Ace and I headed over to Lindenwood Park in Fargo Saturday for a much-needed walk. We have to drive there, but it’s only a few miles away. I thought this park would be good for Ace because it’s full of trees and squirrels, and he’s only been there a few times. The mutt got some quality sniffing time in.
Even though it was so cold, I was surprised to pass only two people the whole hour we were out. Ace heeled without a leash as a runner approached us and then a walker. I didn’t trust him 100 percent to stay in heel position, but I trusted him not to jump or chase. To my surprise, he remained in heel position and barely glanced at the people. Good boy! It would’ve been another story had either of the people had dogs along or chosen to acknowledge the mutt. Instead, they ignored us and continued on their way. Of course, I would have clipped the leash back on Ace if there had been any dogs involved.
One reason Ace heels well off leash is because he can’t pick up any tense signals from me through the leash. Sometimes owners (myself included!) will anticipate a dog’s behavior and unintentionally pull or tighten the leash before the dog even does anything wrong. All this does is make the dog more anxious and encourage her to pull or lunge.
As for Ace, he did a lot better than I expected on our walk. I broke it up into sections of heeling on leash and heeling off leash. I like having a dog walk at my side, but there is also something great about watching a dog frolic around just being a dog. That’s why I rewarded Ace with time to run. I always make sure to call him every few minutes when he is running and then release him right away so he doesn’t associate coming to me with getting back on the leash. We also spent some time playing fetch. I was surprised that even when I allowed Ace to be “free,” he preferred to walk at my side most of the time. This isn’t normal for him, so I’m hoping my practice has paid off, and it wasn’t just the Prednisone.
We never made it to the dog park because after we left Lindenwood, we were both too cold to do much else. I made Ace wear his vest, which he was not thrilled about. But when it’s cold out, he shakes without it. It sucks for black dogs with short hair. They are always cold in the winter but hot in the summer.
This is day eight of my 30-day challenge to work with my dog on loose-leash walking. Click here to see my other 30-day challenge posts.
Don’t forget that the top commenter between last Friday and this Friday will win a copy of “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Loving Our Dogs.”