Over the last month or two, Greg hasn’t walked Spencer very much. First, he sprained his shoulder, which meant that it wasn’t a good idea to be walking the giant dog. And then Greg got freaked out by Spencer’s fear agression. I was already walking Spencer more just because of our schedules: it’s easier for me to do the morning walks and, when it happens, the midday walk. The result is that Spencer has gotten much more used to being walked by me.
In order to help Greg get over his fears and to gain confidence in himself and Spencer, we’ve started doing evening sessions in the park. I “pilot” Spencer until we get there, and then Greg takes over. This is also giving Greg an opportunity to learn the new softer methods we have for directing Spencer…they require more time and patience because they are less brusque than leash corrections.
The beginning of these sessions are always a bit challenging for Greg, but as Spencer realizes that I’m not going to disappear in a puff of smoke and they repeat the exercises, Spencer pays more and more attention to Greg.
When we start heading back to the house, Greg takes Spencer for the first bit until the situation gets too urban or he gets tired. And that’s when something happens that makes us laugh a lot.
Indulge me in a small, but relevant tangent: dogs apparently have difficulty generalizing what they learn, so you have to show them the same trick or rule in several different contexts before they understand they are always supposed to do it.
So we start walking back to the house as a family, and Greg says “Au pieds” (heel). And Spencer executes with brio! Sometimes he even leaps backward into place…and almost always stretches the leash to sit at MY feet looking up proudly. At which point, we both laugh and Greg specifies, “No, MY heel”.