Life with a recovering reactive dog​: Part two

Note: This is part two of a two-part post. Click here to read part one.


A couple of months ago I signed Milo and me up for a research project investigating canine fear and aggression in veterinary settings. I jumped into this survey eagerly, sure that Milo’s jackassery would provide them with some interesting data. They wanted to know about dogs acting out, and boy could tell them about a dog acting out.

I don’t think I was ever so pleased to be so disappointed about an experiment.  You see, the survey questions all had a time index.

What sorts of fear behaviour did Milo exhibit at his last vet visit? None.

During that visit did he show any aggressive behaviours when:

  • Getting weighed? No.
  • Touched? No.
  • Vaccinated? No.
  • Having his ears examined? No.
  • Having blood drawn? No.
  • Having his temperature taken? OK, Yes. He growled at the vet tech when she tried to stick a thermometer up his bum. Fair enough. We didn’t get a temperature that day.

If those questions were about my worst vet visit or any vet visit three years ago, the answers would have been different. When I sat down to take this survey, I was ready to give those three-year-old answers. But, in the last three years Milo, and I, have changed. He’s a more confident dog. I’m a calmer person. And we’re a stronger team.

I caught myself living in the past again when Milo and I were camping at Killbear Provincial Park. Our campsite was beside what must have been an intergenerational, extended family camping trip. There were at least seven children under the age of five, they yelled a lot, and all of them, except the newborn, seemed to think that running while yelling was the thing to do.

Screaming creatures darting around—the kind of game that Milo was always keen to join, except that he weighed more than any three of those kids combined. I steeled myself for a couple of days of barking and a complaint from the Park Office.

Would you like to know what happened?


Milo started staring at one of the kids, and I told him to knock it off and that we don’t bark at silly things. He knocked it off and did not bark at the silly things. There were a bunch of people with dogs at that campground. And every single dog that walked by reacted to those children more than Milo did, every single one.

People came by my site and complimented Milo on being such a good boy.

One person even told me that I was “lucky” to have such a good dog. I let that one slide on by.

I will always be careful and respect the fact that Milo is a formidable animal. We’ve done a tremendous amount of work together over the years, developed a fantastic relationship, and things got better.

I love him to distraction. I just have to remember to love the dog he is right now.



Lookout Point Trail at Killbear Provincial Park

lookout point trail signThis is a lovely short hike. Parts were pretty muddy due to recent rain, but a boardwalk snaked through the wetland area, and there were lots of rocks for scrambling. Milo didn’t mind the mud.

We walked by a cool citizen science project, “iWETLAND: Crowd-Sourced Wetland Science,” inviting hikers to document the water level with a text message. I followed the instructions precisely–I can’t resist science content. Citizen science and wetlands, what’s not to love?

The lookout promised by the name of the trail was breathtaking–a quiet and lovely place to relax and reflect. If I wasn’t so hungry, I could have sat there all afternoon.

German shepherd sitting on a rock looking out over a deep blue bay

Milo, you know, looking out, at Lookout Point.

I give this trail two thumbs up. Bring a picnic and make a day of it!

Killbear Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

The best thing about Killbear is the off-leash dog beach. A pine needle covered path winds through mature forest to a nearly deserted black and red sand beach. A perfect place for a frolic and swim.Killbear dog beach 2Milo had a great time–he deserved some fun exercise after a long drive.

silhouette of a German Shepherd Dog against sunset on a lake

sunset frolic at Killbear Provincial Park dog beach

And we’re off

I promised to share my adventures on this trip, but as I pulled out of my driveway on Tuesday morning, avoiding adventures was really my top priority.

That’s why getting a reliable truck and trailer, lots of safety equipment, and a premium CAA membership weren’t splurges.

That‘s why I was shooting for a three hour drive between campsites, and only driving every second day.

I’m actually aiming for peaceful and joyful trip.

My neighbour took this picture through her living room window as Milo and I were leaving for our first stop at Killbear Provincial Park.

and we're offShe had a lot of time to get her camera because I wasn’t that efficient getting out of the driveway. My Fitbit told me that I put on about 2000 steps just hooking up the trailer.

There are lots of steps to go through to get that thing hitched up:

  • back up to the hitch

    a trailer hitch with chains, break connections, and a weight distribution bar

    lots of things to attach properly…

  • attach the hitch
  • attach the weight distribution bars
  • put up the main jack
  • attach the chains
  • attach the wiring
  • attach the break-away brake line
  • put up the stabilizer jacks
  • pick up the wheel chocks
  • test the signal and brake lights
  • turn off the propane
  • make sure everything is locked
  • put up the step (easy to forget this one)

None of these steps are difficult. They just take time and a bit of elbow grease.

The drive to Killbear was successfully and wonderfully uneventful. I even let my hands stray from 10 and 2 by the end of the trip. I had a pull through campsite, so I didn’t need to do anything tricky like backup my rig.

After the hitching, driving, unhitching, and taking Milo for a walk, I spent my first camping afternoon napping. An appropriate end, I think, for a non-adventurous day.