Good Walks and New Friends

For the last 4 years walking on a leash has been an absolute nightmare. Luke is one of those dogs that will pull your arm out of your socket. Nothing is worse then your dog dragging you along while you look like the worst owner in the world.

When he was younger we belly strapped him with the leash hoping he would take the hint. He knows back and will jump back if you say it and then he will turn around and charge forward again. We switched from the belly strap to the ever popular Halti when he was about 8-10 months old. He hated it! You would be trying to walk while Luke dragged himself sideways along the grass rubbing his face. It wasn’t tight on his face he just dislikes anything touching him that gives more control to his owner. I would get him on his feet and one house later he was on his side again, flipped down rubbing his face in the grass. I went online and found the Gentle Leader and shelled out bucks for that. It was leather and did a figure 8 to go on, no buckle clip like the halti (he hates the sound of a plastic buckle to this day!). For a while it worked. When he pulled and barked it tightened and at least muffled the shrillness into a loud boof, much better on the ears and less embarrassing, however he hated that too so he started doing the same thing and after you took it off he would rub his face like the world had ended.

The halti days were not cool. He was not amused to say the least.

A harness didn’t work, the pinch filled me with guilt. Luke has a way of making you regret attempts at control. We have been using his tactical vest now for a couple of months. It kind of double works for you because it has two handles, one at the front and one at the back and heavy clips in the same spots. Before the bungee leash I experimented with the front and back clip, even without the new leash the pulling went down. It also acts like a thunder coat, he feels safe in it and it has lowered some of his anxiety, not a lot of it, but some of it. It is control in a comfortable way. He doesn’t like the buckles (halti leftover) but he is more and more receptive to the vest. The vest means we are going out, we are going to have fun.

For Christmas I got tactical gear, I fill a pouch with lamb lung and mini milk bones (they are like pez for a big dog). I have his canteen and bowl around back and on my left side I have his whistle and my nerdy headlamp, I have plans to move some of that and use the pouch as a first aid pouch. Today I will pick up the H-harness to attach to my battle belt and I will reconfigure my gear. Luke knows to go to my right side now when I call him. This is conveniently where his treats are. We use a lot of lamb lung. He will do anything for it.

Yesterday we got to walk in daylight (a weekend only thing for Luke because of my work/transit schedule). The field was empty so I let him off leash and to my surprise he stayed close. I sent him off a few times and played his recall whistle game. He’s getting good at that because he knows there is a big YES and tasty lung that comes with coming back. It takes 4 blows and a name call when he is distracted by our other dog, we are not 100% yet but we are working on it, I want one whistle and to me eventually. Baby steps. He did great and I clipped him back up fo a path walk and on leash time. This is now serious business. He is working. As we crossed the second field two women walked by on the path with umbrellas and he gave a quiet bark while at attention. I can’t fault him for that and he didn’t go nuts. I stopped and told him they were ok and we waited before proceeding to the path. We followed it further then we ever have and he happily came to me and stayed at my side mostly on a loose leash the entire way down. When I told him to go sniff and be a dog he did. Half of the time he came to my side I didn’t need to ask him, he chose to come. I’m sure it has something to do with praise and lamb lung, so I treat heavily and say a lot of good boy and yes.

Loose leash, on me and 100% his choice. This is what I imagined when I got him.

I tell him how much I love our walks these days. I actually do, I have not enjoyed walking him since he was a puppy. From 6 months on he has been hell to walk. This is so nice. Our success came in the form of distractions on the way back. The first was a rollerblader with a large dog on an extendable leash, those things should be banned! Useless owners with useless leads that offer no control and really a large dog can snap that thin line in a heart beat. Luke went stiff and alert and I said on me, his eyes met mine and I kept his focus and talked to him. He maintained his contact with me and got his reward times 2. Zero reaction. The second distraction was 2 people in front yards as we passed their houses. He stiffened again and kept eye contact and was praised and treated for relaxing and keeping focus on me as we walked past. Lastly came two boys on bikes. He hates bikes. He did well and it was the hardest distraction, he didn’t react but it was much harder to keep his focus on me. We finished up the last bit back to the car and he got right in and laid down. No fuss no muss. It was a good walk. He is improving in leaps and bounds right now.

Relaxed after a walk, he hasn’t jumped in and laid down like that for years.

New friends. Over the holidays we got frogs, shrimp and fish. We started in bowls and quickly got a 10 gallon and 36 gallon tank. The small one houses my 4 neon tetras, 2 frogs and at least 2 shrimp. The frogs got hungry. Luke can’t see the 10 gallon tank but his cat can, he can watch it from his post at night in the Izzy Epicentre. The 36 gallon tank is full of schooling tetras of various varieties. Luke has discovered that tank and will stand or sit with his nose up watching them. They swim down and hover staring back at him and dance around. His tale wags, his ears perk up and he gets excited. They are his fish. Relaxing for people to watch, and apparently Luke as well. He is in utter love with the fish. What a big scary dog he is. Afraid of a 20lb cat and in love with 12 tetras that dance around his face. You can’t tell me that a reactive dog is a bad dog or a scary dog anymore because I have Luke, he is such a softie and I love that dog. That dog is my reactive dog and he is teaching me so much about having patience and understanding.

Luke’s new friends. He keeps going back to watch them.

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