Expect the unexpected or keep your dog close to you
– contributed by Nora Hayes, MSW
Last week was a bit of a departure from our usual serious approach to training a well mannered dog. I focused on the skills and training our dogs need to be able to walk safely off lead in the woods. I described a situation where a rather sad gentleman inflicted his very aggressive small dog upon our dog walking group. The little dog was on his own and good luck! Kind of funny but also tough to handle for us and our dogs.
So we do have to expect the unexpected and the unpredictable. Our best defense is a well trained and responsive dog that will come when called and stay by our side until we are comfortable they will be safe.
I will use my puppy Gwen again as an example of a not yet reliable off lead walker. Gwen walks with a pack of dogs and until adolescence struck (she is 8 months), she stayed with the older dogs. But remember puppies are meant to test and she has begun to do just that big time. She strays and doesn’t always listen when called. My rule of thumb is-one stray is a mistake, 2 strays is a habit. So Gwen is now walking on a long line so I can help her stay close to me and the other dogs. She is just not ready yet to be trusted.
What is a long line? Simple! Go to the hardware store and pick up 20-30 feet of clothesline (I like the mildew and rot resistant variety), and attach a clip to the end. Voila! Attach the clip to the collar and let your dog drag it behind. It is important to make sure no knots or tangles are on the line so it will not catch on roots etc.
If your dog tries to take off simply step on it, haul her in and treat when she is close to you. The rule that close to you is all good always remains a guiding principle. Treats appear when she is next to you.
Last week on our walk, Gwen was very interested in the path in front of her and nosed the ground avidly as we walked. After a while, I saw a young man with an infant in a carrier on his back walking just ahead. Whew! I had no doubt my pup would have run eagerly to see who this interesting person was, and might even have jumped up to see the cute bundle on his back. I would have been mortified and hopefully no damage would have been done, but you never really know-if she had gotten to him and knocked him off balance, it might have caused harm to him or the baby. Always better safe than sorry in my book and my dog needs to be under my control at all times.
Next week we’ll continue our good dog training discussion with more training tips.
THE CONTENT OF THIS COLUMN IS THE EXPRESS OPINION OF NORA HAYES, AND CANNOT BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT THE PERMISSION OF THE AUTHOR.