Wednesday, March 13, 2013

On Second Thought...

After last night’s walk with Margot, Luke, and Sam, I am once again debating whether I should take Luke or Margot to have the formal obedience training with the classes at Petco.   Originally, I thought it would be better to take Luke since he and I haven’t yet established as strong of a “connection” as Margot and I have.   For that same reason, I also thought it would probably be easier for me to take what I learn in the obedience classes with Luke and just train Margot at home.  After all, I trained her to sit and lie down when she was around 8 weeks-old. 

However, two nights ago, I decided to take Luke upstairs by himself to see if I could also train him to lie down,  and, to my amazement, he got it within just five to ten minutes!  It was very simple, straight-forward training, too.  I simply rewarded him with a treat for sitting a few times so that he’d realize that obeying commands is rewarded with treats.  Then, after telling him to sit, I said, “Lie down,” and then pulled his paws forward to make him lie down.  As soon as he did, even though I was the one who put him in that position, I said, “Lie down!  Good boy!  Lie down!” and rewarded him with a treat.  We did this a couple of times before I started giving him the “lie down” command without helping him into the position.  At first, he just stared at me, and he even tried to take the treat from my hand a few times, but I remained calm and patient until finally he laid down by himself!  I was SO happy!   Now, whenever I’m giving the dogs treats in the kitchen, I make Luke lie down in order to receive his.  He’ll do it, but so far it takes me giving him the command a few times before he gets it.  We’re going to keep working on it, though, because I know that you’re not supposed to give a command more than once.  Otherwise, you’re just training the dog to sit or lie down after you say it 500 times, rather than just once. 

So, it probably wouldn’t be difficult for me to train Luke at home after all, but the main reason why I’m considering taking Margot to the obedience classes instead of him is because of our walk last night.  I decided to use the “no pull” harness again, but I also put the cheap, nylon leash in my coat pocket, just in case, and Justin walked Luke and Sam.   The walk started out okay.  Margot was pulling, but not too badly; however, the more we walked, the harder she began to pull.  The whole time, I tried to remain calm and not become frustrated, but I can’t tell you how difficult that is for me.  It’s not that Margot is making me angry when she pulls, it’s that she’s disappointing me.  I hold extremely high standards for her, especially since we’ve been raising her since she was only 6 weeks-old, and I feel like she should respect me and view me as her pack leader, but her pulling behavior and the fact that she wants to walk ahead of everyone during our walks tells me that she doesn’t.  She believes that she’s the pack leader, and that’s what disappoints me so much. 

During yesterday’s walk, there was also some tension between me and Justin as a result of Margot’s pulling.  Justin knows how frustrated I become when I’m trying to walk Margot, and he responds by becoming very quiet, so as not to upset me more; however, this actually makes me feel even more frustrated because I don’t want Justin to treat me like I’m some sort of ticking time bomb during those moments of frustration.   Not only that, but yesterday I noticed that he was letting Sam and Luke walk way ahead of him with tension in both of their leashes.  So, I reminded him that he’s supposed to keep the dogs right by his side, to which he replied, “But dogs don’t really want to walk right by a person’s side.  Besides, I don’t see anything wrong with letting them walk this way.  They’re not pulling; they just want to be up there with you and Margot.”  

At that moment, as frustrated as I already was, I could have easily gone off on Justin for basically un-doing all the training I’ve been trying to accomplish with our dogs, but instead of yelling, I decided to simply prove him wrong about thinking dogs do not want to walk right beside people, and I asked him to trade me Margot for Luke and Sam.  As soon as I started walking with Sam on my right and Luke on my left, neither of them tried to walk ahead of me.  My arms were completely relaxed at my sides with zero tension on their leashes.   If either of them started to walk a little bit in front of me, all it took was a gentle tug on their leash, and they fell right back beside of me.   It. Was. Heaven!  Meanwhile, behind us, Justin was struggling with both hands to try to keep Margot from pulling him. 

After only about a minute of this, I told Justin that I would trade him back, but I said that I wanted to take Margot off in a different direction by herself.  I wanted the opportunity to try to focus her attention on me because I felt like she was always too busy and distracted by trying to act like our pack leader.  So, after Justin gave Margot back to me and he took Sam and Luke off in another direction, I took out the nylon leash and positioned it up high around Margot’s neck.  There was an immediate difference, as she didn’t try to pull me once we started walking again.  However, as I mentioned in my last blog entry, I still don’t understand how to keep the leash in that high position on her neck without also putting tension on the leash, because whenever I relax my arm, the leash falls down around where her collar sits.   It’s also quite awkward trying to walk a dog using both a harness and a nylon leash around her neck, but I managed to do it the best that I could. 

Overall, she definitely pulled a LOT less than she had previously when I wasn’t using the leash; however, I didn’t feel like the rest of that walk was enjoyable for either of us.  It just felt like a big power struggle the whole time, and I even felt like I was being kind of mean to her by not allowing her to sniff the ground and constantly giving her tugs on the leash as corrections.   In fact, it got to the point where, as soon as I’d give her leash a tug, she’d pin her ears down, turn slightly sideways, and look up at me anxiously in an almost defensive response, as if she was afraid of me, which of course bothered me deeply.  This is NOT how I want mine and Margot’s relationship to be, especially during an activity that we should be enjoying together.   I don’t want my dog to fear me, but I also will not tolerate being walked by my dog instead of the other way around.   I was hoping that the answer was simply finding a leash or harness that could stop Margot from pulling, but I no longer believe that that type of device exists for us.  Not only that, but after yesterday’s walk, I now believe that the real problem is the fact that Margot doesn’t respect or view me as her pack leader.  If she did, she wouldn’t try to walk in front of me.  It’s as simple as that. 

In fact, I think I just made up my mind.  I think I will be taking Margot to Petco for the formal obedience training instead of Luke because Luke has already proven that he respects me as his pack leader.   I don’t blame Margot, though.  I regret not working with her more and training her beyond “sit” and “lie down” when she was younger, but I kept thinking that I was getting ready to sign her up for obedience classes.  Then, it became, “Well, I’ll sign her up after she’s spayed,” and then we got Luke and I thought that maybe I should pay for him to have formal training instead of her.   In the meantime, I wasn’t really doing anything with Margot in terms of obedience to make her view me as her leader, other than telling her to sit before giving her a treat.  *rolling my eyes*  As a result, I now have an adolescent, rebellious puppy who thinks she’s running the show, and I have no one to blame but myself. 

In mine and Margot’s defense, though, I would just like to add that Margot is NOT a bad girl, especially at home.   She’s actually very well-behaved for a 9 month-old puppy.  She never jumps and always sits if she wants someone’s attention.   There have been very few instances of her chewing on anything in the house that wasn’t a chew toy, and she’s also good about letting us know if she needs to go outside.  She basically just plays all day with Luke, and then cuddles on the couch with me, Justin, or Sam whenever she gets tired.  The ONLY time I ever disapprove of her behavior is when we try to walk her, but again, she’s just trying to behave like our pack leader, and I’m the one who has allowed her to think that that’s her job.   

So, hopefully she’ll learn to respect and obey me better through some formal obedience training.  I also like the idea of being able to show a professional dog trainer how Margot pulls during walks and receiving hands-on training for that, as well.  I really do feel like the pulling/leadership issue is a much bigger problem than training Luke to stop jumping, so I feel pretty confident that I’m making the right decision by taking Margot to obedience classes instead of Luke.   I guess I just needed to “talk it out.”  Thanks for listening.  :)

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