Cali Overcomes a Setback

Regular readers may be following the saga of Cali at the dog park. To bring the ball or not to bring the ball?

After getting some wonderful feedback from several readers, I decided to give the “no ball” regimen another shot. I stopped taking the ball to the park and started actively encouraging Cali to play with other dogs.

An important note here: I go to the same park at roughly the same time nearly every day. The same group of dogs is there. Occasionally, I am early or late, or there’s a new dog or an infrequent visitor. But I know most of the dogs there. A dog park with lots of unfamiliar dogs would not necessarily be a good place to encourage a shy dog to play with other dogs. But (mostly) I know that the dogs — and owners — are good people.

So, after several days spent mainly with Cali sitting, staring at me, willing me, trying to mind meld me: “Throw a ball … Throw a ball” while I talked to the amused other dog people, it happened. She played with another dog. 

She played with Daisy, a sweet Rhodesian ridgeback. She played with Zoe, a small mixed-breed. She had a great time with Bella, a gorgeous young Bernese mountain dog. She even played with Ronen, a large black Lab who’s a good friend of Alberta’s but more energetic than Cali usually will tolerate. She ran in circles around Lola and Lila and Lizzie as they played, barking and play bowing, but lacking the confidence to fully join in. She tried to engage other dogs, too, not always sure but definitely making the effort.

These bursts of play were short, but exhilarating. She returned, panting and smiling, to sit next to me and, yes, stare and mind-meld. But it was great progress.

Then the husky showed up.

I’d seen this young female husky a few times, and she seemed intense and high-energy, but otherwise fine. On this morning, though, her mom had decided to bring treats (really good ones, it seems) to try to work on the young dog’s recall.

Mom pulled out treats. Cali wandered over to investigate. I called Cali back. She came (good girl!!) but then wandered over again. Mom was calling her dog all this time. I called Cali back but, before she came back to me, the Husky saw Mom, treats — and another dog closing in. She attacked. I called Cali again, Cali ran toward me, but the husky ran after her and grabbed her again. Cali cried. I screamed at the husky as I ran toward them. I had a leash in my hand and swatted at the husky, who backed up. I grabbed Cali.

Cali and I went over to our usual group of people and I checked her for damage (there was none) and we all told her what a good girl she was. We then left. I was worried that the experience would dampen her enthusiasm for the park and make her fear other dogs.

On the walk home, she warily eyed a friendly dog who wanted to say hi. She tucked her tail and looked at me. We kept our distance.

But the next morning, she was eager to go to the park. We were early, and there were few dogs there, but she did play with a small terrier mix. The next morning, our usual friends were there, and Cali played briefly with a new puppy on her first visit to the park. And she barked and circled Lola and her friends as they played. So it seems that the attack hasn’t slowed Cali’s progress. What a relief.

Even so, if I see any huskies in the park, I am steering clear.

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8 thoughts on “Cali Overcomes a Setback

  1. So I finally read this. I’m glad Cali figured out that playing can be fun and is brave enough to try again. If that Husky isn’t there for several days, maybe she’ll build new routines with other dogs. Where is Jana all this time?

    I do believe one has to beware of huskies. Years ago, Chulo tangled with one while we were out for a walk and I got knocked down in the process. They’re beautiful, but they’re a northern breed like Akitas. Even if they’ve won a fight, they don’t walk away easily.

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    • They are golden retrievers: They will eat ANYTHING. They especially love a kind of bison and beef jerky we used to get at Costco. They would have done anything for that … I haven’t seen it in ages, though. I use moist and meaty treats for tougher training (and for grooming rewards) and stick to Charlee Bears or other small dry biscuits for routine tasks.

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      • Yeah, I guess a lot of dogs will eat anything. You can just see them thinking,
        “Hmmm, I wonder what this strange object is? I don’t know, but I’m going to put it in my mouth.”
        Molly LOVES anything that has liver. I make liver treats for her sometimes, even though it makes the whole house smell. The things people do for love. 🙂

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  2. Pam, this reminds me of a time when I realized Texi was NOT interacting with other dogs at the dog park. All she wanted to do was play fetch. I knew she liked to interact with the Second Chance Prison Canine dogs when we “broke” them out of the prison and into our homes for a more realistic view of the world they would eventually re-enter, and for some public access exposure. So I decided to leave the ball at home when we went to the park. Texi then would cross from one side of the park to the other until she worked her way down the length. She was looking for balls someone had left behind! When she found one, she would take it to a dog owner sitting or standing around the perimeter and ask THEM to throw it for her, making me feel like an ogre! She was very fair and gave any and all a turn, except me! I eventually caved and let her bring her ball along to the park.

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