The article about my dog not really having any desire whatsoever to listen to you was written before Thanksgiving.
On that particular day, we had significantly more guests than normal, one of which included a small child, 8 years old, and her adoptive parents, being of some distant relation to my own.
Keep in mind that Mal is the family dog and not mine. Otherwise, events would have gone quite differently. She is fine with smal children, provided they are calm and quiet around her–indeed, she teaches children how to behave properly around strange dogs.
After the large meal, I understand that the family decided to go for a walk to let things settle and get the child out of the house for a bit. Someone thought it would be a good idea for them to take Mal, and since the small child was immensely interested in dogs, I further understand that an executive decision–again, I was not involved–was made to let the child hold the leash and have the honor of walking the dog.
I still wonder who lived to regret that decision.
Parent #1 is allergic to dogs, so there are obviously none in the home. Parent #2 had a soft spot for them, with all good intentions, but no idea really how to begin working with one, especially one that’s already trained. Honestly, when I see someone telling a dog to “Siiiiiiiit, siiiiiiit, siiiiiit” when a) she’s already sitting, and b) the command is “Up” to sit up as a trick, I do a mental face-palm. It doesn’t at all write off the person’s ability to LEARN how to properly command and control a dog, but it does mean we have a few significant hurdles to cross before I would even think of handing my dog’s leash over, much less even letting said person command the dog.
However, I digress back to the disaster that was the “walk.”
This is how the story was told to me when they returned:
They were able to start walking up the street away from the house, and Mal walked somewhat nicely for them, in front with the end of the leash wrapped around the child’s wrist. Partway up toward the stop sign, she decided she was going no further. There was something, most likely mental (as the problem usually is for her) that told her You Shall Not Pass. No amount of coaxing and cajoling from the relatives could get her to move further.
So they turned around and proceeded to walk around the cul-de-sac.
About the time they arrived at the neighbor’s driveway where she goes to stay while we’re away and unable to take her with us, Mal decided to start acting out. She started jumping around and mouthing the leash, trying to coerce some unlucky fool into playing a game of Tug.
I pretty much admit fault with this habit, as I used a leash as a tug reward when I was working on building drive and focus with her when she was a new resident and in training. At one point, I thought it was a good idea. Now, I want to go back in time and give myself a good smack in the face for even thinking of it as a Good Idea. Teeth on the leash is the equivalent to teeth on human skin. Not Allowed Here.
Anyway, here’s Mal jumping about, growling and tugging on the leash, which is being held (at the very end) by an agitated 8-year old girl, whose parents are by now panicking and no doubt wondering what they’ve gotten themselves into. They’re yelling at Mal, tugging on the leash and obviously not getting through to her that this is Very Bad Behavior.
Somehow they manage to get her under control and high-tail it back to the house where, once inside, they drop the leash and breathe a collective sigh of relief.
The moral of the story is a little fuzzy here.
These were people who, as mentioned before, had good intentions, but no dog sense.
Our neighbors are people who have a decent amount of both.
Given the opportunity, Mal will go deaf at a moment’s notice when they are on the other end of the leash.
There is little, or no, relationship here. There is no motivation to listen and obey.
And when I say “motivation,” I mean not only praise, but also correction. Mal knows beyond a reasonable doubt what all her commands mean. She knows that she is rewarded for doing the right thing, though not with food. She knows that, with my family, she will be checked if she throws us the finger and tells us to buzz off when she needs to listen and obey. And I’m sure children in the presence of a sitter or daycare provider know that this is not the Mommy with whom they deal on a regular basis at home.
What shenanigans can I get away with today, and which ones will get me in trouble?
Until there is a relationship based on mutual respect and trust (with all the tools—and not just collar and leash—necessary to attain it), my dog will not listen to you.