The Problem of Patience – Train Your Dog Month Challenge

Dozens of you have already signed on to the Something Wagging Train Your Dog Challenge by leaving comments here and here.

I’m excited and inspired to see what you’re hoping to do with your dogs (and guinea pigs and birds and cats) this month.

I thought I’d show you my training challenge to inspire you make you laugh at what a bad trainer I am.

The Problem

Recently, our only car died. After months of talking about it, we are officially car-free.

It’s not as easy as when we lived in Philadelphia but with good bikes, a modest public transit system, and Car Share it’s certainly possible.

But some of our favorite places to go with Honey are too far to walk to. And the bus and Car Share are not dog-friendly options.

Luckily, I have an awesome Doggy Ride Bike Trailer.

My last dog, Shadow, wasn’t fond of the bike trailer. She’d rather run.

Mixed breed dog in bike trailer

Shadow rocking her Doggy Ride. Don't you love the way the cart's colors complement her markings?

But the groceries, plants, and beach chairs I’ve transported in it never minded a bit.

Honey and the Bike Trailer

I knew from the start I’d like Honey to enjoy the trailer. That’s why we removed the wheels and parked it in the kitchen when she was a puppy. I’d hide treats and toys in there for her to find at random.

When Honey was a puppy, we took her for her first ride to the Red Bull Chariot races. It seemed like a fitting way to arrive at such an event. (By the way, if you’re a Cornell parent, you probably don’t want to click the link to see how your kids are spending $41,000 in annual tuition.)

Honey did ok getting to the races but she cried all the way home.

Golden Retriever with soda bottle

What's a Chariot Race? And why did I have to ride in one to get here? Someone has a warped sense of humor.

At last year’s beach vacation we tried again. We started with the clicker and treats outside with the trailer already hooked to the bike. Big mistake. Especially since my bike doesn’t have a kickstand. While we got her into the trailer after enough treats she was obviously not happy.

We gave up and haven’t revisited the trailer. Until now.

Training Challenge

So we’re starting as if from scratch. The bike trailer is in the foyer. We feed her near it. I occasionally hide treats on it during nose work games.

But this month we’re going back to puppy steps.

Golden Retriever in Doggy Ride bike trailer

Yeah, Lady. Just try keeping me in this contraption. I'm outta here.

The wheels are coming off so the trailer has no chance of moving. Every fun thing we do will have something to do with that trailer. And Pam will be very, very patient.

Now the stakes are higher.

A Fail Means We Lose Some of Our Favorites

In a comment, Amy of Go Pet Friendly suggested we teach Honey to run alongside the bike.

It’s a great suggestion. And one that totally slipped from my mind because Honey’s breeder suggested we not do any running with her on hard surfaces until she’s at least 18 months to 2 years old. Honey will be 2 on January 27 so I guess we’re good to go.

But my favorite summer activity is to hang out on the edge of Cayuga Lake at Taughannock State Park.

Golden Retriever at the Lake

I love coming to the lake to play.

It’s a hilly eight mile bike ride along a 55 mile per hour road. The shoulders are wide and probably fine for a bike with a trailer. But you obviously wouldn’t want to have a dog running alongside.

If Honey doesn’t get comfortable with the trailer, I’ll never be able to hang out at my favorite beach with her again.

Learning Life Skills

My goals for Honey, as for my earlier dogs, was just for them to live comfortably in our lives. We don’t do agility or tricks or tracking.

But I expect my dogs to have good life skills. To be able to travel comfortably to us and share our lives.

Honey expects me to be patient and to have the wisdom to know what life skills are most important.

I guess the Something Wagging Train Your Dog Challenge will be a time of learning for both of us.
Hop on…

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  1. Good luck! The one thing I try to remember when I am working with Bella and all her fears/anxiety is: when I think I’m going slow enough-I slow down just a little bit! I wish I had went slower when I first got her. i think we wasted a lot of months with me putting too much pressure on her.

    Good luck!

    • That’s good advice and I’m not very good at going slow. I’ll need to tattoo your comment on my clicker hand so I don’t forget. :)

  2. Good luck!

  3. I am confident that you are going to be successful with Honey. But it sounds like it’s going to be harder than I thought it would be. I can’t imagine trying to train Rumpy to ride in one. It just wouldn’t happen.

  4. I have a good feeling about Honey being able to overcome her distrust of the bike trailer. Does it have some sort of way to attach a seatbelt harness of some kind? Perhaps if she could stick her head out and not be totally zipped in, she might feel a little better about it. That’s just a random guess, though. I think your initial take the wheels off and feed her in there is the way to go. I know that’s what we’ll do when we start trying to teach a dog to ride in a wagon again! Gads! That was a disaster for us! I moved way too fast in the beginning of that with Lilac and totally ruined it.

    • The trailer does come with a seatbelt that connects to both sides of the interior. It gives Honey the ability to sit up or lie down.

      But I’ll tell you it’s scary to be riding your bike and hearing a dog struggling to get out of the cart you’re pulling behind you. :)

      If I want this to work, I’ll certainly have to learn patience. Did you ever get Lilac to accept a cart?

      • No, we never did. After she leaped out and fell on the cement floor, my heart couldn’t take any more attempts. She gashed her leg really badly, and I kept thinking how much worse it could be with a senior dog. She just hated it so deeply, I didn’t have the heart to try any more.

        Now I think Bunny would ride in it like the Queen of England when her senior years approach us. She’d do anything not to be left behind and Lilac could have cared less!

  5. Oh, dear – Honey sounds somewhat obstinate about the trailer; how does her weight in it affect your riding that hilly terrain to your lovely beach? Sounds like you have a very good, patient plan.
    I’m noticing not only are the dogs enjoying walking with me away from home but are mentally tired by the time we are done. I’ve not walked that far with any of them so far, really, 1/2 to 3/4 miles but the change of scenery, the different smells, sounds, cows, make those nose driven brains work.
    Yesterday, Justus went to the bank. A teller told me she saw him hover above the floor when I downed him, ready for action in a very strange place. We’ll be back :).

    • So many people think a back yard is the only thing a dog needs. And hounds get more use out of the smells in a backyard than most dogs. But you’re so right about how much extra stimulation they get once they step out.

      We have two elderly beagles in our neighborhood that get walks every day. I’m not sure how old they are but I’d guess 16 or 17. Anyway, no matter how slow they go, they just love going out for their sniffies.

      I think it’s splendid that you’re enjoying walkies with the dogs in your care.

      Honey’s weight will definitely make the ride to the lake harder. But I have a touring bike that is geared for long distance travel so I anticipate it only making me puff a little more on the uphills. I’m actually hoping it will slow me down a bit on the downhills. :)

  6. I’ve not seen one of these trailers here. The Other Half fantasizes about adding a sidecar to his cruiser. I would never allow that because it would be suicide on Sydney roads!
    CarShare is such a brilliant idea. If they had one here, we’d probably dump our 4WD which we got to accommodate Rufus. It sits on the street most days gathering cobwebs and leaves. However, if CarShare doesn’t allow dogs, that wouldn’t work for us, given that our public transport is also very pet unfriendly. Why doesn’t someone start a pet friendly fleet? Ping!

    Life skills are all we teach Georgia too. No party tricks for the pigdog :)

    • Hmmmm, dog friendly car share. That’s an entrepreneurial idea.

      Actually, dogs are allowed in car share vehicles but only if they’re crated. For a dog Honey or Georgia’s size, that means we’d have to reserve the Scion across town. Most of the car share vehicles in Ithaca are small economy cars.

      Since we don’t normally crate Honey in the car (and only at bedtime at home), that would probably take as much training as the Doggy Ride trailer.

  7. Kolchak want to flip that trailer over resulting in a tragic biking accident, so I can understand the challenge in front of you. Is she crate trained? If so, would a crate fit inside? We had to do this when we changed from Koly’s small airline carrier style crate to a larger wire crate…Slowly over time, we removed the airline crate, so it was sometimes there, sometimes not. Eventually it just disappeared and I don’t know if he even noticed! Good luck.

    I never thought about dogs not being allowed on transit. Here in Vancouver small dogs in a carrier are allowed on our transit buses, trains and ships. I actually have one of those (really awkward and embarrassing) doggy strollers just for this reason, but I can never quite bring myself to use it. Luckily, we have the farm truck if we want to take the pups somewhere too far.

    • Interesting idea about the crate, Jodi. Unfortunately, Honey’s crate is even bigger than the doggy ride. But not big enough for the doggy ride to go inside it. At least I don’t think so.

      If Honey were small enough to ride in a small crate, I bet most bus drivers wouldn’t say a word as long as she was quiet. But since she’s 50 pounds or so, her crate would need to take over the wheelchair spot on the bus. :)

      And Ithaca public transit is nowhere near as good as Vancouver’s. To give you an example: if we could take the bus to the dog park, we’d either have to be finished playing in a 1/2 hour to catch the bus on the loop back or we’d have to wait six hours before it passed that way again. :)

      • We’re lucky to live in a place where Mass Transit is so friendly. Even out in the ‘burbs the longest you wait for the next bus is less than an hour. It was definitely a part of the decision making process when we decided to get dogs. Since I am carless, I wanted to have the option of taking them places when my boyfriend was busy. LOL, Can you imagine rollin’ up to a bus stop with a crate the size of a retriever? I’d pay money to watch that. The whole idea cracks me up! Too bad the crate wont fit. Oh well, I wish you the best of luck. I’m sure by summer Honey will love it.

  8. I’m sure with time and patience Honey will overcome her hesitation regarding the side car.

    Delilah HATES to have a bath, but obviously once in a while she needs one. I have a tendency to hide food in and around the tub even when she is not having a bath. I think it helps her realize the tub isn’t ALWAYS a bad place. :-)

  9. I so admire you for taking this one task on. I cannot imagine how hard it must be to try and get Honey to be fine with riding along in the cart.

    I am also not a person who teaches a lot of tricks to my dogs although I did with so many of my dog clients. I think I need to change that. Jasper knows how to weave through my legs and bow and all the regular stuff you teach your dog, but I haven’t asked him to do anything else. Now is the time.

    BTW – Is it possible Honey gets car (i.e., cart) sick? You didn’t mention it before when you had a car, but was wondering. I know ginger snaps are supposed to help alm the stomach. Worth a try I guess. Wishing you much success Pamela!

  10. It sounds like you have your work cut out for you! Does Honey have a blanket or bed she really likes? Maybe putting that inside the cart with her, when you get to that point, would help. Locating my thimble full of patience becomes even harder when I’m training the dogs to do something and I’m really invested in the outcome – like you are. I’m rooting for you – if you can accomplish this, you can do anything!

  11. We wish you all the luck with Honey! I seriously need to do this with Luna and things that move close to her like big boxes and such.

  12. When it comes to tackling fears or anxieties, I don’t think it’s possible to be too slow or too patient. Given time and enough positive experiences, I know Honey will eventually grow comfortable with her trailer, even if she never loves it completely. She will certainly love the opportunities it brings her.

    Shiva doesn’t have nearly as many fears as she used to, but she continues to be terrified of deep water. Since we are surrounded by lakes and swimming is one of my favourite activities, I find her reluctance really frustrating. I know she would love it if she just gave it a chance. Maybe I need to go back to the beginning as well.

    Good luck!

  13. Good luck to you. I bet with a little patience, you will be traveling with Honey in no time. It is good that you are going back to the beginning (trailer in the house). That is what we do when we get stuck in training, go back and simplify. :)

  14. Good luck with this, Pamela. It does sound like you’ve got your work cut out for you and I know you’ve already had some great suggestions to try out. Beryl would probably be fine as long as she had at least one duvet to lie on:) But I doubt making it extremely comfortable would do the trick with Honey. Wish I could give you a magic cure but I’ll be watching your progress with great interest.

  15. Aw, Honey will get it! And then she will have so much fun! Wait, what? Guinea pigs? Awesome.

  16. We have a DoggyRide trailer for Chester and Gretel. Our experience has been similar to yours. At first we left them inside with the wheels off. They loved sleeping in there. Then when we went on our first real trip they did fine at first and then started to cry. When they are inside the trailer and it is stopped they have to problem – it’s just when we are moving so it is leading me to believe they might have motion sickness or something. I haven’t tried anything for motion sickness yet but plan to this spring (along with taking a lot of shorter trips to get them used to it again). I would be interested to hear how your training goes and if you find that motion sickness has anything to do with the crying.

  17. i am not actively participating in the challenge, but this post really made me think. in particular, it was the end that got me:

    “…I expect my dogs to have good life skills. To be able to travel comfortably to us and share our lives.

    Honey expects me to be patient and to have the wisdom to know what life skills are most important.”

    my husband and i always had this vision of us going out to cafes & bars while our dog lounged at our feet. and then we wound up with desmond. he started out OK with that kind of thing, but his leash reactivity only got worse and, at this point, i think we have to face the reality that desmond’s not ready to handle situations where he needs to be calm when he sees living things that he wants to greet. meaning, we have to face the reality that we can’t all relax at public dog-friendly places (other than off-leash areas) right now, and depending on how he does with our reactivity behavior modification, we may not ever get there with desmond. i think he’d want us to know that perhaps this particular life skill isn’t all that important.