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Hi everyone, I'm back with an update about Tama! He is now 10 months old and very sweet and I love him so much.

However I'm going insane.To preface this, I live in a big city and don't have a car. We live within 2 blocks of a park, thankfully.

My biggest problem is our walks. I cannot walk him. He can semi-decently walk for one block and then ignores me entirely (and any treats I may have) to run ahead wildly pulling on the leash. He doesn't seem to notice that I'm even there. I try to stand still and get him to look at me before we continue forwards, but at this point, even if he does look at me, as soon as I take a step forwards he takes off again. 

I know that a 10 month old puppy pulling on the leash is not the end of the world and can be corrected with training. But I don't know what to do anymore and am scared I'm just cementing the bad behavior. Just now, I wanted to take him to the park for some exercise, brought along my training treats, and we spent 40 minutes trying to walk together a single block. I came back bawling and he came back not having exercised. But how can we even get to the park for exercise if it's going to take us two hours to walk 2 blocks? What am I missing? He's crated now and barking at something.

The other thing is the barking. In the house, he barks constantly at anything he hears - construction workers, people talking, etc. The thing is, it doesn't seem like he's bored, but like he's genuinely panicked. He looks really scared, pins his ears back, barks and makes a beeline for me. I usually ignore him when this happens. If it continues, I put him in his crate, where he continues barking. Then I let him out and loop continues. The thing is, it's not getting any better. 

Like I said, I love him to pieces. But at this point I'm going crazy. Please, does anyone have any advice? Does this get better? I keep expecting it to get better and it gets worse and worse and I don't know how much more I can take. 

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Walk him for variable distances and variable locations and not always to the park.


He needs to stop anticipating going to the park. 

 

the barking you should probably actually tell him it's okay, reassure him, and then if it continues crate him - and cover the crate - as many times on loop as it takes.

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Hello tamapup,

Whenever I read about situations like your's, I always wonder about the pup's diet.  Often a pup with an "over the top" energy level is being fed a commercial diet that has ingredients that ad fuel to their already rambunctious puppy energy level.  Ingredients such as chemical preservatives, artificial flavors, artificial colors , poor quality proteins, grains (especially corn. soy .wheat) all can contribute to excess energy in our dogs.  Also, many dogs foods have extremely high protein levels, and that extra energy needs to be burned off for the pup to be able to settle down.  I suggest that you check to see what is in your dog's food, and perhaps change your pup's diet.  You mentioned training treats, so check the ingredients in those, as well.  I have raised dozens of Border Collie puppies over the years (raised to adulthood), and I have seen first hand that a pups behavior is impacted by what they eat.  Best wishes for you and your pup, and I hope that this information is helpful.

Regards,

nancy

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Thank you both for your replies!

@CptJack - I don't always walk him to the park :) We mix it up but after getting a block out in any direction (his comfort zone, it seems) he acts the same way

@NCStarkey - that's so interesting! He does eat a high quality food, we've tried Fromm puppy food and currently he is on Taste of the Wild. Also, to clarify... his energy levels are actually extremely manageable. He's wonderful with his "off switch" - has no trouble sleeping at home throughout the day in the crate while I work, and sleeps through the night with no issues. He seems quite sensitive actually and is easily worn out by new experiences. He is not destructive. Doesn't chew things he's not supposed to (except for the occasional tissue paper he finds, he has a weak spot for those...). He just plays independently with his toys. We're very lucky in that sense. It's just the fearful barking of things that he hears we struggle with, and with him becoming overwhelmed outside and pulling on the leash...

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First, you are allowing the training to upset you and that upsets the dog, making him more wild and harder to train. 40 minutes is much, much too long for a training session of ay kind. Only take him out for 5 minutes at a time. The moment he pulls, turn abruptly around and go the other way. He pulls again, turn abruptly around and go the other way.

I know, because I have done this with many dogs (and trained them successfully each time) that this means you will spend the whole 5 minutes going back and forth over the same piece of ground. that's OK. Remember that mental exercise in the form of training is every bit as important and exhausting as physical exercise. Do not let the lack of exercise by not getting to the park stop you from this training. It may take a few weeks, but that time will go fast and then you will  for the rest of the dog's life have a dog who is a pleasure to walk instead of a hardship.

Once he can walk all the way 2 blocks to the park without pulling on the leash, he gets to go to the park again and not before.

As for the barking, let him find refuge in you by allowing him to sit next to you and get petted. Just don't say things like "It's alll right, you pooor thing" because that only tells him there's something to fear. If he keeps barking after you give him the cue to stop barking (say something like "that's enough", not STOP, which sounds like a bark to a dog!) put him in the crate, cover the crate with a blanket all the way around and absolutely do not let him out until he stops barking. He barks again, put in back in the crate. He will learn that barking means crate time, and will stop when you tell him to.

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Thank you D'Elle! It's really good to know that he doesn't *need* the exercise to get the training done right. I was feeling very guilty for not being able to let him run, and worrying that training would be futile if he wasn't exercised enough. I always hear about how border collies absolutely must get their time to run every day or else they will become wild and difficult to control. However, if it's okay for me to withhold this kind of activity for a few weeks (or however long it takes) and focus only on leash training (going out for 5 minute walks 10 times a day) then I think that will make my job much, much easier. 

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Yeah, that bit about what border collies need is just something people who don't know the breed well will tell you. Of course they need exercise, but in this case training takes precedence. Not getting exercise doesn't make a border collie "wild". Keep in mind that sheep dogs don't always work every day. Some days they have nothing to do and lie around. They are not taken out to run on those days; the shepherd is too busy for that, and the dog learns that when it's time to work you run and when it is not time to work you chill out.

Giving a border collie too much exercise and too much activity and attention can create a dog who will be always demanding attention and activity. But withholding running until the dog learns to walk nicely and come when called is part of training the dog.

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To the great insights you've already received I'm going to add one thing: it sounds to me like you may have an anxious pup. If so, it might be worth considering taking him to a vet familiar with using CBD oil. Some are having great results with microdosing for anxiety. Another possibility might be fluoxetine or something similar. Though she still has a way to go it, helped my anxious lurcher, so I'll be starting her on CBD oil as soon as I can make an app't w/ the holistic vet.

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I agree 100% with D’Elle. And that “crazy man” method of teaching them to stay close and pay attention on leash is by far the best I’ve ever tried. Good luck with your pup! He’s gorgeous! 

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I think you have had absolutely excellent advice about on lead walking, and also about the barking.  Some people find that teaching your dog to bark/talk on command can help as well.  Otherwise, if he is reacting to noise, I don't know whether some kind of white noise/masking noise may help? It may be worth trying.

Your boy is gorgeous, and I wish you the best of luck with him.

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if you are familiar with Control Unleashed (enough to do it correctly/usefully), "look at that" can be used for noise reactivity too. The sound (I mean, misc. sounds in general that worry the dog) become cues for him to look at you and you treat him for that.  (edited to be clear: you are feeding him for looking at you before barking, i.e. *without* barking. Don't feed him for barking! :P)

All your training sessions (in this, in loose-leash walking, in anything, especially things he finds mentally-difficult) really need to be SHORT and KEPT UNDER THRESHOLD. If you let him get all whacked out -- pulling like a train, barking and trying to run around, etc -- make a careful mental note of the circumstances (including when in a training session it happened) and then do everything you can manage to stop FUTURE training sessions BEFORE you get to that point. Even if it means taking him out for a "walk" twenty-five times in a day, each "walk" being thirty seconds long ;)  

-Pat

Edited by Pat P
clarity

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Hi @tamapup ! Tama's looking lovely :) Kevin was having similar I-can't-stand-walking-you-on-leash-because-you-pull-like-a-madman issues, and I did Emily Larlham's (aka Kikopup) 6-week leash training course - and HOLY WOW, it works very well. It costs, but it was 100% worth it - truly, Kevin walks like a nice guy almost all the time now. Her website is called Dogmantics. Dedicating time to these exercises most days (usually 5 or 6 days a week, but in like 10-12 minute training sessions) was aaaaa huuuundreeeeed perceeeent worth it :)

 

 

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Thank you for for the suggestions!! 

@KevTheDog I just checked out the site and I might consider doing the course! I'll try training him in short 5-minute bursts on my own for now, and if that goes no where then I think a course might we worth it if it means we can walk places :) 

Tama and I just had our morning walk and instead of trying to go out for a long walk, we did a short one with training, and as a result had a muchhh happier and more peaceful morning than we've been having lately.. I'll keep you all updated on how everything goes.

I previously thought that getting him exposed to as many new sounds and sights would be a good thing, but now with this new method I'll be holding off on taking him anywhere - farmers markets, busy streets, stores, etc. He's completely out of control in those places anyway, and I'd thought that maybe he would "get used to them" - but I'm seeing now that a better approach may be to build up slowly to these places and only go when he's walking well on leash... Does that sound right? Even if takes us awhile? 

 

 

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Yes definitely sounds right! :)

FWIW, I've been kind of surprised how useful it's been to just sit outside the house in a chair, with my own 10-month-old wild child on a leash, for 10-30 min at a time... somewhere calm enough that he can fairly quickly settle down and just lie next to or under my chair.  Did it for practical reasons mostly, but it seems to give him practice in absorbing new sounds/sights/etc from a 'home base'. Fairly quickly that transferred to being able to just stand or lie near me (while I'm stationary but standing) in the same way. Which was a big advance for him. Not quite the same thing as loose leash walking per se (which is still a work in progress... but he's a rescue and I've only had him a few months) but I think it's a related concept, you know?
Good luck and have fun with your handsome guy :)

-Pat

Edited by Pat P
clarity

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Thank you! I might try that, since that's kind of where we are in the process anyway. He is too distracted outside to even look at me much - we've been staying within a 10-foot radius of our front door (just enough for him to go potty) and I've just been trying to get him to look at me and focus on me before we walk forwards. He is instantly distracted by cars, people, bikes, bins, anything... Even with treats, he isn't paying them much attention.

Can anyone please advise what my steps should be here? Should I be standing still until he is looking at me? Should I be using treats at all if he's super distracted? 

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2 hours ago, tamapup said:

Thank you! I might try that, since that's kind of where we are in the process anyway. He is too distracted outside to even look at me much - we've been staying within a 10-foot radius of our front door (just enough for him to go potty) and I've just been trying to get him to look at me and focus on me before we walk forwards. He is instantly distracted by cars, people, bikes, bins, anything... Even with treats, he isn't paying them much attention.

Can anyone please advise what my steps should be here? Should I be standing still until he is looking at me? Should I be using treats at all if he's super distracted? 

Start with getting his attention. And do it somewhere that there are not cars or people, if at all possible. Do you have a back yard where he won't see such things?

Spend 5 minutes just on that, if getting his attention is that difficult. What I would do is stand and wait with him until he glances at me, and the second he does, mark it (click a clicker, or say Good, or whatever your mark is) and give a treat. Wait until he looks at you again. Repeat. Spend 5 minutes doing this. Then go inside.

It sounds to me as if the moment you walk out the door he goes instantly over threshold and is too distracted to pay attention. So work on the attention in the back yard if you have one and failing that, work on it in the living room. You need to train without distractions as best you can before expecting a reactive dog to learn in a distracting environment. The time for exposing him to different things is later, when it doesn't freak him out so much.

Also...try a different treat. Something he is crazy about. roast chicken in tiny pieces. Liverwurst (although not too much, as liver can give some dogs the runs). String cheese. Experiment until you find what he loves. Do it first thing in the morning before breakfast, so he will be hungry. Do it before dinner, ditto.

Make sure you watch him like a hawk so that the instant he does the right thing he is rewarded. You need to show him in this way what he should do, rather than only correcting what he should not do, which is what a lot of more old fashioned training methods do.

I would work on that for about a week and see if any progress is made before  starting on the leash walking.

Just one more thing.....I have no idea if this is contributing or not, but I notice you have a harness on him. Some dogs, including one of mine, absolutely hate a harness and will not behave if one is put on. You might try a collar just to see if that makes any difference once you transition from attention exercises to leash walking.

These training methods are basic and simple, but require a lot of patience and persistence. There's nothing fancy about it and you don't need to spend money on some course to teach you how to do this. Just use the basic methods and keep at it. A course won't make it any easier. Just work with the dog.

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Thank you so much D'Elle! Yes that's right, he goes over threshold once we're outside.. pays really great attention inside the house though. I've trained him on the leash indoors and he walks at a heel and looks up at me the entire time. No backyard, but I'll start by working with him in the lobby of the building, as that's where he starts getting distracted. Trick is getting him out to go potty - but if I take him outside strictly for that purpose, and then back to training in the building lobby until he's paying attention... that should work right? 

He loves cheese so I'll try switching to that.

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You might also want to look into Emma Parsons' book Click to Calm: Healing the Reactive/Aggressive Dog.  Don't be put off by the subtitle; it's just as valuable for overstimulated dogs as it is for aggressive ones. There are also some Youtube videos on the technique.

It's actually very much like what D'Elle describes except that it's even more basic than asking for the dog's attention on you; it's reinforcing the dog for even the smallest moments when s/he's not actively looking for something to focus on and react to.

I once fostered a reactive, overstimulated dog. I did a private session with a local trainer who's well versed in the technique. After the initial lesson we were talking and he just kept tossing treats around the room for the dog. It was a while before I realized that even though he didn't seem to be paying attention on the dog he was, and was just constantly reinforcing her for just wandering around the room not looking for anything to react to and that it actually did have a calming effect on her.

There's no getting around it; it takes time and patience. But it works.

ETA: We were writing at the same time and I see you're thinking in terms of rewarding Tama for paying attention to you. I'd suggest rewarding him for even a millisecond of not reacting, the instant he breaks his concentration on looking for something to react to. You'll often miss it at first, but you'll get better with practice too. ;)

Good luck.

 

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From what you say he does not sound to me like he is ready for ANY training outdoors at all... what he needs is *acclimatization*. (Or however you spell that!).

Go to the place where he least loses his mind and just sit there with him for a short while til he starts to relax. You can talk idly to him if it makes you both feel better -- "so, that's the guy next door coming home from work, and there's the plumber coming through, wonder what he's going to fix, and oh look, he forgot to hike his pants back up..." -- but you're not trying to soothe or train him, just let him figure it out.

Then, go back home. (If you stay too long, it tends to reverse and they get all overwrought and you lose the benefit).

Do that a jillion times or whatever's necessary to get to the point where you can go to THAT ONE PLACE and sit down with him (or stand there with him) and have him relax within a minute or two and be willing to lay down floppily or look at you or look at a treat.

Until you get to that point -- the point where he is capable of organized thought in that environment -- you just biologically CAN'T train him there. Cuz, training requires him to be able to think about what's going on so he can make choices. Can't do that when all the brain cells are flapping in the wind going "aaaaaagh!" :)

IME the hardest part is having patience and faith (and making sure to pick a place where he does have some chance of getting chill about it within your joint lifetimes!), and making yourself do SHORT increments of exposure.  In future, you would work towards expanding the number of places where you can get him to be relaxed and thinky, and thus trainable... but that's *then*, not now.

The first part takes the longest... once he starts to get it, it kind of snowballs and other environments will take less time for him to settle in (assuming you've chosen them well)

-Pat

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Thank you all for the replies!

We have kept at it with training since I first made this post (almost two weeks now), and I'm sad to say that we've only regressed. I'm not quite sure why this is and am really disheartened.

To detail what we have been doing: short training sessions throughout the day, in which we do not walk to any destination but stay right by the front of the house so that he can just go potty. He gets a treat and praise every time he looks at me (the command is "look at me"). He is very easily distracted as soon as we step outside the building (but up until that point, in the lobby, he's composed and quite focused on me), so we stay close by and I give him small tasks to keep his attention on me (i.e. sit, paw, stay, down) - and he completes these tasks for me usually, unless he is being distracted by something. If he is distracted by something (this is ANYTHING - a person walking by, a dog walking by, anything rolling by) it is as if I am not there. I try to get his attention by calling him but get ignored. Then I stay quiet until he looks at me and then treat and reward. 

It's been two weeks of this and nothing. Not progress. He seems more distracted than ever and less willing to notice me than ever.

I thought maybe he wasn't getting enough exercise, so I carried him to the park across the street and let him run on a long lead and play ball. This he really enjoyed and was very tired and very focused on me on our way back. He seems to need this exercise to be at this calmest self, so he's been getting about an hour of it a day. He has plenty of time outside the crate, has chews to keep him occupied, and training like I mentioned. I don't believe that a lack of exercise, mental or physical, is the problem. 

He barks and howls every time I leave the room. I don't come back inside until he's quiet again. No progress here.

He barks every time he hears something from outside the window. I calmly reassure him and put him in his crate if it continues. No progress here.

He snaps at my hands and at me when I do something he really doesn't like (put him in the crate, take something away from him) and this gets a firm NO and he gets put inside his crate. No progress here.

He has started to become reactive and will pick out certain individuals on the street who he finds "provocative" and lunges at them with wild snaps, barks, yelps. This is extremely alarming and all I can do at this point is hold him back until the individual is out of sight. It only happens with a handful of people and I try to predict when it will happen and take him away before it does, but it's getting worse.

He doesn't seem to want to pay any attention to me. I know that he's also 10 months and it's a difficult age, but I really don't know what to do. I'm trying to be as consistent as possible and even an OUNCE of progress would encourage me so much at this point, but I haven't seen it. I know that training is meant to be a lengthy process and require lots of patience, but isn't it meant to come with progress as well? I only see that we are getting worse, not better.

He's yelping violently in his crate right now and I'm ignoring him and it's breaking my heart to see him like this. What can I do? 

 

EDIT - would like to add that I just ordered "Click to Calm" and "Fired Up, Frantic and Freaked Out..." dog training books. They should arrive this Friday and I'm eager to start reading them. In the meantime, however, any input you all have would be really appreciated.

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I understand your concern,  and especially your need to see at least a little progress for all your hard work, but please do not be discouraged. In training terms, two weeks is nothing. If you were seeing good results this soon, it would be unusual, starting from where you have started, and with the dog you have. A dog who is easily reactive to things takes a long time to train. Just be patient and completely persistent. 

sometimes when you start training a dog in earnest, the dog will go through a period of time when the acting out gets much worse. (Human kids do this, too, I understand). This doesn't mean you are on the wrong track or that the dog is hopeless. It just means the dog is pushing boundaries and it will take longer.

I think your carrying him to the park and letting him run is a good idea if it is helping him to focus. If I had this dog, I would probably take him in this manner to the park first, before any training, and let him get tired out, and then work on the focus and other training when he is more able to focus on you. This may allow the training to sink in, which it is not yet doing.

But please remember that you just gotta keep at it. My beloved Kit dog, who was a very good and obedient dog, had one bad habit that I needed to train her out of, and I worked at it diligently, persistently, daily, patiently, on and on for two whole years before she would reliably obey me on that particular thing. Whew. And Kit was no dummy, either. She just really didn't want to do that one thing, and I would have let it go except it was important.

These things are important for your dog. I always look at it this way: To me, training a dog is a never-ending project no matter what dog I have, because there is always a new circumstance, and the old training also needs reinforcement from time to time. When starting out with a young dog, I figure that no matter how long it takes, it is worth it just to keep at it. That amount of time is going to go by anyway, and at the end of that time you will either have a well trained dog or not, and that is up to you. If you do have a trained dog after 6 weeks or a year or two years or whatever, then you have a trained dog for the next 10 to 15 years. If not you have a problem for that same length of time.

I say give it more time.

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I wonder whether your using his name or 'watch me' or whatever is inadvertantly putting extra pressure on him, when he is already feeling overwhelmed by the great wide world. I knwo it takes a LOT of self-control and self-reminders not to say anything to the dog, but maybe try just rewarding (with something he considers really high-value) any glance in your direction *without* trying to cue it in any way. Honestly, you cannot expect training to happen when he's too overwrought to think, and it sounds like mostly he is (except in your apartment, which is fine but should not be expected to carry over in any way to other environments at this point)

Also, you have mentioned a lot about what YOU want him to do, but what does HE like to do? (I mean, that's constructive LOL). Find and USE the things he likes. Games, tricks, ways of being petted, ways of hanging out with you, particular toys, particular activities, etc. There must be SOMETHING he does that you and he can agree on and use as common ground :)

Good luck and remember this too shall pass ;),

Pat

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Thank you both for the insight and encouraging words. It's actually very comforting and makes me hopeful that it is, in fact, just a matter of time and consistence. 

Pat P - yes, thinking what he wants to do might help... I should mention that he is exceptionally well behaved when we get to the park and I take the ball out. Once the ball is in my hand, is it as though he becomes an entirely different dog. He actively tries to figure out what I want him to do and ignores everything else. Nothing bothers him any longer - no bicycles, no passers-by, not even dogs get paid any attention to if I'm holding the ball in my hand. He walks at a PERFECT heel even... we can be walking together and I can say "sit" very quietly while moving and he'll sit immediately and stay until I call him to join me again at the wave of my hand. It's like the ball is a magic wand, and he does what I want him to do almost before I have time to ask him to do it. It's amazing. Now, if only there were a way to get him to pay attention like this whenever I need him to...

On a side note -- I just took him out to the park and he ran around on a long lead for 30 minutes. Since the park is across the street from where I live, I didn't bring water (although I probably should have). I just gave him water before and after. While at the park, a woman approached me, claimed to be a vet, and accused me (quite unpleasantly) of giving him WAY too much exercise, said that he was shaking all over from thirst and fatigue, and that this amount of running was horrible because he's still growing. I understand it's better to bring water (and will next time), but 30 minutes of fetch for a 10 month old pup in a given day surely isn't damaging... right? 

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well, there you go... BALL is his reward!! 

For training, that is... not for acclimation. Meaning, NO BALL while he is hanging out absorbing atmosphere and getting *ready* to pay attention to you. But, once he can voluntarily pay attention to you (e.g. remembers you exist <g>) then BALL!  Then not ball, and he has to work to get more ball. Admittedly you cannot play fetch on a crowded sidewalk, but with a ball-on-a-rope you can probably find *some* sort of game he will at least kinda get into. 

But it is still really, really important to invest a bunch of time in getting him used to the world (no ball)... otherwise he will at best remain reactive to unexpected things, and potentially get worse as time passes. He needs to be able to notice the world enough to learn to cope with it, right? So, no ball during *that* process!  But, ball very very useful for all sorts of other things.

I will leave the amount of exercise question to those who've raised more bc's than I have... but although I tend to err on the side of caution with young athletic animals (and if they're going to be chasing a ball, IMO it needs to be still moving forward rapidly when they get to it, not stopped so they have to put on the emergency brakes) I totally understand where you're coming from, and some days I definitely do significantly more with my young guy than I'm entirely comfortable with, because it is either that or KABOOM! :O  Sometimes we live in an imperfect world IMO. Perhaps take it easier if you don't have water, though, because the more tired and pant-y they get, the less careful they are with their bodies.

Pat
 

 

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