I’m so proud of Callie. She showed me up last week and (hopefully) taught our instructor a valuable lesson to add to her extensive knowledge base.
After the dragging required by our instructor last week (when Callie would stop walking… read more here) Callie was totally afraid of the word heel and would pull back immediately if she hit the end of the leash, as if in preparation for being dragged. She was also a little more fearful of me.
So, I started over. First, I rid the word heel from my vocabulary. Then I refused to drag her along as I walked. For the first couple of days, I would stop when she did, give her leash a quick tug, saying, “come on,” or “let’s walk” show her a treat and call her along. Then I moved to pulling her along for two steps, stopping, calling to her and usually she would start walking so she would get a treat.
I did go get a martingale collar and a much lighter leash to which she responded very well.
Finally, on the day before class, I began reintroducing the word “heel” on occasion, interspersed with the other commands I had been giving. She would stop at first but grew more comfortable as we went along.
Tuesday came, and it was time for class. I spoke to the instructor ahead of time. I tried to explain about puppy mill dogs and how they are only ever grabbed by their scruffs, why that might make Callie react the way she does when pulled on the leash. The instructor listened to me, although I am not sure she fully paid attention to what I was trying to tell her until class began.
Beforehand, I had been smart and stopped for some smoked cheese. I broke it up into little bits in my treat bag and mixed it with her regular Zukes treats so those would be coated with cheese too.
We began class with heeling around the room, Callie started with a pause, a little nervous and reactionary after the week before. Who could blame her? But I got out a little cheese. Suddenly, I had a dog who was heeling perfectly around the room. A few pieces of cheese kept her going, but she was passing other dogs who weren’t behaving quite as well. The instructor’s jaw was nearly on the floor.
We worked on heeling turns next. Callie seems to get really frustrated when she doesn’t know what I want from her, so I had to help her a lot with this, keeping her in place while trying to turn, LOL.
We heeled around the room again, stopping to do heeling turns. Callie did great, especially with the cheese as an incentive, but finally, she hit her limit and sat, refusing to move. I recognized that she needed a break, so I just sat in the middle of the floor with her while all the other dogs went around us.
The last thing we did in class began with working on recall with the instructor holding the leash and us across the room. Not only did Callie do a beautiful sit-stay while I walked across the room from her, but she ran to me with excellent speed and intent.
Callie was the star student last week. Now let’s see if we can keep it up tomorrow. All I know is that learning with Callie is often following along blindly and stumbling our way through each moment.
Jess and I took Callie to the park this weekend. She made a new best friend, the flying turtle! Plus she practiced her obedience work outside with kids around. My brilliant dog 😊.
Guess what else! This morning I got my first semblance of a doggie smile while giving Callie some scratchies 💖