Allie's not big into leisurely jaunts. All too often, when I take her for a walk, she gets a funny (evil?) glint in her eye and proceeds to grab her leash with her mouth. Occasionally, she simply holds it as we walk along together. More often, though, she pulls in the direction opposite the way we're traveling in an effort to start a game of sidewalk tug-of-war.
Because I consider a tranquil walk with one's dog to be one of life's greatest joys, Allie's efforts to pump up the volume during our walks used to really bug me. I'd get impatient, I'd get angry, I'd try to get her to let go of the leash by giving her the "drop it" cue (which she would ignore) -- all of which seemed to spur her into holding onto the leash, shaking it and otherwise working harder to get me to play with her.
The funny thing is, for the longest time I didn't realize her desire to play was what was prompting her leash-grabbing. She wasn't trying to be obnoxious. She wasn't trying to be difficult. She simply wanted me to play her favorite game with her, and was suggesting that we do so in the only way she knew how. Unfortunately, I was too busy being annoyed with her to listen, much less respond appropriately.
How often do our dogs try to tell us something, only to find that we don't understand what they're trying to communicate--or worse, that we don't even try to understand? How often, conversely, do we shove own agendas down their throats without even realizing that we're doing so? How often do we miss opportunities to really connect with our dogs because we're too busy doing something else? How often do we really pay attention? How often are our relationships with our dogs more like one-way streets in which we set the agenda? How often do we give them a chance to do so?
These days, when Allie plays the leash-grabbing game, I respond very differently from the way I used to. If I'm not in the mood to play, I just keep the leash slack, and refrain from looking at her. When I do that, she understands pretty quickly that tug is not going to happen right now, drops the leash, and we continue on our way. Other times, though, I'll use my special Allie voice (sort of like baby-talk, but not really) and ask her, "Allie, are you feeling evil? Are you The Evil One?" and let her pull the leash a little bit. Sometimes we both stand still while she tugs; other times we continue walking while we play.
In any case, there's no more negativity or impatience from me when Allie asks to play sidewalk tug. That said, I'm glad we've got a durable leather leash.
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