Morfah’s Musings – February
Recently we worked with some friends on focus issues when out walking, and it reminded me of something we all forget occasionally so I thought I would dedicate this musing to my good friend Jessie.
Jessie is a great girl, works hard with her human, loves playing with other dogs, up for any activity her family is interested in, and loves her training. But like all of us outgoing and energetic canines sometimes struggles to pay attention to her human when out on walks. This is something that can drive humans crazy, so we need to remind them from time to time how to get us to remain focused when there are soooo many better things to be looking at, especially if, like Jessie and me, you are lucky enough to have horses or cattle close to work and your training/walking areas, not to mention the other dogs around here.
Let’s get a little background on what happened ….
We headed out for a walk and Jessie was looking at the horse, the other dogs around, the cars, anywhere but where her human was. Of course, when looking so many directions at once, it is hard to also keep an eye on your human and us dogs know the best way to tell where they are is by pulling ahead so the lead is tight, we can always tell where they are when the lead is tight. In training, and on her way in and out of work, Jessie is normally really good on a loose lead, but when walking she is sometimes terrible.
Every time Jessie got too far ahead and pulled on the lead she would get in trouble, move back to her human’s side and the walk would resume. There was the occasional good girl and reward for being close to her human but mostly the only time Jessie’s human talked was to tell her off for pulling.
We then headed into our front training paddock. Immediately Jessie’s human started to praise her and the rewards came faster for walking next to her human, Jessie never pulled ahead and her human was happy. Jessie’s lead was then taken off where she continued to remain with her human, focused, obedient and happy to work until she was released and did bog laps around the paddock and found herself a toy.
Time for a quick assessment here, why was Jessie working well in the paddock but not on the road? When in the paddock Jessie’s human was more relaxed and remembered to stay calm, talk to Jessie when she was happy with Jessie’s position and rewarded lots. Out on the road she was so prepared for Jessie to do the wrong thing she was actually keying Jessie up and ensuring she looks out for potential problems rather than relaxing and enjoying their walk together.
So what instructions did we give Jessie and her human? Well here’s where I play tag with my human, I talked to Jessie and my human talked to Jessie’s human. Now Jessie and I, being good friends and having spent a lot of time together means I can be straight with her and not worry about upsetting her. So my advice to Jessie was to remind her human about the need for feedback and help, to try and relax rather than worry about what is out there so much, you should see this girl track, nose down, focused and working beautifully. On a walk, head up, looking in every direction at once and struggling to focus on anything for long.
And from the humans .. this advice was twofold, firstly, need to give Jessie more information when she is doing the right thing, as long as the lead isn’t tight praise her and reward when close. As Jessie isn’t big on treats when walking (and I’m right with Jessie on this one, who has time to eat when walking) set them up for a short walk whereby Jessie can then be rewarded with something she really likes, a major favourite of Jessie’s is running at the park so a short walk to the park, as long as Jessie works well, play and running around. As they get better at this skill again they can extend the distance between the start of the walk and the park. The next piece of advice was to give Jessie a warning when she starts to pull ahead, rather than wait for the lead to go tight and correct, warn, if the lead goes tight correct, but if Jessie pays attention and moves back next to her human that praise is definitely the way to go.
We then headed back up the road towards the two big dogs at the end, Jessie isn’t a big fan of them, and Jessie and her human practiced what we talked about and you know what, they did great, Jessie stayed close, hardly pulled and her human was relaxed enough to remember to talk to Jessie for most of the walk. We had to head back into the front paddock for a run around and Jessie, the crazy girl she is, decided to drag around a stick that made me proud of her. The stick was about three times my body length, so over 4 of Jessie, and was quite thick too, but she dragged it all around and gave it what for making everyone laugh.
We also shared a really good blog from a lady in America with Jessie and her human that we hope will help them see things a little differently, if you want to read it the author is Meagan Karnes and the blog A Different Breed: Is Your Dog a Reflection of Yourself? (http://www.collared-scholar.com/lessons-learned-from-my-dog/a-different-breed-is-your-dog-a-reflection-of-you/)
So, what do we need to take from Jessie’s story, always remember to give your humans some slack when they get so caught up on what they expect to happen, they don’t always realise that by anticipating our behaviour they actually cause us to react in a way they wish to avoid, sometimes we need to be patient and give them a friendly reminder, after all, they are only human
Until next time, high paws to you all, stay cool