Thursday, November 13, 2014

City Dog: What You Never Knew About Fall Dog Walks

For the past 8 years of city-dog ownership we have been out there each and every day, multiple times a day, walking our pups. And for 8 cycles of seasons, we're finally starting to 'get it' to prepare for the changes we find each season.
Out of all of the walking seasons people usually guess that fall is one of the best. The temperatures are cool enough that pups don't overheat, and the streets are lined with beautiful fall foliage, but we finally realized to watch out for these things:

The Problem with Dog Poo and Leaves:
While all the leaves blanketing the grass do look nice, it's also a huge problem when trying to pick up after our dogs. With even a single glance away (Look at that black squirrel!) the poo suddenly becomes camouflage and it becomes a "Where's Waldo" of trying to clean up all the poo among the leaves.
Knowing how hard it is for me to find it when I'm actually trying, I know there are so many other bits of camouflage poo among the grass just waiting to be stepped on.

Piles of Leaves:
All summer we can see all types of trash strewn across the streets and sidewalks. Fall only looks more beautiful because this trash becomes hidden among the leaves. I never realized that leaves could become a type of carnival game for dogs, until our first fall when Miss M went diving into a huge pile of leaves emerging with her prize of... a dead rat. Usually Miss M has a good 'drop it' command, or I'll just pull it from her mouth, but this was the only time she refused to let it go. So we were at a standstill for about 10 minutes (or at least it seemed like that) as the rat's tail dangled, swinging in circles from her mouth until she finally become bored.
Now I make sure to pull them away if the pups become too interested in a pile of leaves.
Though I guess I didn't learn my lesson entirely after Miss M dove into a snow pile and pulled out an entire gyro (but that's another story of another day).

What the Darkness is Really Hiding:
Fall becomes really hard because daylight savings time suddenly immerses us into a world of darkness. Both our morning and evening walks are both done in the dark. Sure we have the anticipated difficulties of making sure cars can see us, and watching for other dog-human walking teams rounding blind corners.
But the worst part...darkness brings out the rats. And not just any rats, these are football-sized city rats who are bold enough to actually walk down the sidewalk beside you.
Mr. B doesn't care about the birds, the squirrels, or the black squirrels, but his kryptonite is the rats. Seeing a rat is enough to send him squealing and running. Which makes it really hard to keep him from pulling on our walks. And it also makes our walks feel like a horror movie where Mr. B is constantly reacting to things under cars, behind bushes, and in piles of leaves.

Leash Handling:
Fall can be a weird time because you don't want to actually admit it's cold and wear your cold weather clothes. But at the same time, it can be really cold!
The biggest issue is that my hands get really cold which makes it really hard to get a firm grip on a leash. Or if the leash slips through my hands it hurts that much more because my hands or so cold.
It really does feel like over-kill to bring out my gloves on what is just a crisp fall day, but after all of these walking cycles it is what I have learned to do.

What they don't tell you about city dog poo
And these problems with in the spring.
MacGuyver with dogs!
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Two French Bulldogs said...

We enjoy tagging along on your walks. And now we look forward to seeing your winter wear
Lily & Edward

The Mizu and the Yuki said...

Since I walk our dog at 5 am and about 8pm, it is dark in the fall and winter. I carry a small flashlight to look for land mines. I got them at Ross. They came in a pack of a dozen. Turn them from the back with your thumb and in worse case hold in your mouth to zero in on the target. Hope that hrlps.

Newsboy said...

Out here in the burbs it's been a bumper crop season for skunks. Every single early morning and early dusk walk we saw at least one skunk and Ms. Summer seems to mistake them for cats so that means she really wants to chase. How we avoided getting skunked this year is beyond me but thank goodness. Rats! Holy smokes, that's the prize!

Megan said...

I believe DC rats are cousins to your Chicago breed. They are huge here too, running in the streets like packs of dogs, and boy does my pup love them. the more I try to tell her they are yucky and gross, the more she seems to want to chase them. I just pray that she never actually catches one...

Dave said...

My leash comment... I use one inch leather leashes. Much more grippy than fabric or nylon, and if you need gloves, fleece with a rubber or leather palm works great. Also a couple knots will help with slippage. One trick I use that was taught to me by a longtime handler is to slip the leash loop over the thumb of your non-handling hand (in my case my right), lay it over your palm and grip it. You won't ever let go unless you fall down (that's a story for a different day) and your other hand is free to handle the dogs.

Andrea Joy said...

I love my headlamp (nerdy as it is!) for dark fall and winter walks!

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