Today I learned my dog is totally 100% OK with using me as a human shield.

I always new my dog was not overly brave. She has been known to run away from chihuahuas. She runs for it if I seems like I am about slip and fall on ice. If she is overwhelmed by an aggressive dog, she will be submissive rather than escalating the situation by fighting back. Today she decided hiding behind me was an even better plan than just being submissive. It probably saved her since it meant the dog going after her had to go around me to get to her which gave me an opportunity to grab its harness. I did grab the aggressor’s harness and managed to wrestle the damn thing away from my precious dog baby and tie its leash to a fence. I did this one handed since my other hand was still holding my dog’s leash. I also managed to simultaneously give my dog some slack so she could get some distance from the aggressive dog until I secured it to the fence. I guess my strength training has been good for something because I managed to hold the 60-65 hell hound at bay with one hand. I am guessing 60-65 pounds based on the fact that the dog was larger than my dog which is about 50lbs and this dog definitely felt heavier.

So, where did said hell hound come from? Where was the hell hound’s owner? The hell hound’s unfortunate owner was a the bottom of the back staircase on her face. Poor lady had been trying to get down the stairs to keep her dog away because her dog was aggressive towards other dogs. She tripped and fell down the stairs dragging her dog with her initially. The dog, now free because its owner was in shock on the ground, charged back up the stairs after my dog. And that is how the dog wrestling began. After securing the dog to the fence I was able to get to the top of the stairs to see of the other poor dog owner was ok. She sat up by this point and was able to tell me what apartment she lived in so I could fetch her husband to help her. The look on the husband’s face before I explained why I was there was a classic “What kind of nut case are you banging on my door at 6:30 in the morning?” face.

When I left for work later this morning, I did not use the back exit. The next time I take my dog for her usual walk I hope to go back to not seeing any other people or dogs.

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Look to yourself for motivation not your dog.

Lets consider two scenarios:

1) Chuck & Bentley:

Chuck was retired when I met him. Chuck likes golf and walking his dog. Chuck told me an incredible story about how he spent seven years of his life unable to walk after a work place accident where he was crushed under heavy equipment. After seven years of not being able to walk he was told that he might walk again if he had metal rod put in his back. Even then his chances were not great, but he said he had been determined to walk again and he did. Chuck said sometimes it was hard to get moving in the morning because his back would be stiff and sore. This only got worse in cold weather (which is a big deal since we are in Canada). But he still got up to walk everyday. And he didn’t whine about it. When he retired his family gave him Bentley, an adorable Toy Poodle/Jack Russel X, to keep him company on his walks. Chuck walked Bentley for 30min three times per day around his neighborhood rain or shine, snow or no snow. His only exceptions were the mornings in the summer when he left before dawn for an early morning golf session. Those mornings Bentley got to spend the morning in the neighbors yard.

2) Betty & Holly, then Friday, then Boker:

When I first met Betty she had a gorgeous little wheat coloured spaniel named Holly. I would see Betty and Holly walking only some days. When Betty stopped to let Holly play with my dog she would bellyache about how hard it was to be motivated to walk Holly, and get up in the morning, about how she got Holly to try to help motivate her to get out more, about how she couldn’t be bothered to walk the ten minutes to the park with Holly because it was too hard so she had her husband drop her off in his truck so she only had to walk the ten minutes home.

A few months later I saw Betty and she no longer had Holly because Holly was just too exhausting. Holly had been returned to her previous owner. (For the record Holly was the lowest energy dog among all of Betty’s choices.)

I then saw Betty later with Friday, a  wonderful little Jack Russell Terrier who would not stop running (really if you picked him up off the ground his legs just kept going). Once again she said Friday was suppose to motivate her to get more exercise. But our occasional dog park visits were usually just twenty minutes of Betty whinging about how Friday was too high energy, she couldn’t keep up with him, it was too much work, she was to exhausted to walk him the ten minutes to and from the park. Awhile later I bumped into her and she told me Friday had been found a new home on a farm where he could run around all day.

Later I bumped into Betty again with a new pure bred puppy she had specially ordered named Boker. I can’t remember the exact breed but it was a type of working dog noted for its intelligence and stamina. I moved so I never saw Betty after that and I never got to see if Betty kept Boker or found him another home too. But given her track record and the fact that she again selected a high energy breed requiring lots of exercise I imagine Betty didn’t do any better with Boker than she did with Holly or Friday. Although I hope I am wrong and she did make it work.

What Chuck got right:

Chuck already had a healthy habit of regular activity established before he was given Bentley. His motivation was intrinsic rather than extrinsic. He looked to himself for motivation rather than his dog. Even if he had not been given Bentley he would still be walking and playing golf. When Chuck was given Bentley both man and dog benefited from Chuck’s already established schedule of daily activity and Chuck’s internal motivation to keep walking.

What Betty got wrong:

Betty looked to the dog for motivation instead of herself. As the dog owner all the control and power for both herself and her dog to be exercised lay solely with her. The dog can’t put on his leash and open the door on its own. In this situation the dog relies on its owner to be responsible and meet its needs. By relying on the dog to provide the motivation that only Betty herself could provide Betty set herself up for failure. Her failure then had an impact on her pets who then had to be found new homes when she gave up. (On a personal note: Betty’s behavior always pissed me off because she did this to pets she professed to love, not once but twice (and possibly a third time). She should have figured out the first time that pet owning and dog walking were probably not activities for her and tried something else sans the pet.)

In short, whatever your motivation is to be active that motivation needs to begin and end with you.

Why move the dog?

I love working out. So much so that I taught fitness classes, worked in a weight room, and took a personal trainers course. I worked for 8 years in fitness part-time in addition to my regular work until I realized working in fitness was really ruining my fitness. I heard before that sometimes the most unhealthy people are the fitness instructors, the very people who are expected to be the healthiest. I didn’t really believe it originally. Then I spent so much time teaching and yelling at other people I had no time to spend on my own workouts and nutrition. I was working all the time and the only me time was walking the dog. So eventually I just had to give up the part-time work. I didn’t get back to my own workouts right away. That took some time but I did. I love lifting heavy, killing myself with plyometrics (admittedly it still doesn’t take much in the way of  plyometrics to kill me), and cardio kickboxing. I love designing my own workouts and telling myself what a workout genius I am. I love to hate to my HIIT training.

Why “move the dog”? I didn’t have a gym to workout in once I stopped working in one so I learned to do all my workouts at home in my living room with minimal equipment. I did this for several years and still do occasionally even now that I have access to a gym. And whenever I break out the yoga mat for a workout and leave it unattended (for seconds or minutes, it doesn’t matter) my dog plants herself right in the middle. Sometimes she doesn’t even wait for the mat, she lays down right where I am about to put the mat. Her little doggy brain can recognize when I getting ready to workout as well as it can recognize that I am about to take her for a walk. When I tell her move or try to push her out of the way, like any good sensible dog, she rolls over for a belly rub. Sometimes she comes back for seconds and wonders into the middle of my workout. She usually waits for me to be in the middle of a tough HIIT drill and I have to yell “Move the dog! Move the dog!” to my partner to get rid of her before she gets herself kicked or stepped on. Because I can’t possibly interrupt my tabata protocol. I mean if you were meant to stop the tabata protocol the GYMBOSS would have a pause button right? My dogs’ singular gift for getting in the way only gets better as she ages. I think of her younger days when she would run in terror of the stability ball with nostalgia, because I could use it as a barrier to keep her away from my workout. Because nothing ruins crunches like a 55lb dog sitting on your face. Maybe she is just reminding me that no matter how hard I workout I still have to walk her when I am done because basic daily activity is the backbone of any fitness/healthy living routine.