Bruce is a very big dog, probably a mix of Rottweiler and Great Dane and ten years old.
Seven weeks ago Bailey came to live with them.
The two dogs get on brilliantly.
Rottweiler Bailey has a lovely temperament which is quite amazing really. He had been found chained to a fence, skinny, with a huge gash in his neck and a split tongue – possibly from trying to get food out of a can or broken glass.
The two-year-old newcomer is hard work however.
Bailey’s not been ‘home trained’ though he is house trained.
The only toileting accident had been when he was just couldn’t control himself. The little grandchildren were there and, always gentle, he was finding the excitement too much.
Much of our work is looking at ways to calm Bailey while the couple continue to teach him manners and a few rules. He is a big one for jumping up and he will steal food from the side.
In order to get him to be less stressed he really needs more healthy stimulation and exercise. This is difficult.
The man gets up at four in the morning for work. He walks the two dogs when he gets home in the evening and it’s dark.
The lady is at home with the dogs but where she could walk Bruce she’s not sufficiently strong for walking the dogs together. Bailey simply pulls too much for the slightly-built lady.
Another problem is that Bruce panics if Bailey is taken anywhere without him.
Walking the dogs the man’s way works for him but not for the lady.
The gentleman, using methods I myself don’t advocate, manages walking the dogs together because he is big and strong. He holds them tightly on their leads, one in each hand. He simply makes it impossible for them to pull.
After a long day at work and with two dogs needing to be walked, it’s too much to expect him to learn a new technique whilst walking each dog separately in the dark. He walks them on lead to the fields and then lets Bruce off. He can’t yet trust Bailey.
What he’s currently doing now is working for him. He has ‘stopped Bailey pulling’ and walking the dogs is, for him, ‘under control’. If they meet a dog, he tells them to sit and forcibly keeps them sitting until the dog has passed.
The lady will be learn walking the dogs my way.
The two large dogs will learn to walk on a loose lead one at a time. Eventually the lady should be able to hold them both in the same hand because she won’t be relying upon her strength at all.
It will take time. To start with the two dogs need to get used to brief periods apart just each side of a gate. Separating one from the other is the first challenge. One at a time they can then be walked around the house. Then she can take one at a time into the garden – gradually taking them out onto the road.
She will hook the leads onto the front of special Perfect Fit harnesses and let them hang loose.
She has already experienced how great it feels by walking a harnessed Bailey, my way, around the kitchen.
When each dog is walking with her calmly around the house, the garden and out in the road, she can start walking the dogs together.
By walking the dogs in short individual sessions during the day, the lady will be giving Bailey some much needed stimulation and this will teach him some self-control too.
Instead of making them sit while another dog approaches, she will walk calmly in a wide arc or even turn around if necessary. It’s best not to make them feel trapped.
The lady will have control over her dogs by teaching them self control. The man has control over the dogs by using his strength.
How will the dogs not be confused by the two methods?
I was puzzling over this and this is worth a go. The D-ring on the chest piece of the harness can be used only by the lady with her longer training leads. The feeling of the lead hanging loosely from the chest can be associated solely with a loose lead walking, encouragement and rewards.
The man however can continue to do what works for him, to attach the shorter leads either to the dogs’ collars or the back of the harnesses where they are already used to feeling the restraint of being held back on a tight lead.
The dogs will be able to feel the difference.
You never know – eventually the lady may be teaching her husband her way of walking the dogs!