Labor of love

Happy Labor Day everyone; I hope you all have a wonderful non laboring day.  :)  Relax and enjoy the day with your pooch.

This morning I want to discuss the art of teaching our dogs.  Specifically I would like to talk about leash aggression, walking past other dogs and manners in general while on a walk and coming across other dogs.  This blog is the result of seeing things that I didn't like while on a walk yesterday.  After my husband got back from his walk with Luke we discussed our walks in detail, this is why I am writing the blog.

I got out of my car with Elsa and we immediately head to a fenced in open field.  She has been running somewhat but not with the chuck it yet (due to her spaying).  She needs to get her ya yas out, she's got a lot of them pent up.  So she ran and ran and ran.  We got hooked up and head out to the park area where we do more walking on leash and this is where we hope to run into other dogs to say hi to.  I have been working with Elsa on the fact that you don't say hi to everyone.  I always err on the side of safety when deciding to approach or not.  I don't want her to have any negative experiences.

We first saw a woman coming our way with her very large, buff guy.  It was apparent immediately that we didn't want to say hi to these folks.  She yanked on his neck hard at every glance he gave Elsa and he was giving her a lot.  He was honed in with his laser beam eyes as the woman continued to yank and yell at him.  No this was just a recipe for a disaster and we calmly but quickly took a left turn.  Elsa had  been looking at the dog coming our way as it unfolded.  She had a lot of interest but apprehension as well, she is a master reader of body language.  I never changed my pace and continued to talk about the nice day we were having when I gave her the 'this way' cue.  We happily continued our walk.

The big buff dog was learning that the approach of other people and dogs was very negative.  The woman obviously thought she was teaching him but what she was teaching him was putting fuel on the fire.  He was learning that he should be on guard and tense at the approach and likely aggressive if he gets close enough.

Then we ran into a couple walking a medium to small sized little dog.  The woman was continually yanking on the dog and as we approached Elsa added to the yanking.  She was jumping around and really wanted to meet this dog but we used this as more training.  That poor little dog withstood a great deal of impact on his little neck.  During the process he was undaunted in his pulling and just succeeded to anger his leash holder.  She finally shouted out "HEEL" to the little dog who was not listening at all. The whole scene was just a mess and very negative for both the little dog and the owner.

This scene had caused some damage to the dogs neck, I have no doubt.  The woman was growing angry as the dog ignored her attempts at training.  At one point the woman let out a sound that gave me a whole clue into the situation.  Ahhhhh the sound of the infamous Cesar Milan.  She was trying to be the Alpha in her little pack.  CM has systematically brought our relationship with dogs back to the old days, like when I was a kid.  It is a shame.

Once we got home and discussed our walks Steve told me about two woman he'd passed with very large dogs that got the same treatment.  One woman had made her dog down while yanking and pushing on him as they passed.  The dog had been fixed on Luke as he was forced to the ground to wait.  No doubt she learned somewhere that he should be in a submissive down while other dogs go by.  This, or she could not control her dog and needed him down which is always scary for everyone involved. Another woman had been a carbon copy of the first pair we saw.  Yanking, yelling and the laser beam eyes.

Each time that Elsa and I pass a dog who we are not going to talk to I make good and sure that I do not change my pace.  I continue to chat away and use my 'catch' cue for rewarding.  It is always a good experience and if she wants to bounce around a bit, fine with me.  She is having fun and that is what it is all about. I want her to think that it is all good, walking by other dogs is great.

In all the dogs we saw yesterday and heard about, none were given any reward for anything.  It is like a battle that cannot be won.  By adding positive association to walking by other dogs it can quickly be turned around.  By adding the negative like yanks on a collar, yelling, pushing and being made to down it just adds to the negative causing worse fallout effects.  Getting throw to a dog and rehabilitating is all about the brain, not the braun.