Friday, July 27, 2012

I Lead, You Follow

The Gentle Leader is a miracle product.  I could sell it, no problemo, and I hate salespeople.  I cannot believe how much it has changed our life with our once crazy lab. 

The first time we used this clever leash contraption, we did not watch the instructional DVD.  And, it was a complete disaster, albeit pretty funny.  Whenever we approached Miss O with leader in hand, she would first bark like a mental case, as she slowly backed away.  As we stood our ground trying to feed her a piece of cheese and slip the nose strap over her little snout, she'd start leaping around on her hind legs, spinning in mid-air.  As we continued to stand there helplessly, she'd start running around the condo at top speed.  We were frustrated, to say the least, and without having even listened to the DVD for instructions (shame on us), we put the miracle leash away.  And, I stopped taking her for a walk.  And, my husband no longer took her to work. 

This summer I have been trying to train the crazy dog.  I would love to get my exercise and hers in all at once a couple of times a day by taking a lovely walk.  My husband would like to take her back to work but only, and I know he will only let her back, if she can learn to greet customers with a "high five" or a "namaste" vs. an "I'm gonna get you" Cujo-like lunge and bark.

It has been harder than I expected.  I have not been able to teacher her, "I lead, you follow."  It just did not compute in her canine head.  I have tried using all behavioral strategies our doggie trainers taught us.  We have gone through a lot of cheese bites, I have been firmly commanding her to "heel."  Despite all this,  I spend most of my time on our walks, dragging her away from an enticing smell, turning around to avoid any dog withing a 5 mile radius, or yanking on her leash and commanding her to, "leave it" when any man came into view.  Our walks have not been fun for me or her. 

We were half way through the summer.   What we were doing wasn't working.  Ding, I remembered the Gentle Leader in the drawer.   This time were are approaching "leadership" differently.  Both Ken and have I watched the entire DVD instruction "manual" and are working it together. At first I tried one of their suggested techniques, offer food through the lead, but Miss O does not like anything coming at her head on.  No matter how many pieces of cheese, how many spoonfuls of peanut butter, or how many little bites of food I encouragingly offered her through the lead as it dangled at the tip of her nose, she could not relax.  And, so last night we just did it.  We took the leash, held the dog and put the *^%% thing on.  And, it went on easily, which is the good, fantastic, great news!  Who's your mama and papa I wanted to shout!   To our surprise, she pouted until bedtime.  And though we both felt bad for her, the DVD instructions warned that some dogs would lay down and act like life just ended.  A couple of friends have advised that we put the leader on an never take it off.  However, feeling badly for our mopey dog, we took it off her last night right before bed.  We certainly would NOT want  Miss O to be awakened in the middle of the night by nightmares of black straps encompassing her body, losing all control, and having to actually listen to her owners :P

This morning we matter-of-factly put the Gentle Leader back on.  I gave her a treat and off we went in the misty morning rain for a trial walk.  And, I can't believe I'm writing this, we had surprising and amazing, thank you Lord, success!  No longer am I using arm strength to restrain her when she sees a barking dog and lunges, hears a man jingling his coins in his pocket and raises her hair up, or is just dying to roll in some disgusting smell and won't budge.  Nope, with one gentle tug she can't help but turn her head and follow my lead.  True, when she saw another out-of-control dog pulling it's owner along, she wanted to join in (hey lady, try this miracle leash, I wanted to yell at her) but I just tugged on the leash and she followed along as we turned and headed off in another direction.  Success! OMG, success.  I relaxed, she relaxed, and we had a very nice walk, thank you very much. 

Although it is true Olivia looked pretty sad, maybe humiliated and certainly like a broken horse newly reigned in (see above) when we first successfully put it on the leader on her last night, she has since given in to not being in control any more, even in the house without the leader on.  Which I guess is the point, Gentle LEADER.  I am the leader.  I am the pack leader, Ken is the pack leader and I think Olivia has no choice but to fall in line.  Ceasar Milan would be proud.  And maybe I miss the wild horse personality of my dog as she used to leap about the condo like a crazy dog, but I feel she is much better off not being in the "red zone" anymore. 

Miracles come in small packages........and this is most certainly one! For less than $13 our life and our dog's has changed for ever :)

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