Since school at the pet store did not help me to be able to walk safely without my new, four-year old, rescue chocolate lab pulling me down the street, I sought more expert advice. My neighbor and Toby’s foster mother recommended Canine Connection.
The trainer’s first comment was how handsome he is! 🙂 As soon as we entered, she told me Toby is a stressed dog, unsure of his surroundings, and has no focus. That made me want to cry. Is he ADHD and needs medication? I never would have described him with those attributes. She noted he was clicking his mouth which she said was stress. I have never been aware of him doing that before, or I was inattentive to it. Initially, he was jumping on her, seemingly to say — leave me alone, or maybe it was — play with me. She admitted he was a tough case, but she was persistent and successful!
She used kiss smacking to capture his attention at first. It took a LONG time for his attention to focus on her, and then it took a LONG time for him to comprehend what she was requiring. She would hold his leash at her centerpoint and wait for him to look at her. As soon as he glanced at her, she would say “Good,” and immediately treat. It was probably close to half an hour before he caught onto the game.
I tried to imitate her methods but was not very successful. I need more practice. I was holding the treat in my hand before he had performed the desired behavior — of looking into the handler’s eyes. Then, if I waited for his look before giving the treat, I would drop the treat or struggle with getting it out of my pouch.
She showed me how standing somewhat diagonally facing a wall with him on the left, forces him to stay on the left side of the handler.
She played the “T” game with him: she stood holding several treats in each fist and spread her arms open to form a T. He jumped at her hands, licked them, tried to do everything he could think of to make her release the treats for him. Finally, he looked at her. Bingo! “Good.” A handful of treats.
While attempting to walk with him, as soon as he tugged, she stopped, waited for him to look at her. “Good.” Treat. Since he already knew that game while she stood still, he eventually caught on to it in the walk/stop exercise.
Karen is phenomenal! By the end of the hour, she had him walking at her side on a loose leash! I did not know what to expect from this lesson, but now I know: next time, I need a notepad to write down the tricks she used with him. What she did in one hour was amazing! Twice she brought tears to my eyes to see the change in Toby and to see him walking at her side without tugging and paying close attention to her!!! And without using painful or uncomfortable collars or gentle leaders. Until he caught on to what was expected of him, she stood firm waiting for him to look at her. After one hour, my brain was on overload, and Toby was spent too. He went to the door wanting to leave. As we jumped in my car, she again complimented him on his fine looks. He is a handsome boy! And a good boy!