Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A New Game: Stair Relays

For almost two weeks we had non-stop cold and snow, which is actually very atypical of the Denver area.

We are used to snow, it's true, but usually just for a day, and the following days usually increase in temperature enough to melt any snow left from the previous day.  It also usually returns to the 50s and is bright and sunshiney; many people tend to have inaccurate images of Denver weather.

However, the past two weeks had been an exception, and it is just now starting to get sunny and warm again in the 50s and 60s.

What I hated most about the cold snowy weather was how much it disrupted my routine with the hounds.  Because of my work schedule, I'd need to be up and walking the dogs by 6:30am, but the complex doesn't get the sidewalks shoveled until after 9:30am, making it very difficult to walk the dogs at all, without a sidewalk to speak of. We would trudge through for a while, but the snow would get between their toes and make their feet go numb.  Neither dog enjoys wearing boots (the ones they will are flimsy and expensive to go through) and musher's secret only helped so much. We'd usually trudge for 1/3 of a mile before finishing our walk going up and down the 5 floors of garage, which, while less snowy, is full of icky black sludge, and of course, is very boring for the dogs.

To keep Ferguson's anxiety at bay, we usually exercise for a solid 25-30 minutes in the mornings to keep him tired, and his routine very strict. So, no doubt you can see our troubles?

Fortunately, Ferguson and I learned a new game that actually tires him quite quickly and seems to be something he (for now) enjoys. I call it: Stair Relays. 

It starts by us coming inside from the cold and choosing to walk up the stairs, rather than taking the elevator. Because I'm quite sure no other apartment tenants even know we have a side stairwell, particularly before 7 in the morning, I let Ferguson (not Winry) off leash at the bottom, and we all head up.

Ferguson always chooses to sprint up the stairs, but he stops at the top of each level and, because of how they are structured, is able to turn around and look back down at us as Win and I walk.  For some reason, Ferguson has not yet figured out we live on the fifth floor, despite our having lived in the same building for just short of two years and having taken the same stairs hundreds of times (well, no one said greyhounds were geniuses). Just the same, once Winry and I reach the top, he stands staring expectedly at the door at the top of each stair flight. I grab his collar and gently turn him around, and it clicks with him that he gets to go up another flight of stairs.  Repeat process until we get to the 5th floor.

Only at the 5th floor, recently, I've started continuing on (since he apparently doesn't know the difference anyway), and lead him to the bottom of the 6th flight of stairs, which actually lead to nowhere but the roof and only has a locked door at the top. Here, I tell Ferguson excitedly:

"Go up!"  He does.
"Stay!" He does.
"Come down!" He does.
"Sit!" He does.
"Go up!" He does.

Interchange "sit" command with "touch," or "stay."

Repeat another 10 times, and you end up with one very tired, but quite content greyhound.

It seems silly, but in a way is like agility on a less difficult or complicated course.  Maybe one day this is something we'll look into for him, since he seems to enjoy it so much!  In any case, it has certainly come in handy for some especially chilly, wet icky days!


Sue said...

By heck! I am tired out reading about the stairs:) LOL

Hope the snow is soon all gone and you can enjoy walks outside. Sue, Polly & Honey

Hazel said...

I really chuckled when reading that "greyhounds aren't geniuses" because I think they are very smart! Your guys are lucky to have you for a mom, stairs and all!

gyeong said...

Sounds like he would be a great agility dog. Yes, we usually have similar weather where the snow doesn't hang around long, but this year was crazy.