Plume and I went to school for the first time last night. It was everything I’d hoped for, though I might wish their expectations weren’t so high. Between now and next Tuesday we need to have push-ups (sit-down-stand) with both hand signals and verbal cues, which means we need to practice at least 50 times. Also we need to learn to play dead. And on walks we need to practice dogs sitting nicely beside bosses. And we need to practice our recall. I’d already been working on recalls, but I didn’t have the whole thing: the dog doesn’t get the treat until you’ve touched their collar. So we’ve been practising that this morning.
We have six weeks of this but the fee would have been worth it for just this course. I learned how to walk Plume on a relaxed leash. She’s a puller, so one of the first things we got her was a Halti collar (basically a bridle) so that we could walk her comfortably. Last night I learned how Plume could walk on an ordinary short leash with an ordinary collar without pulling. And this morning that’s exactly what we did. Crikey. We aren’t perfect yet, but the goal is so close as to be looming over us.
Twelve years ago I took Poupoune to a local dog school that used dominance psychology and praise. They gave me big leather gloves to handle her with. She hated class. Last night Plume started barking as soon as she got to class. I was told to move her away from the distraction. I did this several times until there was nowhere else to go, and then we had to stand and watch some very distracting exercises with dogs running back and forth demonstrating recalls. The instructor showed me how to give her a treat every time something exciting was about to happen so that she’d turn to me when the action started instead of jumping around and barking. This kind of behavioural work is exactly what I had been hoping for.
But walking without pulling… that’s just… crikey.