Lesson #3 for Miss Blue was a big one: Learning how to walk nicely on the leash. Considering the fear and anxiety she presented in the previous lesson, I wasn’t sure how this lesson would go. Would she be able to cope with being outdoors, or would she have another full-blown panic attack?
When I arrived for the lesson, Blue barked at me – but, for the first time, she didn’t run away from me. To my great surprise and pleasure, she came to sniff at me, instead. Surprising me again, when she recognized my scent, she became quite excited and started running laps around the half-wall separating the kitchen area from the living area. She jumped up on the sofa, gave me a couple of licks on my hand, and then she was off again, running around the half-wall. She did this for a couple of minutes before her family was ready to leash her up and take her outside.
Yet again, Blue surprised me. She was actually eager to go outside. She was pulling on the leash to get to the door! To help her learn proper door manners, we taught her that she could only go outside if she was calm. Outdoors was the new reward. We worked on this for about 20 minutes before Blue finally realized that and started to work to control her excitement.
Once outside, I had no idea how she was going to respond. She was so afraid and anxious at the previous lesson that I didn’t know if she would even be able to focus on her handler, never mind learn to walk nice on the leash. But, while she did struggle with it, Blue made an awesome effort to focus on her handlers and to control herself before being taken onto the main sidewalk.
Learning how to walk on the leash was an adventure. Blue pulled quite a bit, and she kept jumping up in the air in an effort to launch herself forward, pulling her handlers off balance in the process. To combat that hard pulling, her handlers learned how to “be a tree”: when Blue pulled, they immediately stopped moving and waited for her to relax the tension on the leash. As soon as she did that, they moved forward again. It was definitely a learning curve for her and her handlers. But, with only minimal guidance from me, they all managed to learn. Blue learned that pulling meant no forward movement; her handlers learned that they could control the walk just by standing still.
Blue’s progress from the previous lesson was astronomical. It was very clear to me that her family has been working with her regularly and often.
Blue has come a long way from the terrified, anxious puppy she was just three lessons ago. Slowly but surely, she’s coming out of her shell and showing more of her true self. She’s quite a character, really; she’s much happier than she was, she’s funny, she’s sweet, she’s a little precocious, she’s super smart, she learns really quickly, she’s eager to learn, she gets excited when she hears “yes, good girl”… She’s made so much progress in just three lessons.
Today is Lesson #4. It’s a rainy day, so we’ll be working indoors. Blue will be learning some new things that will challenge her and help her learn more impulse control. It’s going to be a great lesson.
Have a great day, and remember: Stay calm and lead on…