Monday, June 4, 2012

Being Dragged into the Dog Park

Caitlin can't get to the Dog Park fast enough.

When she thinks it's time for us to take her, she interrupts anything else we're doing, climbing up on us, attempting to bite my laptop or grab the paper out of my hands, barking and hurtling around the house.

Once we're on the way, she puts her front feet on the console between the front seats, leaning forward to watch through the windshield, and punctuating the drive with sharp, shrill demands to hurry up.

When she was a tiny puppy, I found it amusing to have her straining at the leash in her rush to the gate. By the time she weighed 25 pounds, she could pull like a freight train, and I was starting to have real fears that I would lose my footing on the rocks and roots while being hauled across the ditch. I decided to train her to walk sedately by my side.

First I tried a method that had worked well at on our walks at Lake Murray. Whenever Caitlin charged ahead of me, I would suddenly change direction, saying "Let's go!" and drag her along for a few yards, before changing direction again. It didn't take long before she was watching where I went and trotting pretty reliably beside me.

It didn't work at the dog park. I could drag her away from the gate as long and as often as I liked. The second I turned toward the gate, Caitlin charged forward at full speed. I ended up carrying her in, rather than let her drag me.

Someone suggested bribing her with food to walk calmly.

It didn't work. I could have strewn the path with hamburger, sausages, and rotting fish--and Caitlin would not have noticed in her haste to get into the dog run.

Next I tried a method I had read about. Every time she rushed ahead, I would stop, haul her back, make her sit, and try again.

It didn't work.

Next I tried just waiting until she let the leash go slack before moving forward, and stopping again as soon as she pulled.

It didn't work.

Every time she was pulled up short, Caitlin would yelp, scream, and shriek piteously while lunging to the end of the leash. Over the course of about 3 weeks, our progress was exactly zero.

Then one day someone (I think it might have been Bonnie Keck) suggested that I try an easy-walk harness. http://www.premier.com/View.aspx?page=dogs/products/collars/easywalk/description
I bought one from Amazon.

The next time we went to the dog park, Caitlin was a transformed dog. She walked beside Rob and me without a single tug on the leash. I am still amazed.