Rugby stresses so much by seeing anything that’s new. He needs a good long while to adapt and adjust to a new environment, which isn’t easy when it’s a public space that’s always in flux like a park. I’ve learned to carefully pick and choose when and where we go, so that I can maximize Rugby’s ability to cope with something new. If he’s all stressed out, he surely can’t be enjoying his outing, and I decided a long time ago that it wasn’t very loving of me to continue to expose him to things if it wasn’t a good experience for Rugby.
So, we do very simple outings:
- Car rides. Rugby just loves getting to go along for a car ride. We don’t even have to go anywhere….just for a drive and come home, but he feels like he got an outing and had fun being included.
- Sitting in the yard together. This can be in the garage, with the door open so that Rugby can see something new in the neighborhood, but has limited vision and access to things that will wig him out. This does make him anxious, so I do this when the neighborhood is very calm and quiet.
- Sitting in parking lots and just watching things together. I do this in shopping centers, parks, churches, restaurants, grocery stores, etc. I park a good distance away from the activity, and let Rugby just hang out and watch with me. He feels safer in the car, and rolling the windows just a bit gives him sound stimulation.
- Walks in cemeteries or little used areas of city parks. I choose quiet times of the week, and take a well exercised Rugby first so he’s a bit tired and less reactive.
- A drive through for ice cream, and then we park and share, or come home and share. Pup cups aren’t usually expensive, and it’s a very special treat that we don’t do often, but Rugby loves. He’s gets a bit wiggy at the actual window where he can see a new human, but he’s viewing from his crate, and it’s quick in and out with a great reward for him. French fries allow an immediate reward from the magic window with the person who has no legs and floats in the window space.
Every dog is going to be a bit different, and you’ll need to explore and experiment to see what will work for your dog. What I’ve found, is that my own neighborhood isn’t often always the best place for Rugby to have a safe adventure. There are far too many kids running and playing out in yards, the occasional dog out for a quick pee in his front yard, skateboarding teens, etc. During the school day and work week, it’s fairly quiet, so those are the best times to give this a go.
What I can sometimes do, is allow Rugby to see things out the front door, provided I have piggies handy so he can bite them when he sees or hears a trigger. I always start with having him harnessed, in his thundershirt, and leashed, so that I have some control in directing him. I also make sure I have a very high value treat handy to stuff in his mouth when he first sees something that I know will likely trigger him if he’s left to watch it. Timing can be challenging, but I try to be quick, and catch him before he reacts in a negative way!
The point is, that we often think that we need to do elaborate events to give our high needs dog an adventure. Rugby can’t have much of an adventure without completely melting down, so we absolutely must keep things simple and short and rather uneventful. And those events and outings are the very best for my little speckled dog. He has fun, he gets to be included, and he has an adventure of some sort….even if it’s very simple and boring to me. That’s exactly what sort of adventure Rugby needs, and it’s not a mistake to limit things to his ability to cope with it all.
So try something new this week, even if it’s just observing from your garage or going for a short drive together.