A short story about two nine-month-old Labrador sisters. They are bouncy, enthusiastic and friendly, perfect given their breed and their age.
The main problems are jumping up at people and pulling on lead. Walks are causing the gentleman considerable stress. For reasons not relevant here, he only took over walking them a week or so ago.
Both dogs pull badly on lead. They jump up at people and leap at other dogs. He finds it a real effort to hold the two back.
After a few days, the walks were causing the man so much tension that he stopped walking them and had been playing with them in the garden instead.
Chocolate Lab Sophie and Black Lab Magic are a great pair. Well-adjusted and stable dogs, they get on brilliantly. They also don’t get too distressed if separated for a short while which is very fortunate. They are a tribute to the love, care and attention they have had to date.
So, tackling walks first, I had two main suggestions to start things off.
One at a time
The man would find it much easier to walk the dogs one dog at a time for now. It won’t be for always. There will be a whole lot less tension.
At present he does all he can to PREVENT the dogs pulling.
They wear the kind of harnesses that are designed to tighten and become uncomfortable if the dog pulls. Most dogs will put up with this and pull despite discomfort and it just adds to all the tension.
Magic and Sophie’s leads are short and of the bungee variety to accommodate and cushion the inevitable pulling.
It’s all about pulling.
I suggested something very different. I suggested he forgets all about stopping the dogs from pulling.
Equipment and freedom
Both man and dogs will find much more pleasure in walks if the leads are longer so the dogs have a little more freedom. This is something physically possible if he walks just one dog at a time.
A comfortable Perfect Fit harness and a longer lead, at least 2 metres, will be a lot less restricting. How frustrating walks must be for a young dog, held close, unable to explore and sniff. It’s unsurprising she pulls against the tension to try to get further away.
What’s more, if the person walking the young dogs reigns them in tightly whenever they get near another dog, how might that make them feel about other dogs?
I was however unprepared for the degree of instant success the man has had.
All he has so far is a longer lead and a different approach – one of relaxing tension.
No tension on the lead
I only saw them yesterday. He has already bought a 2 metre lead.
He tells me he took Magic first and she walked perfectly, sometimes stretching the lead but not pulling. Someone came out of a doorway as they walked past. The man says he did not react as he did before by tightening his grip. He relaxed all tension and left the lead loose; Magic just watched them come out and go on their way.
Sophie may have done even better. Three people with a dog walked past and again he did not react but left the lead loose. She stood and watched them while he calmly told her ‘good girl’. Everything passed without pulling or leaping up.
He says he feels so proud of them both. I feel so proud of him!
Less tension and frustration together with more fulfilment on walks is very likely, along with other enriching activities, to have a positive effect on the garden digging and chewing of furniture.
They are off to a great start.