Between human health problems and other human health problems, I haven’t had much time to work with Logan the way I’d like, so I’m sneaking in bits and pieces when I can, such as socialization at the dog park.
Today being a nice day, I take Logan for a walk and do leashwork. I ease my way up to things such as heel by getting the dog to stay in orbit, as it were, smaller and smaller. I start with him on a loose leash. (Six-foot ordinary leash. Flexi-leads are stupid and I hate them.)
The first step is: Thou Shalt Know the End of Thy Leash and Not Pull Past It. This one is easy. Logan’s on loose leash, I’m ambling along, and every so often I stop. He keeps going, lost in his dog thoughts, hits the end of the leash and realizes I’m not moving. When he hits the end he has a decision: Either he can move closer to me and let the tension drop, or he can keep pulling. If he pulls, I stay put. If he comes back, I praise him and start moving. Other than that, he can do what he wants: walk next to me, ahead, behind, left, right. He can sniff and watch things. He just has to be aware of me, and stay in a six-foot orbit.
I’m also working on a cue: a tongue-click when I stop, so when he hears that he’ll know to pay attention to me. That’ll come in handy once I start being tricky and doubling back without warning. Naturally, all of this involves lots of praise and a pocket full of kibble, because Pocket Kibble is crunchy proof that Dog Is Very Good.
Once he gets the hang of this, I’ll pull it up to a half leash (which is better for narrow sidewalks and things), then once he gets that I’ll start working on a proper heel. Back in the olden snap-and-scold days they started by taking a green dog and slapping them on a foot-long traffic lead and a choke chain, which led to lots of sore arms and sore necks and unhappiness for everyone involved. This is better, I think. Once he knows how to orbit me, doing it closer will be easy. The extra leash space means little mistakes stay little while he gets the hang of it.
It really does work, too. It might take longer than the snap-and-scold methods, but it also motivates the dog to want to orbit the person. This is how I taught my beloved and much-missed Boxer her leashwork, and she was excellent. Unless there were geese.
The problem, now, is that I live next door to MacDill Air Force Base, and for the next month it is doing “international pilot upgrade training,” whatever that is. What it means for me and Logan is that we’re getting buzzed, damn near constantly, by painfully loud jets. They’re some kind of fighter. F-something. They’re very pointy and kinda look like giant flying bugs.
What you can’t see in this crappy cellphone snap is how LOUD THEY ARE OMFG.
Logan likes air traffic; he’s a planespotter. I know, he’s weird. When we’re outside and the ordinary planes go by, he’ll watch them, loping along to keep them in his line of sight. When we’re inside, he checks the window. (The window is the dog TV. Really. “Hey pal, wanna watch your dog TV?” Dog gets excited. I open curtains. Dog is happy.)
These things, though. These are not fun. These are painfully loud to me, with my crapful human hearing. It’s got to be worse for a dog. The first one we saw had him interested but apprehensive. After four flyovers, Logan’s concentration was shot and he was full of nervous jitters. We were most of the way home by then and a good thing, too, because it was impossible to keep working. It was all I could to to keep him calm.
I grumped at MacDill on Twitter, but do not expect a response. GUYS, your training is messing up my training. Can I have a schedule? Or some of those gigantic orange ear covers they give to ground crew? (Two of them: one human, one K9.) Or just let me on base to use the post office there, it’s within a stone’s throw of the dog park and miles closer than the civilian one I’m stuck with. C’mon guys. We can work something out.
In the meantime Brave Sir Logan will be on the floor with his Kong, because TOO LOUD MAKE IT STOP.
Editor’s note: In a sad ending to this article, Julie let us know that Logan died a couple of weeks ago of what the vet thinks was congenital heart failure, or some other worsening illness that Logan hid until it was too late. Rest in peace, sweet boy.
Read more by Julie Wright:
- I Met My “Next Dog” at a Kill Shelter — And I Took Him Home
- A Letter to You, My Dog, on the Day I Had to Put You to Sleep