So today we took a leash-training class down at the lake. Those of you who know more than I do--or more than I did until this morning--can see right away the problem in the top picture: The dogs are in front of me, and they're pulling me down the stairs.
They are supposed to be at my side, not in front of me. I know, I know--good luck with that.
Because we were the only people who had signed up for the class, we were able to cover a lot of ground--not just how to make the dogs walk nicely at our side, but how to deal with distractions such as squirrels and rabbits and other dogs. We have mastered none of this, but at least now we know what we are supposed to do.
The problem, though, is this: with other training, you can set aside some time, do the training, and then resume your life. But with leash training, you have to practice it the entire time you are on the walk, every time you take a walk. It's frustrating, it makes the walk very slow, you have no possibility of settling into a nice cadence and letting your mind wander (one of the very nicest things about walks) because you have to be constantly vigilant.
So. We shall we how well we do.
Rosie was at her absolutely most endearingly winsomely adorably sweet.
Imagine a box next to you--the front of the box is even with your body. The side of the box can stick out the width of two or three dogs, and the back of the box can be about a dog-and-a-half long. When you are walking, your dog must be inside that box, all the time.
Start the walk by making your dog sit at your side nicely, inside the imaginary box. Then get its attention: You say, Rosie! Walk! and you start walking. The minute she gets ahead of you (or me), you tighten the leash, wheel around in front of her, and sharply give the Back! command. Then you wait a second or two, to drive the point home. Then you say, Rosie! Walk! and resume walking.
You do this for the entire walk, reinforcing with treats when she is walking nicely at your side, and eventually some day you will be able to enjoy your walks again.
I have no idea when that will be.
Here's our trainer, working with Riley. He started us in the parking lot, where there are fewer distractions, and we graduated to the walking path. He gave us advice for dealing with the distractions of squirrels, rabbits and dogs--Riley, he said, has that intense border collie stare (ever since that DNA test, he's been acting much more border collie-like) and that sets off other dogs, which is why there is so much barking and growling and lunging when he encounters them. So the best thing to do in that case is distract him, maybe with a treat.
We can also make what he calls an "arc" to widen the distance between Riley and other dogs who are approaching on the path--don't turn him completely away from the other dog, because he'll get agitated if he loses sight of him, but just guide him in a curve away from them.
There was a lot more but it was a pretty intense hour and this is all I remember. We are to practice this for two weeks and then meet up again for a final session.
The dogs are totally counting on us getting frustrated with all of this and just going back to the usual ways. But I say, Ha! We are going to do this. I swear. It'll be aggravating at first, but I look forward to the day when a squirrel can zip across our path and Rosie doesn't then try to dislocate my shoulder going after it. Any bets on how old she'll be--or I will--by then?