Since most dogs need to be still at the veterinarian’s office, teach behaviors that can be used at the vet’s office. Chin target is where her lower jaw rests in the palm of my hand. Shoulder target where her shoulder touches a target. Stand for exam is a stand stay with distractions. Lay flat on either side. If your dog can do these behaviors at the vet’s office, she may not need sedation for tests like x-rays. Better for your dog and your wallet.

Finally, I worked on behavior modification for resource guarding and barking at dogs passing by the window.

All in all, there are a lot of things to do with a convalescing dog. Exercise restriction is a red light. Use a rainy day mindset & teach new indoor games. In between all of the above activities, don’t forget snuggling on the couch and watching a movie.

Update: Aero is fully recovered and has some new behaviors under her belt. We hope you find these ideas useful whether your dog is recovering or you are experiencing many days of bad weather.

For more ideas and support, contact us at