16. It’s a Dog

Sir Oliver's Granny

Sir Oliver is becoming more and more a dog, actually a Beagle. We wanted him to become his own self again and allow him to be a dog and not a science object/project. He did his part for science, so now it is his moment to truly discover himself.

In the first weeks sir Oliver was seemed pretty much okay with anything, he now forms his own perspectives. Note that this is said from a human point of view. At first, walking and going along with our wishes, was absolutely natural to him. Now the Beagle in him is coming out and when I go to the right he goes to the left. Since a couple of days he stops walking during a walk, stands astride, and gives you a look that looks like: I stay put, what are you going to do?

So at first we thought he must be afraid of something. We would go along with him and follow him. Not a good plan of course, so we had to come up with a plan B. My daughter Googled what it means when a dog won’t go any further on a walk, while looking happy and not afraid. Pure Beagle behavior she found out, and something that is trainable, in order to make a walk pleasant for all parties.

Beagles are easy to bribe we learned in our investigations. Sir Oliver is not totally possessed by food or not yet as most Beagles are. Dog treats can lay around for a while before he eats them and he does not always eat his meals right away. He’s not so much a breakfast man, he’s more in for a brunch. So my daughter is going to figure out how to handle this situation with treats and a clicker.

Since yesterday I played a bit with standing, as in being directive and thus standing behind the things I say and show with my body language. So going to the right is going to the right and not a maybe, tucked away somewhere deep down inside. A maybe is saying that it is all right when we go and take another path. I’ve been there already and had to conclude that giving sir Oliver the main responsibility for where we end up in our walks, is pretty much the same as believing in Santa Claus or the tooth fairy.

So now I would start my walk with a plan, not like a dictator’s plan, but a plan that should work for both of us. Sniffing around is absolutely okay and turning around to sniff a bit is okay as well, but going in the direction we just came from is not okay. Not to tease or stress sir Oliver, but to have a plan and to stand by the plan as his caregiver. Today I practiced it again and we had a pretty smooth walk. There are spots in our walk where he tends or wants to go to the right, basically not realizing that he’s going back after the first 500m. Therefore I now place myself at his right side and lead him with the leash just a bit to the left and no hesitation within my walk. He then followed me and stopped for a second before taking the turn and then moved on.

When sir Oliver stops I do pull him, gently but firm, towards me with the leash . This afternoon my daughter went along with sir Oliver and I, but wasn’t able to hold the leash herself. She has a strap that goes around her waist where a leash is attached to, a type of  joggers leash. It gives less strain on her arms, but still when sir Oliver is pulling her into the opposite direction, it is too much strain. When she saw me pulling sir Oliver towards me, she immediately said she okay with it, and it could not be good for him. She heard his nails on the pavement since he braced himself and reacted to it.

I was kind of feeling guilty in that moment, was I doing something wrong? Was I too hard on sir Oliver or simply being directive and leading the dog? I couldn’t see where I went wrong or if I did anything wrong. I could see that the guilt was more based on spending a lot of time with sir Oliver, where at first he was quite attached to my daughter from day 1 on, and now I have such a connection with him as well. Sir Oliver is her dog, her responsibility and I should and do not want to be too involved in his upbringing, other than a point of cross-reference and a reservist to look after sir Oliver. And yes, within it all I may enjoy myself, in fact I do enjoy myself every time when going out with him. You know why, he’s one of a few that likes me to endlessly talk to him.

Therefore I embrace it when my daughter takes initiative for the training of her dog. At the same time when I walk with him alone, I as well have to figure out how to do things in the moment. Once home we discuss what happened and how we should respond the next time. Sometimes it feels a bit like there are 2 captains on 1 ship, where I seem to be more strict and my daughter more indecisive and overprotected. We’re going to have a look if the clicker training can offer us a way of training him for smooth walks,where I do not need to pull sir Oliver, my daughter is able to walk with him,  and where he is able to do what is asked from him, to walk in a safe and pleasant way for all parties.

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