Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Helping Paws Village

This week has been one of those magical weeks where everything seems to click. To start with, we had a great class on Monday. We had time to share some of the things that are working for us with the various cues. And we had time to share ideas of different approaches to take with some of the things with which we have been struggling. Two tips that I've put into use immediately have to do with Loose Leash Walking (LLW).

Two weeks ago, Rachel noted that Bella (Belle's sister) liked to speed up after receiving a click and treat during LLW - exactly the opposite of what we want the dogs to do. Belle also does this and I have been constantly reminding her to "heel" or "side" after I treat. This behavior is actually quite normal when viewed from the dog's perspective because they are taught that the click and treat indicates success and completion. Rachel's solution to this was quite simple - stop, ask the dog to sit if they haven't already done so, and then click and treat. Begin LLW again while giving the dog the "heel" or "side" cue. I've been using Rachel's solution for the last two days with great success. The best part is I only have to do this at the start of the walk. After several blocks, just slowing down before the click and treat seems to do the same thing. By the time Belle and I have about a 1/2 mile or so under our paws, we don't even need to slow down.

The second suggestion came as a result of my asking about how to keep Belle's focus when we are passing another dog. Being the party girl she is, the presence of another dog is her greatest joy. This is problematic on walks because she will turn around, stop, twist, whatever to see what the other dog is up to. I've tried all sorts of stuff from crossing the street to blocking her view of the approaching dog to asking her to simply stop, heel, and stay until the dog passes. But my goal is for her to ignore the dog completely - and that's been elusive. When Cathy D. suggested I ask the neighborhood dog walkers for help, I was hesitant inside wondering how I could do that.

Why was I worried. In the last two days, two different neighbors have asked me if it's okay for their dogs to act as a distraction for Belle. When I recovered from my shock at their timely requests, all I could sputter was, "would you?"

Finally, lest I still didn't get it that support for what Belle and I are doing is freely and willingly shared, I received a couple of wonderful e-mails chock full of encouragement from the extended Helping Paws family - Maisie's mom, Nancy D. and one of the graduate teams - Angela and Milo. All I can say is "thank-you". It's an honor and a privilege to be a part of Belle's training.

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