Friday, February 28, 2014

A Funny Looking Dog

The other day we were out walking our pups and a young lady parked her car nearby. She got out of the car smiling and exclaimed "that's a funny looking dog!". There was no doubt she was referring to Delilah.

Besides her deceptively calm demeanor at the pound, Delilah's adorably odd features drew us to her. Her short legs are disproportionate to her toned muscular torso. She rivals Spartacus in length but is 1/3 his width. Her colors and markings are almost identical to Sparty's, but she's flanked with subtle merle spotting. She has a ridiculously long neck, and sports permanently oversized paws.

Delilah's giant ears take on a range of expressions that change her whole face instantly. 

Each ear is an individual, making decisions independent of the other.

Her lips are pursed and her amber eyes are determined. When she makes eye contact for treats we can practically hear her counting the seconds in her head. Her eye contact is intense!

Full grown at 35 lbs, we think Delilah is probably a Basenji mix. Maybe some Corgi or Daschund to account for her dwarfed legs. Maybe some Australian Cattle Dog, Jack Russell or Feist type dog. Her temperament matches the description of Basenjis to a T: alert, energetic, curious and reserved with strangers...has a strong prey drive...should not be let off the leash, for they are swift, agile chasers who are impossible to catch...will develop selective hearing if there's something more exciting to pay attention to (are there any dogs that don't fit that description?)...

Delilah compared to a purebred Basenji. See the resemblance?

Whatever this funny looking dog is, we couldn't be happier with our silly Delilah! Spartacus is our rugged handsome boy and Delilah is our delightfully bizarre little girl.

What breeds do you see? 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Strawberry Fields Forever

Spartacus discovers a Christmas tree farm

Nestled in the mountains

And tries wild strawberries for the first time.

And he is happy.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Loving a Distemper Dog

Spartacus has gotten himself into some very unpleasant situations. He's our reactive dog, and he can be an embarrassment, a hassle, a liability, a real pain in the ass. People think we named him Spartacus because we wanted an aggressive warrior dog. Little do they realize, Spartacus earned his gladiator title with honor, fighting for his life. And if you know his story, we think it's impossible to blame the poor little guy for being a bit troubled. 

He knew far too much suffering as a baby puppy. When a good samaritan picked him up off the side of the road in Miami, he was in rough shape.

Now Spartacus is all grown up, his fur is silky, his eyes are serene, and he's handsome as ever. But there are things about Sparty that make him very unique. Like his head twitch. At first glance you might not catch it, especially if he's doing zoomies past you. But once he settles down, it's impossible to miss. 


He has had this head twitch since before we adopted him when he was seven months old, almost three years ago. It is the result of permanent damage to his central nervous system from the canine distemper virus. It doesn't seem to get better or worse, it just is. His neurologist said even when he's under anesthesia, his twitch will go on twitching. We have ascertained that Spartacus caught, suffered, survived, and passed the distemper virus long before his rescuer changed his life and took him in. He was not an active carrier of the virus by the time he saw a vet, indicating that the worst of it was behind him.

According to the Baker Institute for Animal Health, canine distemper is estimated to be fatal in 50% of cases affecting adult dogs, and in 80% of cases affecting puppies. Spartacus, our special fighter, was one of the lucky few to make it out alive after weeks of respiratory, gastrointestinal, and neurological distress. For all we know, he suffered for weeks alone as a stray puppy, dehydrated, vomiting, having bloody diarrhea, coughing, enduring seizures. What's worse is the possibility that someone threw him out on the street when he started showing signs of sickness and left him to fend for himself. We'll never know the details of his past, we just do our best to ensure his future in a safe and loving environment.

There is no cure for canine distemper, and although Spartacus doesn't carry the virus anymore and can't infect other dogs, we're told the disease can continue to wreak havoc on him for the rest of his life. The course of the disease is unpredictable. He may develop a seizure disorder or suffer further neurologic damage from the virus as he ages. We hope that Sparty will be spared any more suffering, but we've been taught how to handle a canine seizure in case that day ever comes. He's had a handful of partial mal seizures that were luckily uneventful - just some funky leg shaking that came and went in under a minute. So far nothing alarming, nothing that necessitates medication.

In honor of National Pet Dental Health Month, we can't forget about Sparty's "unique" teeth. That's the nicest way of acknowledging the weird brown icicles we call his chompers. The distemper virus destroyed his ability to form tooth enamel at a cellular level. Because he was a little puppy, he never had a chance to develop normal, pretty teeth. This condition is known as enamel hypoplasia. His teeth are still totally functional for now, and we try to get on brushing. Generally we rely on the plaque removal from Sparty chewing on raw meaty bones. Next month he is getting a full dental cleaning done with the veterinarian. 

And the real kicker, Sparty's nightmares. Spartacus has little episodes throughout the night, every night, of trembling and whimpering accompanied by rapid breathing. Sometimes his eyes roll back and his legs jerk around a little. Even our perfectly healthy pup Delilah gets the occasional bad dream and gets shaken up similarly, so we don't think it's a neurological issue with Spartacus. Just the result of a very stressful first few months. The cure is always the same: petting him, whispering "it's OK Spartacus" no matter how late it is. If he's having a particularly tormented night, we cuddle him through it and fall asleep to the clicking sensation of his twitching head. No matter what any trainer advises, Sparty always has a guaranteed place in our bed. 

It's possible distemper contributed to his anxious and reactive nature toward other dogs. Maybe not. He's making so much progress with training, we don't believe his reactivity is medical in nature. All we know is we're so lucky to have such a special dog in our lives, behavior issues included. We're so grateful that Spartacus had the will to fight for his life. We try to reward him everyday for sticking around and just being Spartacus. And when we're feeling down in the dumps, we look to Spartacus for inspiration, because in our eyes he embodies perseverance. And even though his demons come to haunt him at night, we think he's a pretty happy dog. 

When we first brought him to a dog neurologist, she told us love would make a big difference in his outcome. Three years and loads of love later, he's still cruisin on by. Love definitely didn't hurt. And the love he gives in return makes it all worthwhile. 

Do you have a dog who survived distemper or has other health issues that make it unique?
We'd love to hear from other folks whose pets are also survivors fighting the good fight! 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Behavior Solutions Training Class Week 7

Yesterday, our special training class for reactive dogs took another field trip. Sadly, this was our second to last class. Say it ain't so! On the flip side, all graduates are welcome to return to the last three classes of all subsequent Behavior Solutions groups for free! Allowing the graduates to participate gives the currently enrolled dogs fresh stimulus and helps the graduates continue to hone in on everything they've learned.

Our group consists of three dog-reactive dogs and one people-reactive dog. The people-reactive Havanese is worst on his own territory, so this week we went to his house. Human students took turns ringing the doorbell and entering the house of the Havanese while the rest of us worked on pass-bys and other dog triggered stuff. Thus far most of the classes have focused on the needs of the dog-reactive dogs, so we were all more than willing to let our trainer spend the whole class with the Havanese and its owners. Until today, we had no idea what this guy's deal was. He was so quiet and perfect in class. Finally his true colors came out - you could hear him barking inside from down the street!

So as our trainer and the Havanese did their thing, we practiced pass bys with safe distances between us, and all went well. Then we tried talking to other owners with our dogs sitting just a few feet from each other. Spartacus had to face two dogs from a past class, dogs he did not know. They couldn't have been further than five feet away. One of the dogs was very friendly and wanted to meet Spartacus, so she was making some eye contact. On our first attempt to mingle with the other handler, Sparty barked and growled when he saw the friendly dog. We did a quick about face and I stood facing Spartacus, his gaze locked into mine. I turned to his side in a heel and let him face the other dogs. When he took his eyes off me, he barked and growled again. Another quick about face and back we were. This time, he was fine. He kept making eye contact with me and blocked out the other dogs sitting five feet in front of him. He accepted that I was going to talk to their owner and he was going to behave. Cheers, Spartacus! Those were his only two reactions all of class.

We were there for almost two hours total, and 99% of that time, Spartacus was completely fixated on us, the bearers of hot dog. We have been working for seven weeks on being more interesting than other dogs. Every millisecond of eye contact has been rewarded. In class that reward is tiny pieces of hotdog, and on our daily walks we use a combination of kibble, hotdog, and diced up Natural Balance rolls. Ladies and gentleman, we are thrilled to report that always stinking of meat has paid off. As we type, we are simply in disbelief. Spartacus successfully passed other dogs ON THE SAME SIDEWALK! He couldn't have cared less when we passed the Frenchie from our class. Six weeks ago he lunged and growled and barked and did his whole freak out dance at this very dog multiple times yards away. Today, as we passed said Frenchie, the sidewalk may as well have been empty for all he cared. Then came the Doberman, a perfectly behaved dog with her CGC who is not in our class. Like Delilah, she's a reactive dog's sibling, and was there for moral support. When we passed the Doberman, which we did three times, Spartacus barely noticed. Granted, we each walked our dogs to our left and there were two people between them as they passed, but that is not a barrier Spartacus recognized in the past. Being on the same sidewalk as a passing dog seemed truly impossible to us just weeks ago. We walked by the Dobie and Spartacus looked to me for hotdog. Then he realized another dog had just cruised by within feet of him. He started to look back. His ears darted. Right at that early sign of targeting, a small snap of his slip collar got him right back to focusing on his handler. No reaction whatsoever.

Eventually, the group sat on the ground in a kumbaya type circle with our dogs relaxing together just feet apart. We asked our trainer if there's any chance we can get to a point where our reactive dogs will actually greet other dogs, do the whole butt sniffing thing, and be normal (on leash). She made a wise point. Our goals are probably different than our dog's goals. We may want Spartacus to be social and normal, but that's our goal. Meeting other dogs on leash is not what Spartacus wants to do. It stresses him out for whatever reasons. Instead, he has been learning to do something else when dogs are near - ignore the dog, look at his owners, and get treats. We have provided a way for him to feel safe around leashed dogs by teaching him that he can ignore them, that he doesn't have to protect us from them. For now, we are going to respect our dog's boundaries and not force him to adapt to our vision of what a dog should be like. Reactive dogs have special needs and if you can manage their reactions and still go out in public with them, you've done them and yourself a great service. With lots of practice counter-conditioning, reactive dogs can function in society and lead fun awesome dog lives.

There are still many months and probably years of diligent  practice necessary for Spartacus to consistently maintain his cool around other leashed canines. If we ever feel that he has become so desensitized to leashed dogs that he can maybe try approaching them for a normal dog greeting, we will bring that up to an experienced trainer. But if that never happens, we'll still be super proud of our boy and love him all the same. Spartacus doesn't have to be a normal dog to be a good dog. Our greatest fear when we started this class was that his leash-reactivity would prevent him from accompanying us on all the walks we want to take with him and all the trips and adventures we see in our future. The transformation in just two months has been profound. Our confidence, along with Sparty's, has reached new heights. Working with a leash reactive dog is incredibly fulfilling. Every small victory brings a newfound sense of hope. So what if Sparty can't do proper meet and greets on leash? If we have to swerve a few feet out of the way when dogs approach, that's a pretty good bargain for having our best friend by our side.

Oh and the territorial Havanese made a ton of progress today, so we're proud of him too!

Friday, February 21, 2014

When Good Dogs Go Bad

If things were black and white, Spartacus would be labeled our bad dog and Delilah would earn the title for easy, good dog. Spartacus growls and lunges at passing dogs and scares the pants off their owners, while Delilah can be within inches of strange dogs on leash without paying them any mind. Spartacus is enrolled in Behavior Solutions ("bad dog" class), while Delilah is signed up for a Canine Good Citizen prep course. Indeed, Delilah is not leash reactive. She doesn't go berzerk on leash. We can take her places without worries. But let us be clear, grey areas abound.

Like the grey skies we faced this morning. We awoke to pouring rain and huge puddles barricading our driveway. Hooray! We thought. We might get a park all to ourselves!

Rain jacket on, I leashed up the dogs and drove off to one of our favorite places in Athens, Oconee Forest Park. Oconee Forest Park is a 60 acre natural area of winding trails and an off leash dog area, all within a well preserved 100 year old forest. The off leash area isn't really a dog park so much as a place to hike with your dog off leash. Spartacus has generally done pretty well here and keeps on moving after meeting other dogs, no wild play involved. When we pulled up to the parking lot, there was only one other car. As we headed out onto the trails, there were no signs of anyone else, human or canine. Having the park to ourselves was a welcome respite.

Delilah has only been with us since August of 2013 and she's estimated to be about 16 months old. She completed a Basic Obedience class but has yet to really master any commands. Of these basics, recall is the most difficult for her. She's an easily distracted dog whose greatest passion is galloping top speed deep into the forest, presumably chasing squirrels. While Spartacus never trots more than a few feet ahead of us on off leash hikes, Delilah takes off through the forest and disappears. She always comes back, but it's incredibly frustrating. Even when we get a perfect recall going in the house and in practice runs, it just doesn't work when we need it in real life situations.

Today, a solid recall would have done us good. The off leash area at the park is not fully fenced, and the existing fence and gate are insufficient for the likes of smaller dogs. So when a leashed dog was passing the fence, it was our "good" dog that slipped under the gate and charged it. The owners called out that their dog was socially iffy. Before I had time to think, I heard barking and growling from both Delilah and her new frenemy. I was still inside the fence, untangling leashes, worrying my "bad" dog would react.

"Delilah, come!"

A glimmer of hope - she started to trot back.

Then took off again. The leashed dog was with two owners, and one of them body blocked Delilah. She gave up and returned to the gate.

Spartacus, our bad boy, showed no signs of excitement. I put him in a sit stay unleashed, walked out the gate, and leashed up Delilah. Though no one was harmed, I felt terrible for causing any set backs for the other dog. As owners of a reactive dog, we advocate for dogs to be leashed if they don't have solid recall, and here our own Delilah broke the rules.

We've been so preoccupied with working on Spartacus' leash reactivity, we managed to look past some of the weaknesses in our communication with Delilah. Delilah isn't leash reactive, but she certainly requires more training before we can responsibly take her on off leash adventures.

Do you have a solid recall with your dog/s?
Does your easy dog occasionally give you grief?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Puppy as Dog Walker

Ollie is Sparty's cousin. They first met when she was four months old.

She made sure to show him who's boss right away.

And they walked happily ever after.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Walk On

Walking Spartacus brings us joy like nothing else. Sure, Spartacus is super leash reactive to other dogs. It's true we have to work extra hard around passing dogs to disrupt and counter-condition his aggressive response. Despite constant training as we saunter about, our walks with Spartacus are incredibly pleasant for the most part.

Before we had dogs, we lived in New York City without cars and grew to love just walking for walking's sake. Hours and hours upon miles and miles of wandering on foot, exploring new areas, revisiting old ones - that's a day well spent. When we moved to a less urban area, we were so excited to adopt a dog to share our walks with.

With lots of training, Sparty now heels wonderfully most of the time. We move in sync and practice check-ins, and Spartacus sits when we come to a halt. We pay attention equally to each other and to our surroundings. 

Together, our leisurely strolls through Athens take us through historic neighborhoods with incredible houses, past green fire hydrants and quirky gardens.

We also pass lots of cute fenced dogs, like this sweet Shiba Inu.

Using plenty of treats to counter condition, we've gotten to a point where Spartacus can sit and lay patiently next to a fenced in barking dog. He's totally cool with us saying Hi to all the gorgeous fenced dogs in Athens, and he remains perfectly polite when we catch up with neighbors who see us petting their dogs. Not bad for a reactive pup!

Spartacus loves going on walks just as much as we do. Never mind breakfast, his day hasn't started until he's leashed up for his morning stroll. The idea of having any less than two walks a day seems crazy to us. We live to walk! 

Sparty is really beginning to grasp the behaviors we expect of him, and he tries so hard to be a good boy. Still, there's some things he just can't control. Like drooling all over himself anticipating a treat.

We're lucky we live in such a charming little city that's very safe and enjoyable for walking. Even on a gloomy, overcast day like today, the brightly colored bungalows with their year round Christmas lights and eclectic decorations keep our walks cheerful.  

Are you as addicted to walking? 
Does owning a reactive dog prevent you from taking long walks?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Is this normal?

We've mentioned that Spartacus has a very hands on, rough housing style when it comes to playing with other dogs. He was labeled a "doggy nerd" when he used to go to doggy daycare; the staff said he didn't pick up on social cues and tried to play with dogs that weren't interested. In short, he could get annoying. After hearing this, it doesn't surprise us that many dogs and especially their owners don't appreciate some of the moves in his bag of tricks. Particularly when he mounts. Not humps, mounts. Grabs a dog's torso with his paws and just squeezes. What's even weirder? Front mounting. See below:

To our knowledge, he started this behavior in May 2013 when he spent a month with us back at the family plant nursery in Florida. My dad had recently adopted a new dog, Ollie. Ollie had no problem with the mounting, she thought it was great fun. Sparty learned that when he front mounted Ollie, she did his favorite thing in the world: jump up and wrestle in the air!

Sparty and Ollie went on to enjoy a platonic love affair that summer.

This was pre-Delilah. Back then, Spartacus didn't socialize much with other dogs on a regular basis. He was too stressed at doggy daycare, barking whenever the staff left the room. So we stopped taking him on their advice. He was also showing signs of being leash reactive on our walks, and we weren't too comfortable putting him in situations with strange dogs off leash. But the family plant nursery is ten acres of non-fenced-in tropical goodness, complete with a swimming pool, two ponds, and a canal. Sparty respects the boundaries of the property, but no fence means plenty of neighborhood dogs wander over daily. To our delight, Sparty excelled during this month stay in Florida. He bonded closely with Ollie, and had lots of good experiences with strange dogs too.

Unfortunately, he left with his new habit: mounting. We've seen him front mount dogs at the park, and the dogs will literally just freeze in bewilderment. Nor can we recall ever seeing another dog mount quite like Sparty. We're lead to believe front-mounting (or mounting without humping) is not universal for dogs. We make sure to correct Sparty when he does this to strange dogs who clearly feel uncomfortable. Not surprisingly, Boxers don't seem to mind and often return with some punches, just what he was looking for! It's just a weird situation for the most part and Sparty has no idea how annoying he is to other dogs!

We know our guy has some screws loose, and we're really committed to teaching him to chill out. But he manages to be such a lover too...

Is this mounting behavior normal/have you observed your own dog or other dogs engaging in this type of play?

How would your dog react if Sparty came up and front mounted them? 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Behavior Solutions Training Class, Week 6

Our regular Monday night Behavior Solutions training class was rescheduled to yesterday afternoon. Instead of meeting in a classroom setting, our reactive dogs took a field trip to the real world! We met in the condo community of one of the owners, hoping there would be lots of dogs out and about. Why did we remove the dogs from their safe zone at the training center? They're ready to be challenged by real life scenarios. 

Here's what we worked on:


We had been practicing passing other dogs in our classroom since day one, but trying it in the great outdoors of a condo community changed things up. In class, we sit with our dogs and give them a constant stream of high value treats for paying attention to us. The atmosphere remains calm for the most part. Out and about, especially in a new place, our dogs are easily distracted by the new smells, sights, and sounds, and their attention is harder to come by.

Still, we all managed to do our walk-bys with no discernible incidents. After five weeks of respecting each other's boundaries in class, all the classmates seem very comfortable with each other and don't really trigger each other's reactivity at this point. Luckily, there were three extra dogs in the group today, Delilah included. Some random dogs being walked in the neighborhood also provided new stimulus.

We kept about 5-10 feet distance today in our pass-bys, and did whatever was necessary to redirect our dog's focus if they started targeting. Targeting refers to a dog starting to lock their focus on their trigger, in this case other dogs. You can tell Spartacus is targeting when he raises his ears forward, creating creases in his forehead. Also, if his mouth was open, he will close it. Sometimes his hackles will raise as well. I found that I sometimes need to step in front of him to regain his attention. Then I will walk backwards a few steps, while Sparty's eyes stay fixated on me. We can then resume a normal heel position and carry on with the "watch me" game.

Fence Fighting

The condo community had its own little dog park. It was empty, but the fenced in structure allowed us to work on issues around fences. Spartacus has really improved his behavior around fenced dogs in the last month. He's never been reactive to fenced dogs, but he used to pull us and become anxious when fenced dogs were barking and running the fence. We responded with lots of counter-conditioning in our neighborhood practicing sit stays and down stays with lots of treats next to fenced in dogs. Now, he is overall quite calm when he's on the outside of the fence. I can put him in a sit-stay half a foot from a fenced dog, and pet the dog on the other side while Sparty patiently waits.

Put him inside a fence, and it's a different story. At least in our own fenced yard, he can be very territorial. When we let him off leash by himself in the fenced dog park during class, he was more curious about the smells inside than the dogs passing the fence. However, once we added Delilah inside with him, their excitement grew and they started fence fighting the outside dogs. We quickly resolved this with simple body blocking. We've been working with body blocking in class to basically teach the concept "leave it". We literally just stand in front of our dogs in a strong stance and block them from whatever caught their interest. Our dogs respected our corrections and did not resist our body blocking by jumping up at us.

After our turn off leash in the park, we leashed up and exited, and two other siblings from the class went inside. One side of the little dog park is practically up against a wall of bushes, with only about a foot and a half of walkway space between the fence and the hedges. Several of the dogs in class reacted to the fenced in dogs when we squeezed through this narrow walk-way, including Spartacus. The great thing about being in a training class is we get to recreate scenarios that trigger our dogs until we get it right. Our second time around, I used body blocking to keep Spartacus' attention on me instead of the beagle behind the fence, just half a foot away. He didn't react and was thoroughly spoiled with hot dogs.

Hanging Out

The last portion of class was spent hanging out on a patch of grass while we asked our trainer questions. Two of the dogs who came from the same house were playing, and Sparty tried to be "referee". Sometimes when he sees two dogs playing, he barks like he's got to keep them in check. It's not an aggressive bark, but it's annoying and not what we asked of him. On the other hand, Delilah seems able to just zone out her surroundings and think about squirrels. She was a foot away from the playing dogs and couldn't care less. Sparty wasn't totally calm, but he wasn't aggressive either. Though he was barking a bit, it made me happy to see that he was laying on the ground with relaxed hips within feet of other dogs without responding aggressively. Still, he's got a little ways to go before he can mind his own business like his sister. 

When we spoke with our trainer after class, she seemed really pleased with our progress. She did suggest we keep the Gentle Leader head halter in our pocket, in case we want to try do-overs in public places on our own. We used the G.L. for a long time when we first started training Sparty to heel and anytime we were heading somewhere potentially crowded. For the purposes of his current training, the G.L. allows us to redirect Sparty's head, whereas our current training collar, a parachute cord slip, doesn't affect what direction he is looking in. Overall, I prefer that the slip collar forces us to try harder to get Spartacus' attention, but the Gentle Leader is always a great tool to have as back-up. 

Our last two classes will also be field trips. We love this class so much, and are so grateful we have such a creative trainer who really shapes each class based on the needs of the individual dogs. 

Have any of you taken training classes to work on behavior issues like reactivity?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Private Dog Park = Awesome!

As we mentioned in our last post, we are lucky to have a special resource for dogs in Athens, GA. The beautiful Sandy Creek Park offers three private fully fenced in 2-3 acre dog parks you can reserve by the hour, for only $1 per dog per hour. 

We aren't sworn off regular dog parks, but when we go, we have to be extra vigilant and it's not exactly relaxing for us owners. Spartacus is of course our high maintenance mutt, and we started this blog to track our progress teaching him to just chill out. From the sound of it though, dog parks can be stressful for plenty of perfectly balanced dogs and their owners too. A lot can go wrong when you enclose a bunch of strange dogs together, especially when the people overseeing them have different opinions about what is acceptable behavior. Yet we all want our dogs to get the experience of running around free, and that's where Sandy Creek Park comes in.

You simply call ahead and reserve a time, stop by the main park entrance to pay and pick up your key, and pull up to your own private dog park. Each park is fully fenced and provides dog waste bags, a garbage can, and a bowl of fresh water. For safety, it's required your dogs are leashed until you close your gate behind you. Close the gate, and it's a total free for all! 

Earlier today we took Sparty on a training walk around the neighborhood to continue working on the "watch me" command around passing dogs. He was good two out of four times, and when he reacted, we got him to subside quickly. He's been working really hard lately, and we wanted to make sure he got some plain old fun in today too. At noon we headed to Sandy Creek. We rented Dog Park #3, our personal favorite. Two large grassy fields are divided by a strip of forest with a trail running through it. The 3 acre park extends far beyond what our camera lens can capture. Not bad for two dollars!

The passion these two have for tennis balls is unequivocal. With the aid of our Chuck-It ball launcher, we cover a lot of ground. Delilah has quite the stride for a low-rider. She is faster than Spartacus.

But Sparty still wins most of the time using brute force to knock Delilah over. We prefer Delilah to win because she actually returns the ball, whereas Sparty turns it into a game of keep-away.

We've mentioned that Spartacus has a crazy "in your face" playing style that can scare other dogs and dog owners. Luckily, our Delilah embraces it full force. 

And if you're paying attention, you'll see that Spartacus willingly rolls over to a submissive position, laying on his back with his belly fully exposed. That's how we know their play is fun and fair, and we don't have to referee.

In an hour, there's plenty of time for both play and relaxation. Sometimes we rent the park for longer. We've even brought our art supplies and done plein-air painting sessions for up to three hours here. The private parks are also great for birthday parties.

We can't imagine life without this amazing resource now that we have it, but we're probably moving far away to the midwest this summer. So far we haven't been able to track down anything similar.

Do you know of any private dog parks or similar set-ups? 

Does your dog's play style require extra monitoring?