I refer to walking my dog Jazzmin as “Jazzercise” and while there isn’t any up tempo dancing music playing while we walk, it’s definitely exercise! I live in a rather rural and hilly area of Upstate NY and our daily walks are wrought with the usual perils of squirrels, birds and of course, other dogs. There are no sidewalks where I live so we walk in the shoulder but thankfully the town has made the shoulders rather wide. That comes in very handy when a driver isn’t paying attention and Jazz and I have to veer way over into the ditch or shoulder to remain safe. We haven’t had to go ditch diving yet but the way some people around here drive their pickup trucks way too fast, it might yet happen.
As I stated in my earlier post, I equate walking Jazz around here to running a Doggy Gauntlet. My country neighborhood is filled with dogs and if they’re outside the house, they’re rarely on any sort of leash. Then there’s the added excitement of the people who actually walk their dogs…or rather are walked BY their dogs. When I walk Jazz in the snow and cold of winter I never encounter anyone else walking their dog but the moment it warms up they all crawl out of the woodwork!
Jazz likes to pull and until I’ve thoroughly established my calm assertiveness, I walk her on a Gentle Leader. Any other collar I’ve tried, even Cesar Millan’s Illusion collar, doesn’t deter her from pulling. I can’t rely on a collar to control my dog anyway, I’m the one holding the leash, I’m the one who has to be controlling my dog. Yesterday’s running of the Doggy Gauntlet had its ups and downs, and I don’t just mean the never-ending hills. I purposely walked her by houses I know have loose dogs and I even walked by the local kennel. Jazz did quite well walking by the homes with the loose dogs. I had to keep correcting her but we walked by without the dogs running at us and only emitting a couple barks from a fair distance.
I was feeling rather proud of us until we encountered an older woman walking some little puffball white dog. Or rather, being dragged along by her little dog. Jazz gets extremely excited when she sees other dogs on leashes and it doesn’t matter what size they are. We walked by the woman with the dog with more than a few corrections and something of a power struggle but I considered it positive progress. We were almost home when I saw the little Jack Russell Terrier from down the road dragging along its owner. Jazz got excited the moment she saw it and wanted to run over and the little thing started barking at us and Jazz and I failed miserably at getting past with any sort of calm and control. I made the mistake of stopping and trying to make her sit and that didn’t help in the least because she was totally ignoring me. I then had to drag her away as she fought against the Gentle Leader. Once the other dog had continued down the road barking and fighting against its owner and was out of sight, Jazz calmed down and we made it the last stretch home without further incident.I was somewhat discouraged by our failures but encouraged by our successes and my mind was already going over what I’d done wrong.
I walked Jazz tonight in gale force winds and that was extremely distracting for both of us. We encountered one loose dog, an older black lab named Molly and while Jazz got excited, we kept moving and Molly only gave us a couple passing barks as she hung out by her owner and house. In almost the exact same spot we encountered the Jack Russell last night, we came upon a woman walking her Irish Setter and the only difference between it and the Jack was the size. That big fluffy red dog was pulling at the leash and dragging its owner and barking and Jazz was pulling frantically against the Gentle Leader trying to get free from me. I didn’t make her sit this time though, I kept pulling her along and fighting to regain control of her despite the other dog’s continued barking. To Jazz’s credit, she hasn’t barked at any of the dogs we’ve encountered and I consider that a good thing! We made it home safe again and were both happy to get in out of the whipping winds.
I don’t know what the trick is to snap Jazz out of her fixation on other dogs. I’ve tried correcting with the collar, giving her the little side tap Cesar demonstrates and distracting her with treats but nothing is very effective. I do realize that I get tense when I see other dogs and I’m trying really hard to stop doing that but it’s a work in progress.
I do wish I could see her interact with other dogs in a friendlier manner so I knew it was possible but as I can’t possibly afford to pay Cesar Millan to come out here, we’ll continue to muddle through until we get a handle on things. From watching The Dog Whisperer and just from encountering other people walking their dogs with absolutely no control, I know I’m not alone in my struggles and that I’m not a failure.
My goal is to someday be the role model walking pair in the neighborhood. A beautiful woman and her adorable dog walking confidently down the road without any leash pulling, barking or power struggles. The pair that other dog owners around here point to and say to their dog “See?! That’s how you’re supposed to act!”