They suspect the problem began shortly after Oscar was able to go out for walks.

He met a large dog that scared him beyond the close where they live. This may have coincided with his fear period for it to have had such a lasting effect. He’s now fine with most dogs.

In general and at home, Oscar is incredibly easy for one-year-old Cocker Spaniel. There seems little in his life at home that could be contributing to his being reluctant to walk.

I checked all areas of his life. I then quizzed the couple about the walks themselves, beginning at home.

What do his walks consist of?

He wears a Perfect Fit harness – which indeed is perfect in my mind. He has a standard length lead.

He gets excited when the harness comes out. He’s happy.

Once out, he pulls to the grassy area opposite their house. He sniffs at length. They then walk him to another area of grass near the entrance to their close.

Why reluctant to walk?

Seldom will he go any further. Despite enticing and encouragement he just refuses to move.

From everything they told me, it seems he feels safe in their own road but unsafe out of it. He’s quite happy sniffing and mooching near home and doesn’t much want to go back into the house.

At weekends they take him by car to either a park or the woods. Sometimes he will walk a short way but usually he won’t willingly move from the car.

Oscar has been reluctant to walk away from home for most of his life, so it will be a habit too. Just something he does. We need to break it.

Freedom and choice

They will work using two principals: freedom and choice.

Their close is a quiet road with little traffic so they will use a 30 foot long line. Oscar now can choose just where he goes and how long he sniffs for.

This will be the first stage of his ‘new’ walk.

When they have established mooching at will around the close, they will move on to the next step. While Oscar is sniffing the grass near the entrance of their close, the lady will walk away from him. She will go round the corner – to the end of the long line. Out of sight. She will wait.

Lacing the environment

He may join her or he may not. It’s his choice. I am banking on him doing so eventually. When he does, the lady will scatter food; he will find the new environment is laced with chicken.

They will now do this for a few days until this is the new ‘new’ walk. Again, the lady will now walk away from him, to the end of the long line, and repeat the process.

This will take as long as it takes until Oscar is no longer reluctant to walk.

‘New’ walks from the car

At weekends they will do the same thing from the car. They will stand near the car and go nowhere. Oscar will have the 30 foot radius of the long line. There will be no encouraging or enticing him to walk.

They will then walk away from him and stand still. It’s his choice. However, if he chooses to come to them, the new place will be laced with chicken.

If he won’t walk, they will come back home again and try again another day.

I am sure with consistency and patience, they will be able to enjoy proper walks.

Three days later: “It has only been 3 days since our 1 to 1 meeting with Theo and we have already seen an improvement in Oscars anxiety levels when out on walks. Theo helped us to understand how how Oscar is feeling and how to spot the signs when it’s getting too much for him. We feel a lot more relaxed and we do not put any pressure on Oscar to walk. We now know that it’s not the end of the world if he misses a walk and that spending time at home playing and training is just as important.”
A week later: “we have seen a big improvement with Oscar, he seems so much more relaxed on the longer lead. He now walks out of the close without any anxiety and we sprinkle chicken on a grass verge round the corner. However when we get back to the close he gets very excited and bites the lead (we have a plan for that now). At the park he hasn’t hesitated once and is happy to walk away from the car whilst on the long lead. We tried a couple of times in the forest and the first time he heard a dog bark and wouldn’t go any further, so we didn’t make it into the forest, but we went back towards the car and he wanted to go to another small park and seemed happy. The second time we got into forest but for some reason he just wanted to head back towards the park again. I know it’s only a small step forward but we all seem a bit happier and more relaxed”
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete report. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do more harm than good. Click here for help

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