Sunday, June 30, 2013

Shedd Animal Training Seminar: Problem Solving

Problem behaviors in animals can vary widely; beyond aggression, which we’ve discussed in previous Shedd Seminar installments, behavior problems can range from inappropriate elimination to fear to resource guarding to a trained behavior simpy falling apart. Ken said that when solving problem behaviors, you should have some kind of system in place to ensure that you aren’t missing something. The particular system doesn’t matter so much as the fact that you use one that makes sense to you.

Don’t have one? No problem! Ken shared his five-step plan to solving problems. And the most important steps are the first three; most problem solving fails because people don’t spend enough time creating a solid plan before they try to implement it.

This picture has nothing to do with the post. I just like it.

Identify the Problem
It might seem obvious that the first step is to identify the problem, but this is not as easy as it sounds. Behavior is complex, with many parts, and often only certain parts need fixing. Break it down. Look for patterns. Ask others for their feedback (what do your kids, baby-sitters, housekeepers, friends, etc. think?). Write a thorough description, including what the behavior looks like. How is the animal misbehaving? What are they refusing to do or doing wrong?

You also need to accept responsibility. Labels often get in the way of finding solutions; they become excuses that trainers feel absolves them of responsibility. In turn, this makes it harder to fix. One way to do this is to shift your thinking. Instead of trying to figure out what’s wrong with the animal, ask yourself why you can’t train the animal.

Determine the Cause
There can be many, many reasons that a problem behavior begins. Although knowing the cause may not help you solve the problem, sometimes there is a very simple fix, so it’s worth trying to figure out. Ken presented a systematic method (developed by Desmond and Laule) that can help trainers look for the causes of a problem. There possible categories are: Environmental (weather, facility changes, prop changes), Social (dominance/submission, aggression from another animal, competition for resources, sexual activity), Psychological (boredom, superstitious behaviors, genetic issues), Physical (health, changing abilities in vision or muscles, illness), Trainer (skill level, attitude, emotions), Session Use (length, frequency, pacing), and Regression (which is a normal part of learning).

Consider the Balance of Reinforcement
Every problem has two ways of looking at it. On one hand, a desired behavior may not be happening if it is being punished. On the other, an unwanted behavior can be reinforced. These usually aren’t things the trainer is doing (and when it is, the trainer probably isn’t doing it on purpose). Often, the environment, including other people or animals, contributes to this.

Think about the problem in terms of what you would like the animal to do. Then make two lists: things that reinforce the behavior and things that punish it. Increase the reinforcers, and decrease the punishers. Doing so should tell you a lot about what motivates your animal. (Three big contributors to an animal’s motivation: the animal’s desire to control their environment, their selfishness/the “what’s in it for me?” question, and past consequences to their behavior.)

Develop and Implement a Plan
Only after you’ve completed the previous three steps can you move on to developing a plan. Keep in mind that you will need to evaluate your priorities as you do this; if the behavior was easy to change, you probably would have already done it. Often, changing a problem behavior requires, well… change. Are you willing to sacrifice something (time, energy, money, etc.) in order to solve the problem? If not, the problem may be difficult or even impossible to solve.

But if you are, you can develop and implement a plan. There are many ways to approach an undesirable behavior. Ken cited Karen Pryor’s book “Don’t Shoot the Dog” as a nice summary of the options. These include “shooting the dog” (where you give up on the animal entirely), using punishment (which always has possible undesirable side effects), using negative reinforcement, extinction protocols, putting the behavior on cue (this is not suited for all problems), training an incompatible behavior (teach a specific behavior that the animal can do instead of the problem behavior), shaping the absence of a behavior (anything except the problem behavior is reinforced), or change the motivation.

Constant Monitoring

Problem behaviors may be gone, but they are never forgotten. You can’t “untrain” an animal; the neural pathways are always in the animal’s brain, meaning there’s always a risk the problem will come back. Watch for any early signs that the problem behavior is reemerging and address it immediately. Good records can help with this process.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Stress Bathtub

Sometimes, I like to think about the effect of stress on a dog’s body- or our own!- as a bathtub.

It’s impossible to avoid stress entirely, but when things are running well, stress comes in and stress goes out. It’s a nice little system that allows our bodies to cope with whatever life throws at us. Some dogs are naturally pretty chill. They are the empty bathtubs of the world. Some dogs are… well, some dogs are like ours. Anxious. Reactive. Whatever. Their bathtubs tend to always have some water in them, but as long as the level doesn’t get too high, they can function just fine.

Of course, the level in the bathtub is constantly fluctuating. This is inevitable. Sometimes something happens that causes more water than usual to come in, like a thunderstorm, or a vet visit, or an interaction with another dog. Sometimes there’s a clog, making the stress drain out slower than usual- maybe the dog is in pain or just hasn’t had enough rest. Sometimes both things happen at the same time.

When this happens, stress starts to build up. That’s fine as long as we do something to help our dogs. If we can find a way to turn down the water tap or unclog the drain, the bathtub will slowly empty out again until the dog is back to normal. But if we don’t (or can’t!) get things back in balance, the stress will keep building up until… SPLASH! The bathtub overflows. Your dog’s behavior is suddenly out of control; he barks, growls, lunges- maybe he even bites. It’s not that he wants to do any of those things, it’s just that his body can’t cope with the amount of stress coming in relative to the amount going out. This can happen to any dog, not just reactive ones.

The bathtub will continue to overflow until you do something so that the stress can drain out. Physiologically, we know that stress hormones take an average of 72 hours to dissipate. Of course, each dog is different, so it may take more or less time to completely empty his bathtub. During this recovery period, even a small amount of water- something that might not normally have a noticeable impact on our dogs- can cause the bathtub to overflow again.

It’s worth noting that dogs who have chronic stress, whose bathtubs never get a chance to completely empty, will always be closer to that overflow point than dogs whose bathtub does empty out.

Thankfully, there are things we can do to help our dogs reduce their overall water level. This can be done by either widening their drains through training that helps them cope with stress more effectively, or by turning down the amount of stress entering through medication or management techniques. The end result is a bathtub that is less likely to overflow from daily events.

What does your dog's bathtub look like? What are you doing to keep everything flowing smoothly?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Shedd Animal Training Seminar: Turner and Tompkin’s Rules on Aggression Reduction

In my last Shedd post, I shared some general rules on aggression. Today, we’re going to look at the rules of aggression reduction. These were originally formulated by Turner and Tompkins, and Ken expanded on them. Hopefully I’ve attributed everything correctly! Also, just as a side-note, I have changed the presentation order slightly.

First, and possibly most importantly: stop aggression before it starts. It’s much harder to stop aggression than to prevent it because the animal has practiced the behavior. Ken told us that aggression can also be highly reinforcing to animals, making it a behavior that is easily learned. For example, if your dog is afraid of men, he might bark and lunge at them. If the men then go away, your dog may come to see barking and lunging as a strategy that worked to reduce his fear.

Aggression is possible: multiple animals and a baby in the area.
Next, understand which scenarios might lead to aggression. This allows you to be prepared for potentially dangerous situations instead of being caught off guard. Ken shared a number of examples from his work: when an animal has a hard time separating from the group it lives with, frustration resulting from numerous incorrect responses to a cue, when only one animal in a group is being fed, the use of punishment/aversive control resulting in displaced or redirected aggression, a change in what causes an animal to get reinforced, the disruption of sexual activity (especially when the animal is in season/in heat), and pushing an animal too far or too long during training. Keep in mind that the scenarios leading to potential aggression will vary not only by species, but by individual as well. Know your animal!

Now you need to learn to recognize the precursors to aggression. Every animal will warn you before they are aggressive. If yours doesn’t, either you don’t know what to look for or the precursors have been punished. Each species will show these precursors differently. For example, birds tend to have dilated pupils. Dolphins have wide eyes prior to aggressing. Cats hiss and dogs growl. Dolphins will make a chuffing noise. Elephants will flap their ears. In addition, each individual will be unique in the precursors they tend to display. If there are multiple people working with an animal (such as in a family or a shelter), making a list so that everyone knows each animal’s precursors can be very helpful.

Both Turner and Tompkins as well as Ken agree that using DRO or DRI (or another appropriate technique if these fail) is a great technique for reducing aggression. DRO stands for Differential Reinforcement of Other behavior, while DRI stands for Differential Reinforcement of Incompatible behavior. These techniques are basically very sophisticated ways of redirecting an animal. Although Ken acknowledged that they may reinforce the precursors, he feels that aggression is too serious and too dangerous to not interrupt. In addition, in his experience, it is very rare to reinforce precursors to the point that they significantly increase; precursors tend to be more reflexive than consciously chosen behaviors. But even if you do increase them, it’s still better than allowing the aggression to occur.

Finally, it is highly recommended that you keep records. Doing so gives you something to fall back on if the aggression re-emerges. It will help you remember what worked and what didn’t so you don’t repeat ineffective interventions. This is especially important in zoological facilities since staff turnover means that knowledge will be lost, but it can be helpful for pet owners whose memories tend to fade over time.

There are other options, of course. Although DRO is the most commonly used method in the zoological world, the right technique really depends on many factors, including the specific animal, the trainer (and her skill level), and the specific situation.

The bottom line is that something needs to be changed, and there are only four ways to do that (Ken attributed this list to Jean Donaldson). You can change the consequences for the animal’s aggression (operant conditioning). You can change the association an animal has with whatever it is acting aggressively towards (classical conditioning). You can change the animal’s access to the thing eliciting aggression (management). Or, you can change the animal’s brain chemistry (medication).

For more information on Ken’s thoughts about treating aggression in dogs, please see this post from 2011:

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Who's the Expert?

In our classes, we often tell our human students that they are the experts on their dogs. The theory is that while we, the teachers, know the science of dog training, the students live with and love their dogs. They know them best, which means they are uniquely suited to the art of dog training- applying the science to a specific individual.

As a student, I appreciate this perspective; there are positive methods that I have no problem with in theory, but that I don’t think are appropriate for Maisy. As a teacher, my goal is to empower my human students to make similar judgment calls. I want them to stand up for their dogs, to not be bullied into doing things they are uncomfortable with just because an “expert” tells them to.

But in telling our students that they are the experts, are we doing a disservice to the dog?

I’m guessing that you’ve probably had a well-meaning friend or family member start off a sentence with “Well, if I were you…” I know have. But the thing is, they aren’t me. I have a lot of great people in my life, people who love me and care for me deeply. People who have lived with me, who have heard my darkest fears, held my deepest pain, celebrated my greatest successes. People who’ve seen me at my worst and my best. People who, in short, know me very, very well.

But they still aren’t the experts on my life. No matter how close we are, no matter how empathetic they are, at the end of the day, they aren’t me. The way that I experience the world is unique, in turn making me uniquely qualified to be the expert of who I am, what’s important to me, what I want and like and fear. I am the expert on me.

Although we humans like to think that we are somehow superior to all other living beings, I am not so arrogant as to think I know what it means to be a dog. I will never know what my dog is thinking or feeling. I will never understand what she can hear and smell- she has abilities well beyond mine. I may know a lot about dogs, but I am not the expert on who Maisy is. She is.

Look, I get that dogs are not humans. I know that we have to make decisions for them. But then, there are times we make decisions for other humans. Parents make decisions for their children. Adults with cognitive deficits sometimes have guardians appointed to help them make medical, legal, and financial decisions. Hopefully, the people entrusted to make those decisions are doing so after considering their charge as a unique individual, not simply an age or diagnosis.

So perhaps I ought to be encouraging my students to consider their dogs as the experts. Heck, I need reminders to do this too. It would mean my students (and me, too!) would need to let go of ego and human desire, but I can’t help but think that we would make different choices for our dogs if we took the time to not only ask them for their opinions, but to really, truly listen.  

Monday, June 17, 2013

Shedd Animal Training Seminar: General Rules About Aggression

Ken spent some time discussing aggression in animals, which he defines as “any unwanted agonistic behavior.” There is a bit of a grey area here, I think; while most people would not consider a cat catching and killing a mouse to be aggressive, to the mouse, it most definitely is. Still, there are some general rules about aggression that seem to hold up regardless of who is discussing it. Where applicable, I have cited the researcher (and year of their published work) whom Ken credited for the rule.

First, most (if not all) animals have some degree of aggression in their repertoire (Lorenz). It’s just normal for animals to be aggressive in order to protect themselves (for example, if they are ill) or their young. Aggression may also be used to determine social hierarchies or who gets access to food or mates. However, Ken was quick to tell us that this does not mean that we shouldn’t take aggression seriously, nor that we shouldn’t try to modify it.

Animals who have the opportunity to aggress will do so more often (Johnson, 1972). Ken told us that most zoo keepers would never even consider engaging in free-contact with lions (no barriers between them) because lions who have the opportunity to be aggressive often are.

An animal who has been food deprived will aggress more readily than an animal who has adequate provisions (Staddon, 1977). This is part of the reason that Ken is so adamant that all animals under his care gets its full rations regardless of whether or not they perform well in training.

The use of punishment or aversive control will cause aggression (Kazdin, 1984). Not only can frustration yield aggression, but it’s also important to note that pain can cause an instinctive aggressive response.

Aggression can also be shaped by accidental reinforcement (Skinner, 1963). It is easy to understand how this might come about; if a dog growls at another dog because he is too close, and that dog goes away, the aggression was successful. Aggression can also be shaped deliberately.

Finally, animals respond more favorably to a consistent environment, so trainers should use caution to condition changes slowly and positively (Turner, 1999). I think this last point is especially important to remember; although we often want quick fixes and miracle cures, the results are ultimately better and longer-lasting when we are patient.

Ken cautioned us that this list is not meant to be all-inclusive. There are likely other general rules about aggression that were either not covered or that scientists are in the process of discovering even as I write this. Although I do not have any references to cite, I would say that in my experience, once an aggressive action enters an animal’s repertoire, it’s always there. The animal may not use that response as the first, second, or third choice, but it can always crop up again. This is why I’m so careful with Maisy, even though she’s basically normal these days.

What about you? Are there general rules you’d add to this list?  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The 100 Treat Philosophy

Imagine that I told you that you could fix your dog’s behavior problems with 100 treats. It will take 100 days and all you have to do is give him a treat once a day at a specified time. That sounds pretty good, right?

Now imagine that I told you that you could cut that time in half. You will use your 100 treats by giving your dog two treats a day for 50 days. Sounds even better, right?

But what if I told you that you could shorten that time all the way down to one day? You’d need to give your dog all 100 treats throughout that day, and it would probably take quite a bit of concentration to make sure you did everything correctly… but the effort would be worth it, right?

So which option would you choose? 100 days, 50 days, or 1 day?

"I would like to eat these now, please."
The numbers in this scenario are not realistic. If they were, I’m pretty sure I’d be a millionaire. Still, the idea behind them IS realistic. When I teach reactive dog classes, the one thing that I consistently notice is that the dogs who make the most progress are the ones who have the most generous people.

But having a high rate of reinforcement is hard for most of us, even when we’re fully on board with using food to train. I know that I personally struggled with that when Maisy and I were first working on her reactivity. I was afraid she’d become dependent on the treats. I was afraid that I’d have to carry food with me everywhere I went. I was afraid I’d never get her back in competitions because food is either not allowed or is very limited in the ring.

The truth is, though, food is like a foundation. Just as an abundant supply of bricks or concrete will make a better base for your house than a small number of logs, using a lot of high value treats in the early stages of training gives you a better chance of getting the results you want. You’ll also get those results sooner because you won’t have to constantly rebuild after every little storm.

When I finally began to reward Maisy for as many good choices as I could, even if that seemed like “too many” treats, she began to make PHENOMENAL progress. In fact, these days she’s practically normal. While there are situations where I do still use a lot of treats- like when she’s acting as a neutral dog for one of my reactive dog clients- there are also times when I don’t use any. I walk Maisy at least twice a day, and I rarely take treats with me. Last week we made a spur-of-the-moment stop at a pet store, and even though I didn’t have any treats with me, it didn’t matter. She was just fine without them.

Now, of course we all know that there are no guarantees when it comes to dog training. There are things you just can’t control when trying to work on a dog’s behavior problems. Notably, a dog’s genetics will limit the amount of progress possible, so not every dog can be “fixed.” (See this post for an in-depth discussion on why this is.) And although you can affect how long it takes to help your dog reach his full potential, there is no way to know in advance how long that will take.

So the next time you’re worried that you’re giving your dog too many treats, remember that it won’t be like that forever. In fact, by being generous, you’re making things easier for both you and your dog. Still, it’s up to you. Use your 100 treats wisely.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Your Dog

Most people who are active in the dog training world will probably receive conflicting advice at some point. This seems to be especially true for my students, who often see me for reactivity and focus issues while also working with another trainer for competition obedience or agility classes.

I recently got an email from one such student. Her dog- a reactive adolescent German Shepherd- has come so far since I first met them. Although the dog does still have some difficult moments, especially when there are sudden environmental changes, the dog’s ability to bounce back and work despite those moments has grown in leaps and bounds. I’m so proud of how far the dog has come.

In her email, my student recounted a recent obedience class with an instructor who uses very different methods than I do. The instructor did not like that my student was using the Look at That game to help her dog deal with triggers, nor the fact that she used the dog’s name when she wanted the dog’s attention. It culminated when the dog reacted towards the end of class; even though my student was able to quickly get her dog back under control, the instructor told her that she should have grabbed the dog, shaken her, and yelled. When my student pointed out that this would make things worse (so proud of her for speaking up!), the instructor disagreed, stating that my student needed to start "getting tough" with her dog. Dogs, the instructor said, need to work and focus when we want, for as long as we want.

But is this true? Should we expect this from our dogs? I replied to my student, telling her that I think that we can train our dogs to high standards without “getting tough.” I also told her that I think it’s reasonable to expect them to perform when requested. But I’m personally really uncomfortable with the line of thinking that says our dogs must comply.

Here’s the thing: my dog is a living, breathing person. (Well, dog, but you know what I mean, right?) She’s not a robot to be commanded. She has thoughts and feelings, though I’ll admit I don’t know what they’re like. She has likes and dislikes; she even has interests that don’t include me. And that’s okay! I know we have a strong relationship, and that we genuinely enjoy being and working together. But that doesn’t mean that I am- or should be- the center of her universe.

My dog.
It’s not that she’s “just a pet.” Although I will freely admit that I’m not as serious of a competitor as others, I do enjoy showing my dog, and I like high scores, placements, titles, and pretty ribbons. (Oh, do I like ribbons.) I also like having a dog that I can hike with off leash, that I can take places without worrying about her behavior, and that is generally easy for me to live with.

Because of that, I have to make it worth her while to do obedience routines instead of hanging out with Auntie Sara ringside, or to come when I call instead of blowing me off to play with her doggy pals. I do this by offering her great rewards. Food, play, and interaction with me, of course... but I also allow her to be her own dog sometimes. I respect who she is as an individual.

Other people choose to motivate their dogs differently. They take more of a “have to” attitude, with an unspoken “or else” at the end. Their dogs are expected to do what they are told, or suffer the consequences. The dog’s motivation, it would appear, is not the promise of good things, but the avoidance of bad things. There is a continuum with this, of course; some trainers are heavy-handed, while others are sparing with their corrections. This is true with positive trainers like me, too. I know that I have fewer rules and expectations for my dog than others do. I don’t demand that she earn everything. I laugh hysterically when she makes a mistake in the competition ring. My dog is admittedly spoiled beyond belief.

This doesn’t make me right, nor others wrong. All of us will misunderstand or misinterpret the science behind training sometimes. But all of us will learn over time. All of us will make poor decisions for our dogs sometimes. But all of us will have moments of brilliance. Instead, it makes us different. Because when it comes down to it, Maisy is my dog. I get to decide what I expect from her, and I get to decide how to motivate her to give that to me.

If you’re getting conflicting advice, remember that you have choices. While I believe strongly in my methods, I don’t get to make decisions for anyone but me. I know who I am, how I want to train, and what kind of relationships I want to have. So when my student asked for my thoughts, I told her this: This is your dog. You get to decide how you train her and what you expect out of her. Not that other trainer. Not me. You. 

She’s your dog.

Choose well.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Graduation Day: The VetBeh Recheck that Almost Happened

Maisy had an appointment scheduled for today with her veterinary behaviorist, Dr. Duxbury. Key word: had. We ended up cancelling it, on Dr. Duxbury’s advice.

Things normal dogs do: play, then nap.  
Quick recap: At our last appointment a year ago, Dr. Duxbury was so pleased with Maisy’s progress that she gave me the option of transferring her care back to our primary vet. I chose not to do this because I wanted to maintain a relationship with Dr. Duxbury in case things worsened.

Things have changed since then. Not only is Maisy doing even better than she was a year ago (to the point that I now think of her as normal), but I also now count Dr. Duxbury- Margaret- as a friend. This means that she has seen Maisy regularly over the past year, thus alleviating my concerns about continuity of care. Still, I scheduled the appointment because I was concerned that the sudden thunderphobia that started last summer would continue this year. It hasn’t (she’s slept through the last several thunderstorms), leaving me with absolutely zero concerns about Maisy’s behavior. Margaret and I agreed that it seemed silly to bring a normal dog in.

Maisy will continue on her current medication regime because it continues to be the best thing I’ve ever done for her. I decided long ago that I would not change something that’s working so well. Of course, I will continue to run regular lab work to make sure the meds aren’t impacting her negatively, but so far, so good.

And so ends our (professional) involvement with the Veterinary Behaviorist. I will be forever grateful for what she’s done for both Maisy and for me. Margaret is an amazing clinician and an even more amazing person. The world is truly a better place with her in it, and I am so fortunate to be able to call her a friend.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

What I Learned by Spending Six Days in the Wilderness

Maisy and I recently went on a 6 day, 20 mile backpacking trip on the Superior Hiking Trail in Northern Minnesota with our friends Laura and Piper. It was my first time doing this; while I adore hiking and have been camping, I’ve never combined the two before. Here’s what I learned from my experience.

There’s no sense in worrying about things you can’t change.
Leading up to the trip, I worried about a lot of things. I worried about the trail conditions; reports were that there was still snow on sections of it. I worried about whether it would rain. I worried that it would be hot, or too cold. Well, there was a tiny bit of snow on the ground, and it definitely rained, and I was cold one night. But all my worrying did nothing to change this, and I had a great time anyway.

Photo by Laura

Hiking in the rain sucks. Camping in the rain sucks more.
We had rainstorms two days on our hiking trip. As much as carrying 50 pounds uphill in the rain really sucks, huddling in a tent in the rain was even worse. At least I was warm while I was moving. Also, I’m pretty sure there’s a metaphor in there about life; I'm just not sure what it is yet.

Don’t pack cotton. Just don’t.
Once it gets wet, it’s wet. And wet stuff is heavy. Pack things that will dry fast.

If you pack cotton, you'll have to take an entire day in camp to dry stuff out.

Appreciate the small things in life.
Roughing it really puts things in perspective. At various points during the week, I was cold, I was wet, I was muddy, I was smelly, I was tired, and I was in pain. But as long as my feet and undies were dry, I could really deal with all that. It doesn't take much to be happy... we just think it does.

I'm happy the girls played together! Photo by Laura.

When things are miserable, sometimes all you can do is to keep putting one foot in front of another.
There was one day where it was raining pretty hard and everything I owned or was wearing (including my socks and undies) were wet. I discovered that I’m pretty out of shape, so I needed to take frequent breaks, but as soon as I stopped moving, I was freezing cold. In short, I was miserable. There was nothing I could do but keep going. 

If you suffer through the hard days, you are rewarded with days like this.

When you don’t know how far you’ve come- or how far you have left to go- you can either endure it or enjoy it.
Hiking on backwoods trails is different than hiking in the city. The trails do not have regular signage. I had a map, but it was pretty hard to tell where we were on it. Most days, I didn’t know how far we had hiked, nor how long (we didn’t bring watches). On those miserably wet days, there was no way to know how much longer we had to go. Certainly, those days were about enduring hard times. But all the same, there were moments I couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of the woods. 

Laura can make fire out of water.
Well, water-soaked wood. Which is pretty much the same thing.

Photo- and fire!- by Laura

Less is more.
When you’re carrying fifty pounds on your back for miles every day, every ounce counts. It’s hard enough to carry the necessities, so don’t pack more than you need. And you need less than you think. Let go. Another metaphor for life- you got that, right?

Photo by Laura

Even well-maintained trails will have obstacles, but there’s always a way around them.
The Superior Hiking Trail has a great group of volunteers that go out and clear fallen trees off the trail pretty regularly. Still, they are volunteers, so there were places they hadn’t gotten to yet. Some of the obstacles were small and easy to step over. Others… well, they took more creativity. But there was always a way to carry on.

This was an easy section.

The best views come after the hardest climbs. Enjoy them.
‘Nuf said. 

The best dog is the one you’ve already got.
I didn’t know what Maisy would think about backpacking. She doesn’t like to get wet. She gets overheated easily. She is probably just as out of shape as I am, so I thought she’d get tired and I’d have to carry her at times. Her routine was disrupted, and we shared a small tent with a boxer and an adult human. And, predictably, she had moments of snarkiness, but overall, we both had a great time. I'm so proud of us both!  

Photo by Laura