Tuesday, May 6, 2014

When Barry Met Squirrel Alley

As I may have mentioned before, Barry loves squirrels. He is obsessed (this is one thing we don't think he'll stop obsessing over)! There is a street by our building that we have dubbed Squirrel Alley. There are squirrels all over this one section. If it's around 25+ degrees out the squirrels are out. Since it's been a steady 40+ degrees out we have been seeing a lot of squirrels lately. Even rabbits, believe it or not. 

The biggest difference between the squirrels and the rabbits is that the squirrels are all little jerks that like to taunt and tease and the rabbits are more timid and stand still or immediately hop into a bush. Barry can obviously smell the squirrel or rabbit even if he can't see it. He's always on the look out. As soon as he spots the squirrel one of two things happens. One is that he'll only get a quick glimpse of it before it runs up a tree or out of site and then Barry calms down pretty quickly. Two is that there will be a stare down. It will stand right in the middle of the side walk watching us as we near and Barry will begin loudly whining and yelping and crying at the squirrel while pulling and dragging us behind him. Once we get close enough the squirrel will side step just out of reach and then jump onto a tree and stop half way up but Barry can still see the squirrel so Barry's demeanor is all wild and crazy and loud and people are starting to stare at this point. Are we killing the dog? Is he okay? What are those people doing to this dog? It takes just about everything we have in us to pull Barry away from the tree and continue down the sidewalk and turn a corner so that Barry no longer can see the little jerk that almost seems to be waiving and laughing and pointing at us. 

Those squirrels are laughin at me! I gotta get 'em!
Squirrel Alley is a nice little stretch of street. It is lined with trees and there are a couple of alleyways that jut off of the street to the East. Those alleys are magical to Barry. We try to move him forward so we can get this stretch of street over with and then there is the first alley. Barry cannot resist the urge to jump right in front and pull us into the alley for a look. Just to see. There's a fence with an opening at the bottom. Behind the fence are some garbage bins. Above are posts and some type of utility pole. He looks up to the top of the fence for any sign of life. He whines if there isn't any because he's thoroughly disappointed. If there is something down the alley as we pull him away from the alley Barry whines and turns back to look at the alley, walking half sideways to keep an eye on the alley. Then we get to the dog that sits in the bay window overlooking the street. The dog is only two floors up so he is very visible. The dog starts barking and Barry starts whining (Barry's not much of a barker, thank goodness). We pull Barry along and Barry continues his sideways backward walk so he can keep his eye on the dog. The second alley comes up but it's never as exciting. Barry still takes a peek in just to ensure all is safe. 

Okay guys, coast is clear. No squirrels here.
This stretch of street is the reason that we have tried two types of halters to help with his pulling. The first week with him we realized a collar and leash wasn't cutting. So after some light research and reading reviews I decided on the Sporn Halter. Immediately we could tell the difference. It did help and we had quite a lot more control over him.

This picture is from mid December - just a couple weeks after he busted out of his crate
which is why his face looks so red. He is wearing the Sporn Halter here.
Once we got a dog walker she recommended the Freedom Harness to us. It took us about a month before we broke down and bought it but we decided if there was a better tool out there then it might be worth it. So we sprung for the Freedom. The look of it alone is very impressive. This is the harness we currently use.
Here's Barry struttin' his stuff in the Freedom Harness.
Perhaps one day we'll be able to take Barry down Squirrel Alley and he'll be an angel.

**Harness Reviews**
The Sporn Halter is easy to use and connect to a leash of your choice. The price is low. There are nice sherpa sleeves where his arms go to help stop chafing but for Barry this didn't help at all. He still chafed quite a bit due to how hard he pulled. He was also able to jump up onto his hind legs and pull while we tried to hold him down even when wearing the Sporn. The material the harness is made of is a lightweight thin woven material (acrylic or polyester blend?) that at the top where you tighten began to shred a little and fray as time went on. I knew it would because of how thin the material is and how hard Barry can pull. The spot where you connect the leash has a ring you can put your finger in and hold tight. As Barry pulls the harness tightens around him telling him he needs to slow down or stop pulling. That doesn't work with Barry but the spot where the ring was and location of the harness over his arms seemed to give us a bit more control.

The Freedom Harness is easy to use once you get the hang of it. It takes some tightening and some adjusting and making sure that it's not on backwards, etc., but once you've used it a few times it's not a problem. The price point is a bit more expensive than other types of harnesses. You can buy the harness with or without the special leash for training. This harness is a little strange to hold. There is a loop but it slides along the leash and takes some getting used to. Even though it's funny to hold I do recommend spending the extra money for the leash because it clips in to the front and top of the harness. The bottom portion of the harness has velvet straps. This has helped a lot with Barry's chafing. He has no chafing from the Freedom even though he pulls a lot. He cannot jump up onto his hind legs and pull easily with the Freedom. He still can but we have a lot more control over him with the two straps and it just isn't so natural and easy for him to jump up in the Freedom. The material is thick and smooth woven (acrylic or polyester blend?) that seems to me like it will stand up to any abuse Barry gives it. The metal rings and clips are thick and heavy. This thing is well made and heavy duty. We will not have to buy another harness for years to come. The leash clips onto the back-top above his should blades and then the other end of the leash clips to the front across his chest. The back-top portion squeezes and tightens around Barry as he pulls, which doesn't do a whole lot of good, but also has the added feature of the front chest clip. This helps to bring Barry's body toward you as you are walking bringing his attention to you. When you walk your dog if your dog has his attention directed toward you he is not likely to be pulling. We want this as often as possible during walks.  With the Freedom he is paying more attention to us due to the front chest clip.

**My final thoughts on the two harnesses used**
They both helped to improve our control over Barry. The Freedom wins my vote overall but it is just a tool and not an answer to pulling or walking issues. This doesn't improve how well Barry walks - it simply helps the amount of control we have. Both harnesses have clear pros and cons. It is always best to work with and train your dog to walk nicely on a leash. These two harnesses are gentle and humane and great tools to help with a strong puller like Barry.

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