On Friday, Nemo and I went to Hagerstown, MD to have lunch with about 10 other positive reinforcement trainers from all over the Mid-Atlantic region. We were on an 80-acre farm set waaaaay off the road. And we were allowed to bring our friendly dogs with us.
Our day started with quick on-leash introductions for the dogs and then we were off into the fields. I’m usually quite nervous with any of my dogs off leash if they aren’t in a fenced area – the possibility for danger is way too high for me. I envision the worst: snake bites, encounters with groundhogs, a cut pad, a deer that must be chased, an encounter with a stray unfriendly dog, my dog dashing into the underbrush and getting lost… It’s too much for this worrywart! But we were on a private farm that way way off the road (no danger of getting hit), lots of other friendly dogs, and at least 10 other people who could help in the event of any of my worst-case-scenarios — enough “back up” to settle my nerves.
Nemo’s a bit of a scaredy-cat – he’s not the adventurous type who will go too far out of sight for too long. And he’ll definitely stay with the other dogs even if he did wander off the beaten path.
I needn’t have worried – he ran and ran, but came back (or at least glanced over his shoulder) to keep his eye on my every five minutes or so. He looked so happy running full-out across the fields! The dogs didn’t play with one another like I thought they might. Instead they explored together — parallel activities, rarely interacting with each other, but enjoying the company.
There were two downsides: (1) it came to an end too soon, and (2) Nemo got 4 ticks and I got 1. A small price to pay for the (safe) freedom off leash and fun for all the dogs and people.
We hiked for about an hour then came back to a wonderful lunch. I was worried about Nemo’s table manners (he can reach anything he’d like). Again, no need to worry. Every dog was exhausted and slept for a good hour while we all filled our bellies. It was such fun, all the trainers are talking about when we can do it again!
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