Calvin is kind of a jerk on walkies. Technical term: leash reactive. But I prefer jerk.
I freely admit this, and have done the following to make him less of a jerk:
-Obedience class. He is an AKC certified Canine Good Citizen! . . . Who sounds like he wants to tear your throat out should you have the great misfortune of encountering him on walkies
-Books. Zomg. The books. I have read The Books. All I got was a burning desire to become a nun at New Skete, half the national debts-worth of reading material, and a confused jerk of a beagle.
-Putative correction. Leash corrections and shake cans. Note: fellow stupid humans, DO NOT DO.
-Positive feedback. Still. A. Jerk. Now with more treats.
-Ignore wretched behavior. Because the books would have me believe that dogs don’t parse good and bad attention. They’re 13 year old humans like that.
-Develop Walkies-related anxiety.
-Bang my head repeatedly off hard things. Acquired headache, ongoing beagle jerkiness.
-Shout. The Beagle will not be outbayed.
Last week I happened to find yet another book that looked promising: Feisty Fido: Help for the Leash Reactive Dog by the Doctors Patricia McConnell and Karen London. I read (and loved) McConnell’s
- The Other End of the Leash
so I figured it was worth a shot. I have no idea if it will work, but it gives me something to do, in any event, and it seems not only simple, but entirely practical. Essentially, she has you work your dog gradually toward an “auto watch,” such that every time he sees another trigger–dog, person, dog and person–he immediately looks at you, because you have been training him to “watch” and pumping him full of chicken and lamb jerky. And the book covers just about every real world situation you might encounter during and after training, so it avoids the pitfall of so many of The Books, which just sort of tell you to pump your dog full of roasted chicken, but fail to get really specific on the timing or what they should have to do in order to justify me roasting a chicken for my dog.
Note that it covers just about every real world situation. It does not cover them all. But this revelation should not be construed as a shortcoming of the authors, nay. It’s just that the authors have never been to my neighborhood and thus can’t realistically be expected to account for the very particular sort of stupid that thrives herein. To wit . . .
This morning, at the end of a nice long walk with intermittent training sessions, and only 50 yards from the house, coffee, cardamom buns, and Cal’s morning happy pill, a woman across the street exited her house with her poodle. Walking toward us. Since we cannot yet handle this situation, prudence dictated that we 1) flee from it and 2) opportunistically use it to our own best ends. So we executed a 180 and scurried away from my Ikea-scented kitchen for the relative safety of the pool parking lot. Ducking down to the pool would, I figured, allow this woman and her dog to continue on their own walkies without an 8am solo beagle symphony. And the scurrying allowed us enough distance that I could occasionally turn 180 back toward them, and then shove jerky down Cal’s throat for remaining sane in that one second window of poodle-viewing before once again turning away. Hurrah and everyone’s happy!
Except that, apparently, woman and poodle had an agenda. And that agenda was *not* to walk unmolested through the neighborhood. Oh no. Poodle needed a swim. But from the pool, there is no escape–it’s one way in, same way out. So I stood, with an affect that I hoped suggested that I had an insane beagle that might possibly have an appetite for poodle, in the center of the pool driveway, facing the entrance. And I furiously shoved treats in Cal’s face while woman and poodle stood 50 yards away in the center of the driveway’s entrance, facing us, as the entire neighborhood sprawled to their right practically begging to be trod by poodle toes.
But no. I’m trapped and she clearly will be smote if she does not proceed DIRECTLY to the pool and so we had ourselves a little face off. Me standing, not budging, funneling jerky into the face of a beagle. Her standing, also not budging, appearing to be irritated by my budgelessness. It lasted about a minute, before she finally walked off into the neighborhood (note: I won! I won!), and we proceeded back up the drive and toward pastries and canine SSRIs.
So, naturally, she turned around and intercepted us at the head of the driveway.
*insert angry, baffled face here*
So, note to Drs. McConnell and London: avoiding the situations for which your dog is not prepared only works if those situations don’t cluelessly stalk you into dead end driveways.
At least I will eventually get to nominate my entire neighborhood for the Darwin Awards.