Last week, I met with Violet’s main owner [the family has requested that their names not be made public] for the first of two leash-training sessions. They need to experience the leash as they’ve been using it on Violet so they can learn how Violet feels and why she reacts so intensely when they try to handle her outbursts. Last night was the second leash-training session, and the whole family participated. In the first session, it was only Owner 1 and me; Owners 2 and 3 – the boyfriend and the mother – had not been able to attend.
After recapping the first session, it was time for Owners 2 and 3 to experience a taste of what they’ve been unknowingly doing to Violet. Each owner was leashed around their wrist, and for several minutes, they were moved around by me the same way they’ve been maneuvering Violet. Because most of Violet’s reactivity and aggression is due to improper use of the leash and over-correction, different scenarios were created for them to demonstrate where and how they’re making their mistakes, and how to correct those mistakes. The method was unorthodox, but it showed them quite clearly what life is like from Violet’s point of view.
After several minutes of hands-on leash work, I brought Glimmer into the mix so they could practice what they had learned, and experience first-hand what a walk should be. Glimmer did a fantastic job with each of them. She moved when they moved, maintaining a near-perfect heel position, she gave a little resistance by pulling a little towards something that interested her, she stayed back and weaved from left to right a few times, she even remained standing when they stopped moving so they could practice giving her a light correction to put her into a sit position. Everything Glimmer did and didn’t do was an opportunity for the family to practice loose-leash walking and light correction.
For the last 20 minutes of the session, Glimmer was taken off duty and put in the car, and Violet – who had been closely watching us through the living room window – was muzzled and brought outside. Owner 3 did not participate, as she was not feeling well. For safety and to ensure sufficient distance, I had moved to the other side of the street.
Violet stood calmly and just looked at me while Owners 1 and 2 put the slip-lead on her and set it into the correct position. Then, Owner 2 began walking her back and forth past my car. Every time Violet looked at me, Owner 2 gave a light correction and kept moving. After only a few of these corrections, Violet stopped caring so much about me and just followed him. At no time did she attempt to lunge at me or attack me. I even called her name and talked to her as they went past me. She remained calm. Violet has always been very responsive to Owner 2; he has a very calm, assertive energy.
After a few minutes, it was time for Owner 1 to work Violet. Owner 1 has a very different energy. She is less confident and not as assertive as Owner 2, so the exercise was as much a confidence-building exercise for her as it was for Violet. Violet became very interested in me when I called her name and talked to her, but Owner 1 calmly gave a light, corrective leash-pop, and Violet immediately stopped looking at me and followed her instead. The difference in Violet’s demeanor because of proper use of the leash was astounding. Several times, I had each owner stop moving and put Violet in a sit position, and just stand and talk with me. Violet watched me very closely, but her body was relaxed and she was calm. I spoke her name, I talked to her, and she did not react.
The session was a massive victory for Violet. She had seen Glimmer in the car, but she did not react even a little bit. She had seen me – her major trigger – but her owners proved to her that they had the situation under control, so she relaxed and followed them. It was a huge turn-around for Violet, and I look forward to seeing her continue to progress in her recovery. Great job, Team Violet!