Case Study 2 : Casey 3 years
The behaviour of lead pulling as always fascinated me. The levels of discomfort that both the dog and the person are prepared to tolerate is amazing, with the dogs eyes bulging out of sockets, being half strangled and the human’s arms being almost pulled out of sockets; walking becomes a nightmare with money being spent on various management aids like head collars and leaders. I hear the cry of ‘but the dog needs to have a walk’ so many times and with each case the dog is being rewarded for the bad behaviour every time s/he steps out of the door. Dogs pull on the lead for many reasons: eager to get the play area, tracking a ground scent, wanting to lead their owner ‘this way’ because it might be more interesting than ‘that away’, insecurity resulting in the need to get to known places of safety as fast as possible. Many pull as a conditioned reflex as they have something to pull against, the tugging on the collar invites a tug back and before you know it there is a battle of strength and will and the only reason being is that the dog is on the lead!
Casey’s owners were at the end of their tether – literally – she pulled like a steam train. Having tried head collars, harnesses, choke chains etc they gave up walking her, as it was just too much of an ordeal. Cassey was a typical young exuberant Clumber girl. On arriving for the assessment I was greeted by 30 kilo of white fur landing on my head with her embarrassed dad saying ‘how did the cute bundle of fluff we brought home turn into this – is it a breed thing?’ Her overall manners were appalling and she had developed the art of making sure she remained the centre of attention at all times. Casey had no concept of the word ‘sit’ and at the first sight of the lead went deaf and blind.
Working for a better future:
Working with the whole family, including the children, we put together a 20-hour training plan. This included teaching Casey her manners, conditioning her to basic cues, working out free shaping routines to stimulate her mind and get her to problem solve and the ‘walk nice’ exercise. Casey finally made it as a well-mannered girl who was able to manage her exuberance. Her reward was a less stressed out household and lots of good quality walks with the reduced risk of getting injured and developing conformity problems in later life.
On my last visit to Casey, she was down the garden when I arrived. What a change! Was this quiet well-mannered girl, sitting wowowing hello and waiting for Mum to tell her ‘go greet’ the same dog? When she got the cue she immediately went off and picked up a toy, waited until I had sat down, and presented it to me gently wagging her tail enthusiastically. She even fetched her own lead when I said ‘walkies then’
How much easier, kinder and cheaper would it have been to have worked through the puppy hood stages with understanding and knowledge?