Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Loose leash progress: still clicking away!

Since I've implied more than once that I walk Elka six days a week (which I do, or rather have, when weather permits), I thought it a good idea to update our progress on loose leash walking.

I've mentioned that I don't intend to do competition obedience, nor Schutzhund (well, very probably not) with Elka, and so a perfect "heel" doesn't matter as much to me.  I heel her on my right, as I am right handed, though occasionally I've worked her on my left for variety's sake. Maybe I'll use the German command, "Fuss", for the left heel.  I carry Elka's leash and the clicker in my right hand, and have the treats in my left, supply refilled by dipping into the bag that I also carry slung on my left.  We're still very treat reliant, but Elka's attention and overall walk demeanor is fabulous!

One important facet to all of this, I believe, is routine.  Elka knows that we get up in the morning, that I take her outside to empty her, then come inside, cut up the treats, put my sneakers on, and we go for a walk.  Judging from the "walking directions" facet of Google Maps, we walk about 3 miles a day, give or take; I never think to add my pedometer to the things I already bring.

So, I want Elka to walk calmly by my side, leash loose (i.e., the snap hanging down from her collar, slack in the leather part of the leash itself).  She may sniff about, she needn't be staring adoringly up at me (or my treat hand) the entire time.  Her automatic sit is very good, providing she's paying attention.  Attention is something I've been clicking for this week, as opposed to the "loose leash" position; I reasoned that Elka had to be "in position" to receive the treat anyway, and attention on me is perhaps one of the most important details.  If she's paying attention to me, and thus taking cues from me, she isn't worried about the dogs barking in six houses in a row.  Or the construction crew laying pipes.  Or the cat on the porch.  She's allowed to look at these things; I don't expect her to be a robot.  However, if I'm not worried about these things, it isn't up to her to be.

Today was a good day for several reasons.  First, we met not one, not two, but three well-behaved, dog friendly dogs!  There was no barking from either party at each meeting, and Elka pranced around a bit with two of them.  One, who I think is an Irish Setter mix (he's colored and coated like an Irish Setter, but stockier, with a white patch on his chest), is very shy, and his owner was surprised and pleased to see him engage in play behavior with a "stranger dog".  The other actual player was a lab/beagle cross who was unsure about Elka's size, but they ran in a big crazy circle together anyway, which is one of Elka's favorite things.  That, and running at you as hard as she can.  Apparently that one is great fun (and makes our in-park recalls exciting)!

Also, Elka did not go into "her" creek today.  She waited until near the end of the walk, and actually went into the big creek!  For the sake of my camera, I didn't get any action shots, but she'd shown a bit of interest yesterday, and then today trotted right in, trotted around, and looked at me with a big doggie grin on her face, as if to say "Do you see me?  Look at me!"  Of course I replied with "Look at you! You're in the big girl creek!"  Satisfied, she trotted out again, and we went on our way.

We work on heeling a bit when Elka is on the long leash, for the sake of passers-by.  Many are intimidated by the very idea of a Doberman, and many simply don't want to get tangled in her leash.  I can understand both things, and really, prefer the environment when it's just Elka and I anyway.  Future goals are to fade the treats while maintaining the good attention and loose leash.  Elka's attention can still be very spotty at times; an approaching dog is better than hot dogs, string cheese, or leftover beef, and again, I know she isn't a robot.  It's just best if she doesn't act like a freak when a jogger with a Yorkie (on a choke chain!) is edging nervously by.

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