As part of teaching Spencer to relax on walks, I now put him on a flexi-leash once we arrive at the park. This allows him to explore and do dog stuff without my getting dragged into the underbrush. It also makes dog greetings more natural, at least when the other dog is off-leash. (Our local park does not have rules against letting your dog off-leash, and it generally works fine.) We do not let Spencer off leash yet because he is not yet very good at coming when called if he’s distracted. Also, we can’t risk him having a fear-aggression episode off-leash, so until he realizes that loitering/lurking people are OK (at least most of the time), we need to be able to control him.
Spencer seems to be enjoying his walks much more and is starting to understand how long the flexi-leash is so that he doesn’t get jerked at the end of it. In any case, the leash is no longer attached to his collar, so the jerks are a mild inconvenience. He now has a walking harness, and the leash attaches to his chest. This is recommended for dogs who pull on their leashes because they get much less traction this way. As a matter fact, rather than being able to pull you, tension on the leash turns their bodies back towards you.
I was surprised at the beginning of today’s walk when Spencer barely said hello to the Doberman he played with yesterday. We did our tour of the park, and just as we were about to head back home, I saw the Doberman and another dog owner in the big, open space in the middle of the park, so I took him over to try again. Not only did he play with the Doberman, but the other dog owner turned out to be the master of the Basset hound Spencer adores. The two of them get along like a house on fire, but it’s a really funny combination! And then, as if that wasn’t enough, several more dogs showed up and we played to our heart’s content!
Afterwards, Spencer and I walked beside one of the owners and his two dogs for a while because we were heading in the same direction.
These encounters are good for Spencer because they teach him social skills for interacting with people too. He gets used to strange people petting him and walking in parallel to us without seeing them as a threat. That’s a good lesson to help him cope with people who are not attached to dogs.