Natasha, Oso and I headed to the mountains for the long weekend. On Saturday we spent time with some friends. Oso did great with the long drive to the White Mountains, about 3 hours from home. He is a champ at car rides. The energy was low key at the cabin where we stayed, and he was happy to hang out with everyone. We did kennel him during his dinner time and for a while after, to keep him used to the routine. On Saturday afternoon he got his first taste of off-leash freedom with us, while out on a walk by the pond. He happily trotted along through the tall grass, investigating here and there but mainly staying right behind me or running ahead and coming back a few times a minute. We only let him do this for a short time since we don’t want to run into another dog or have him go off chasing a deer or something, but he was happy and well behaved for his first time. I was glad for him to have some space to experience that, we don’t really have anything like that back in the city. At another point in the weekend he had an off-leash moment in the yard which was short lived because he was not listening well.

Other firsts for Oso this weekend were swimming in the lake (after much coaxing and encouragement) and mountain climbing. We climbed North and South Doublehead in Jackson, NH on Sunday afternoon. The ascent up North Doublehead is steep and unrelenting the whole way, made more tricky by the recent tropical storm that dropped a ton of water and wind on Jackson. Nearing the summits we hiked through a rain and thunderstorm for a while. We only saw a couple other hikers on the trail. Oso stayed leashed right up until the end of the hike, when we gave him a few minutes of freedom. He was a good hiker, and enjoyed the climb but was impatient and whiny on the way down.

Today was everyone’s first day back to work post-summer. Natasha has been on vacation for two weeks, and for the first two weeks we had Oso I brought him to work with me, so this was the first day he stayed home in his crate while we went to work. It was a short day for Natasha so he was only kenneled for 4 hours. He was quiet when she left and quiet when she got home, but somewhere in there he was worked up enough to pull the sheet covering his crate inside with him. We need a webcam to see how much time he actually spends barking vs. relaxing while we’re gone. Unfortunately I don’t think much of it is spent relaxing.

This afternoon he had a vet checkup. We waited outside until there were no other dogs in the waiting room. This gave him plenty of opportunity to bark at the dogs outside the building. He was anxious inside and growled and barked at one of the vet techs who came to greet him while I was filling out paperwork. He has become protective of Natasha and I as well as being anxious in general, another challenge for all of us. The bad news is that he now has “caution” written in big letters on top of his chart at the vet. The good news is that he’s healthy.

Pretty much the best thing the vet said was “he listens to you” which is true most of the time, but the behaviors we see when he’s not under control are very concerning. As he settles in to life with us there are a lot of things that are so promising, his good house manners, the sweetness and affection he shows us, improvements in crate training and obedience. His outside behavior is improving in some ways, sometimes. He is generally better on leash, generally we are able to distract him from things if we have time to prepare, generally he is awesome meeting new people. But not infrequently he goes off at another dog, a kid walking past the car, someone on a scooter. He tests our patience and our authority. He tries to sabotage a walk he doesn’t want to be on. He has jumped and mouthed at our hands while we’ve been correcting him. His unpredictability and the constant attention he requires outside the house make me scared for our future together if we aren’t able to help him significantly shift his behavior.