Walking calmly is not my strongest point yet, but I’m getting much better! When I arrived, I pulled quite hard when I was attached on the lead, but with a long line, I got more anxious and in a pickle and didn’t want to go too far – how confusing is that! That tight lead was just one of many sources of ‘conflict’ for me because even though it made me stressed, it offered a bit of support and safety too.
Initially I only came outside to the field for a few minutes at a time as I then wanted to go back to my safe space in my kennel, but as I got braver, I slowly walked a bit further over the field until we got to the special enclosure with some ‘Free Work’ things in. This meant I could go completely off lead (eventually!) and I had lovely things to explore to help me process the new environment without any pressure. When I do this activity, it is up to me to decide when I’m ready to engage or not. Normally Aunty Lisa does Free Work with ‘naked’ dogs 🤭🤭🤭 – no leads or harnesses or collars or anything, but as initially I was a bit worried about having my lead clipped on and unclipped, I got to decide if I was ready to have it unclipped or not…..
This little walk up to my ‘Free Work’ space became a really important way of helping me build my confidence. It was less than 100m, but I knew where I was going, I became familiar with the sights and smells and I loved that bit of relaxation time at the end of it. Gradually Aunty Lisa gave me more and more freedom on my long line….. and I took it! I would still have little moments of worry and dash back in a bit of a clingy way, but then I would gather myself up and head off a few metres again. And soon I started to go up there ‘hands free’…… so my line was attached and I could feel it, but I could go as far as I wanted (although I didn’t go very far at that stage)
And the line got shorter and shorter until one day it vanished completely! Now I feel super-confident and like to do great big zoomies around the field. (Videos on this to follow in later posts!)
So now Aunty Lisa finds herself with a quite a different issue to the one we started with.....
I can actually walk really nicely on my long line now and we explore together ….. but only after I have got some of my excitement out of the way and remembered I have a brain – this takes lots of treats and scent work and luckily for me I like both of those. I also like that it makes Aunty Lisa smile and she says it is much nicer to have an over-excited, slightly ridiculous teenager than a scaredy-pants pupster.
I now go off the lead completely in some areas of the field all the time, and I am still *usually* very good, but I am BRAVE and I go much further and whilst my recall is normally brilliant, sometimes I now get really engrossed in things and like to pretend not to hear….. until eventually Aunty Lisa says ‘bye’ and tootles off calmly in the other direction (she never goes without telling me, so I always feel safe), then I race after her to tell her I was just kidding, usually followed by me running round and round her in circles before zooming in for treats! But I don’t think she minds as she would much rather I was confident and happy and needed a bit of recall practice than a clingy Velcro dog who panicked if I couldn’t see her close by!
I am only walking in quiet areas still to make sure that I feel confident, but I went on my first REALLY BIG ADVENTURE a few days ago …. More to follow in a later post. For now I’m off to see if lunch is ready to be served!
I like lunch, like a lot! Aunty Lisa says I have hollow knees. If you could help fill them, that would be amazeballs!