Guest Blogger: Andrea Kilkenny and the tireless Mojo
I live with Mojo. Mojo will be 9 soon, and shows no sign of slowing down. I have to say, he’s better than when he was oh say, 2, but at almost 9, if it weren’t for his graying face, you would not know he is a senior dog. I love my Mojo, but I also realize that many people would find him extremely frustrating, and I often wonder had I not adopted him, if he would have stayed in one home or been shuffled around from one exasperated owner to the next, or been returned to the shelter. Coupled with his energy level are some other factors that make him a challenging dog: high intelligence and strong determination. Put that in a sporty, lean, muscular high energy package, and you could have a recipe for disaster.
Over the years, and with the help of many great dog sport friends and trainers, I found I was able to better my communication and relationship with Mojo, and to find outlets for his energy. Here are some things that work for us:
Workout! I aim for a big 60+ minute walk daily, but I may not always get that in, and that is okay, because we have other options. Vary where you walk to keep things stimulating. The scents, sights, and sounds on a walk are mental stimulation. By changing your path or location, you can make the walk have that much more ‘bang for the buck.’ I like to try different parks.
Take a hike! Buy a backpack for your dog. Mojo sports the Ruffwear backpack – a gift from our friends Julie and Laurie at Leash On Life in Iowa City. I let Mojo carry all our stuff: extra leash, camera, water bottles, collapsing water dish, keys, cell phone, etc.
Get a weight pull harness and let him pull! You don’t have to enter a competition, you can have him pull for fun. Sled pulling has been a great energy burner for Mojo in those long Iowa winters. We recommend CDPits Harnesses. Tell ’em Mojo sent ya!
Work to Eat! I rarely feed from a bowl. Some of our favorite toys include Kongs, Premier Waggle, Premier Tug a Jug, Everlasting Treat Ball, Lucky Dog rubber turkey leg, Buster Cube. These toys can be stuffed with kibble and treats – we use a combination of both. Some additional tips: vary what you put in the toy AND vary which toy you give your dog. I rotate them to keep things interesting!
Have some class! Enroll your dog in an obedience class that uses positive reinforcement methods. Now, some of you with excitable dogs worry about what your dog will be like in class. My suggestions: talk with the trainer first, see if there is a smaller size group, and find out the trainer’s experience with excitable dogs. Over the years, I have found there are two types of trainer reactions to dogs like Mojo: instructors who don’t know what to do with a dog like him, and instructors who EMBRACE him.
Find a sport! Agility, flyball, disc, and tracking are just some of the fine dog sports out there. I have taken Mojo through a number of sport classes or club practices for the mental and physical stimulation. Again, do not feel your overall goal should be to compete; my Mojo has never stepped into a ring. We have taken classes for fun, to keep him learning new things, and for the exercise. Often times, people feel pressure when in sport classes, as if they must work towards a competitive level. Not the case. There are many instructors and training clubs out there who will let you work with your dog for fun.
Track! I was amazed after my first few tracking sessions with Mojo. Watching him work and focus on the scent, and seeing the change in his behavior from bouncy boy out of the crate, ready to work, to calm relaxed dog post-track was awesome! There are great books about tracking, and a fun beginner one we like is Fun Nosework for Dogs by Roy Hunter.
Very Tricky! Mojo is about the most non-retrieving dog I have ever met. Watches tennis balls and things sail over his head. Using a clicker, I taught him to retrieve a tennis ball, and gradually we shaped this with other objects, such as a dumbbell and even a frisbee. When I don’t have time for a big walk, we practice retrieves. He also has developed a rather large tricks repertoire, which are fun for him to show off and also for those of you with bully breeds, nothing breaks fear or stigma like a pit bull with cute parlor tricks. A few or our fave tricks are: take a bow, pray for the pit bulls, sit pretty, gimme your nose, etc.
Go Cruisin’, K-9 Cruisin that is! The K-9 Cruiser is a bike attachment that allows your dog to safely run alongside. I bought one for Mojo when he was about 6 or 7, and I almost cried during our first ride. He was grinning, and seemed to be saying, “this is the speed I’ve been wanting to go all my life!” I wish I knew about that handy invention when he was 2!
Let’s Play! Playdates with doggie friends or walks with doggie friends.
Wait for It! Practice self control exercises and focus work. We love Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt and In Focus by Judy Keller.
Please visit our Youtube site to see Mojo in many of the above activities:
Do you have favorite activities you like to engage in with your dog? Leave a comment and tell us about it. Got pictures of your dog hiking, pulling, swimming, participating in dog sports, or just having fun? Submit them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.