a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Work Those Doggie Legs

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Work Those Doggie Legs

SUMMARY: Finally, hiking WITH the Taj MuttHall beasties.

Today, we hiked the Los Gatos Creek Trail from Main Street in downtown Los Gatos to the Lexington Reservoir. Round trip, we covered probably 3.5 miles. A very slight uphill towards the dam, with only a couple of steeper sections.

Now, Los Gatos, besides being upscale and beautiful with small-town charm:

is also just about the dog-friendliest town this side of Sirius. How many towns have drinking fountains not only with child-height fountains, but dog-height, too?

In fact, there are so many people walking around with dogs on nice sunny weekend mornings in downtown that you just about feel like a canine Luddite. (Hmm, bad metaphor. Will have to ponder later.) The thing about walking Tika around other dogs, though, is that I have to have my hand in her collar and be managing her ferocious barking and shrieking and lunging. Today we avoided the shrieking, probably because there were so MANY dogs that she wanted to save her energy for the next one coming down the road.

Why she can calm down and not care about dogs at an agility trial but not after passing 40 or 50 dogs on the street, I dunno. She's definitely all noise and no bite, but I can't very well say to complete strangers, "Hey, if I let my dog lunge at your dog so that she can sniff his butt, she'll be happy. Is that OK with you?" Yeah, right.

So I couldn't take photos of ANY of the wonderful variety of beasts, from Boston Terrier to harlequin Great Dane and all kinds of mixes and nots between, because I had to use both hands for Tika.

When I wanted to take a photo--like of this hand-sized white flower (Romneya Coulteri, aka Matilija Poppy), which was one of many covering a huge shrubbery, I had to first look around for dogs coming up or down the trail, and then maybe hand her off to my sister just to be safe.

So I didn't actually take many photos on this hike. Here we are with our first good view of the dam at Lexington Reservoir, dogs managed by sister so I could manage camera.

It was a warm day and both dogs were getting a good workout. They didn't even stop panting for a photo.

The water level in the reservoir is super low because they're reconstructing some piping that runs through the dam. So the spillway isn't spilling and, in fact, the water level can barely be seen as we approach the road that runs across the top of the dam (over the bridge).

Under the bridge, mud swallows had pretty much mudded up every nook and cranny with their nests, and were actively feeding the heads of their young'uns which were peeping out of all the nest openings. Needless to say, with dogs along, I didn't have the right camera to try to capture the amazingly fast adults zapping in and out at warp speed--you can see one blurry one whip by in this photo.

As we started back downhill, Boost decided that that was enough of this boring merely walking stuff and wanted to play Leashie. Who can resist that face?

First we play tug of war with Leashie, then she shakes it dramatically to killl ittttt!

But eventually we got back to concentrating on moving downhill, and I took one last photo of some attractive yellow flowers with bean-like pods.


  1. You need a waist/fanny pack or a backpack with a waist belt. Loop the dog's leads through the belt and you have free hands for picture taking (as long as no dogs go by).

    I wish I could let Strum play with the leash but he saws through them with his teeth in a minute or 2 if I let him.

  2. Looks like a beautiful place! Sounds like you had fun, all of you!

  3. It was fun! Not nearly as stressful as DAM team.

    I've tried hooking Tika to my belt. That's a complete disaster. If she'd ever take more than 2 steps without yanking on the leash, maybe it would work. Or if she'd step sedately away from me if she wanted to sniff something instead of lunging.


  4. I'm working on getting my sheltie (18 mos) to walk on a leash without pulling. In dog obedience the instructor says to say "easy" when she tugs. If she doesn't ease up I am to change directions and say "lets go" and continue that (going in another direction every time she pulls) until she figures out she isn't making any progress when she pulls. It's pretty much working, we practice every time we're outside on the leash. She's usually at the end of her leash, but she doesn't pull very often now.

  5. That going-in-the-other-direction worked mostly OK for Remington, although it took at least a couple of years of daily walks before he eased up enough to be comfortable.

    You can't imagine how many times Tika and I tried that strategy, getting trapped in the same 6-foot space on the sidewalk for 20 minutes: Take a step forward, she lunges forward, I change direction and take a step, she lunges forward, I change direction and take a step, she lunges forward...

    OK, after ending up in tears from frustration on several occasions after 6-8 weeks of that, we tried half a dozen other suggestions from knowledgeable dog trainers, each for at least 6-8 weeks each. I was SO BLOODY TIRED of walking up and down the same 10 feet of sidewalk in front of my house that, after a year, I gave up. I figured that if she's going to be yanking and pulling on the leash, at least we'll just do it in different areas and neighborhoods instead of in front of the same house all the time. I NEVER just LET her pull--every walk with her is a constant constant CONSTANT training session. My shoulders still suffer for it, but they suffer more if I don't keep working it.

    There doesn't seem to be an easy answer for Tika.


  6. But, oh, by the way, if I have treats in my hand and shove one into her face every random number of steps (less than probably 20, after which she gives up on me), she can walk VERY nicely on leash. But who wants to do that all the time, every walk or hike? (And it doesn't have any effect on the thing with other dogs.) I've never been able to fade the treats beyond about 10-20 steps.


  7. Have you tried a Gentle Leader on Tika? She may not like it but at least you'll be able to walk her without all the lunging, etc.