April 11, 2008
News from the four-legged front
Totally off topic from my work related rants, I've been playing head games with the mutt this week. We saw a PBS special in which two problem dogs were adopted and transformed into working dogs. One of the new owners worked with a dog who tended to attack animals and turned him into a sheepdog. The very first day, the dog kept trying to pass her as they walked. She kept stepping in front of his nose and forcing him to walk behind her. First rule of dog alpha world: only the leader walks in front.
So I tried it. I walk along like an older Asian gentleman with the leash behind my back. Every time she tries to pass me, I tighten the leash and step in front of her. She's always been a leash puller and has had a hard time with 'heel'. Now, in five days of this experiment, most of the time she's trotting along just behind my knee. Wow! And, inside the house, this independent dog now follows me with her eyes most of the time. Wherever I go, she's nearby. It's really interesting. It feels like I learned to speak the language on it's most elemental level and all of a sudden she can hear me.
My favorite moment from the PBS special was when the owner commanded the dog down. They were in the middle of a field. She turned and raised her arms as she walked back toward the camera, "I'm the boss!" As she crowed, the dog was creeping up behind her. She turned and he dropped down immediately, but it was hilarious. She shook her head, "Most problem dogs are really just very smart, independent and stubborn. But he'll learn."