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!
Swim! Find a canine pool (if you live in Seattle, I recommend Spawz and Bow Wow Fun Town) and get your dog paddling!
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.
Suzi and Patch Macy says
HI Andrea, loved the article and b/c Patch is so fearful I have a hard time thinking of thinks he CAN do. I will try pulling he might like it and tracking is a maybe. he loves to hike, I will let him carry things in a doggie pack we have. those we great suggestions. I dont know if he would like the k9 crusier, he might but I would hate to buy one and have him hate it.
Found a book awhile back on games to play with your dog, and the best ‘inside’ suggestion was ‘make puzzles’, along with hide&seek. So now I save all toilet paper rolls and any small boxes I find, and use them to make multi-layer puzzle boxes. Great fun in many ways: my dog Hunter loves to shred cardboard, as well as use his nose, and of course feels very proud of himself when he gets the cookie inside. Easy, cheap, great fun, happy dog — the winning combination! 🙂
Thanks for the comment, Suzi. Just remember to go slow, at Patch’s pace/comfort level, when trying new things. Tracking may be a good one for you as it really engages a dog’s natural ability to scent, and doesn’t require equipment that might be scary to him. I’ve seen some dogs with fear issues be afraid of the K-9 Cruiser and being attached to a moving object. Again, you could start slowly, and desensitize him by hooking him up, with no motion, and use food to create a positive association.
Shellie – it sounds like you have found a fun way to keep Hunter busy! Jean Donaldson suggests ‘dissection’ puzzles in her book Culture Clash. Sounds similar to what you are doing. Way to go!
Shellie, I like the puzzle idea too. going to steal it .. 🙂
Great advice, i like it
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Monika Schrecker says
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Jeanmarie Otega says
Nice. Thanks for sharing.
michele sadauskas says
Oh how familiar when you mentioned what kind of life your Mojo might have experienced without your rescue! We think the same of our Tsuga….so does our family(of course everyone else sees the after effects of hours of work, focus, and training….they think what a dog:)! He is big, boisterous, nosy(not noisy, but yes NOSY), and super smart…..yep, adds up to a handful….and we LOVE him to death and wouldn’t trade him for anything.
We do alot of walking esp. trying to get out to other stomping grounds, exposure to anything and everything. The latest….bringing him home a friend, which has worked wonders for stimulation we just can’t provide! He loves to ‘go biking’, boat rides, car rides, and visiting anywhere he can get into.
Thanks for the article, it made me smile and gave me more ideas, esp. the trainer comment. Might have to check with the trainer that we’re going to in january….see if he will be an embrace case:)!!!
Jeff McMahon says
Mojo reminds me of my dog, Muriel, an 8yr old cattle dog mix I adopted when she was 2 1/2. She has the physical ability to run top speed all day and the mental capacity to be challenged with new tasks.
My favorite activity to do with her is called K9 Nose Work. It’s a search and scenting activity inspired by working detection dogs, but designed for all dogs to learn and enjoy. Before we started, Muriel had fear issues, including a strong fear of males. We first learned agility and some obedience and tricks, all of which were stimulating and fun to do, but none of these activities helped with her fear issues. When we started K9 Nose Work, she jumped back 10ft when she had to search the room with one of the male instructors present, but that behavior didn’t last too much longer.
After just a few months taking weekly classes in K9 Nose Work, Muriel was a new dog! When she was in class working on a search, she confidently zigged and zagged around the search area not caring who was in the room. Her confidence wasn’t just tied to the activity either. She was shedding her fears in other settings – out for walks at the park, going to the office, meeting people in the dark, etc. It was an unexpected bonus!
We’ve been doing K9 Nose Work now for 4yrs and are competing at the highest level in the sport. We still do agility, but she clearly loves K9 Nose Work the most – and I do too. It’s one of the only activities I know that lets the dog be the leader and has us humans learning how to understand our dog’s many methods of communication, instead of always commanding them to do things and expecting them to perform perfectly and like it.
K9 Nose Work has an official blog (i’ve written several of the posts). It’s a great way to check out what the activity is about, what kind of dogs do it, and how to get into it.
Check it out at: k9noseworkblog.blogspot.com
Christine Hibbard says
Thank you for sharing your experiences with Muriel. How lucky she was to be adopted by such a caring and sophisticated owner. We often recommend Nose Work sessions both private and classes for dogs who are fearful or reactive. It’s amazing to watch the dogs focus and gain confidence, isn’t it? Thank you for sharing your blog. I will now have a place to refer owners who are interested in more information. Keep on nose workin’ and give Muriel an extra treat from all of us at Companion Animal Solutions!