Monday, 1 February 2016

Positively staying in step..

Training this little pickle to walk politely on her lead is proving a challenge.  At eight months of age, she now pulls like a proverbial steam engine.

Walking Betty on her lead together with big sis Polly, just isn't practical at the moment.  It's a constant strain on my arm joints .... not to mention my stress levels! So I have had to walk my girls separately most days, to give me time to focus on teaching Betty lead etiquette.

Little Miss Boo loves to live life in the fast lane and is always very excited by the big wide world, so wants to explore at super puppy speed, which as you can imagine, is not conducive to walking calmly.  She is an absolute sweetheart and so much fun, but boy oh boy, can Betty Boo pull!

In search of good advice, I have watched a stack of 'You Tube' 'how to teach your dog ...' videos, listened to advice from all kinds of doggy quarters, read heaven only knows how many dog training/psychology/behaviour advice books and have been taking Betty to obedience training school for the past four months.  I have to say, it is truly amazing just how much conflicting advice is spouted when it comes to dog training!

I absolutely loathe the notion of aversive methods to train, so for my girls there will never be choke chains, electronic collars, or the like, no matter how long it takes, nor how difficult/frustrating it is, to train them to a reliable obedience standard.  In fact I don't even like to walk them on their collars, I prefer harnesses as I think they are kinder.  After educating myself as fully as I could manage, my heart and common sense told me instinctively that 'Positive Reinforcement' would be the right dog training path for us to take.

Betty is actually pretty darned obedient off lead, so I am sure that if I can teach her how to walk more slowly by my side without a lead, I should be able to teach her how to apply that skill to lead walking. So, this week we've been playing games indoors and also on the local playing fields, to encourage my lively girl to stay in step with me, firming up her focus on my movements by using a clicker to click and treat whenever she put herself into the correct position ... she loves to learn in this playful way and that little blue clicker really captures her interest. There are no harsh yanks on her lead and no cross words while we do this, just gentle, calm encouragement and praise, as Betty works out what is expected of her.  

Today I noticed a marked improvement on our lead walk as she began to make the connection between our games and walking on her lead outdoors. Of course,  there were times when she still forged ahead, but when she pulled too far forward I simply stopped walking and waited until the penny dropped and she turned back and positioned herself by my side again.  As our walk progressed, I noticed she was spending more and more time by my side and checking with me to confirm she was doing okay ... progress, yay!

I am under no illusions this is early days, after all, the world is a very exciting place for a perky young pup in her first year exploring the great outdoors ... and dog training is hard work, time consuming and requires a great deal of commitment.  However, I am beginning to see light at the end of our lead walking tunnel and am hopeful it might not be too much longer before both my girls are able to enjoy a polite stroll by my side on their leads, without Betty pulling us all along single pawed!


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