Wednesday, 17 May 2017
Who is in charge?
Bonny decided on this morning's walk to check yet again who is in charge of this partnership. Almost as soon as we set off towards Hopwas woods, she darted through the hedge and into a field. I carried on walking on the path, as these days she usually runs after me within a minute or so. Not this time.
After a good 15 minutes there was no sign of her so I retraced my steps to where she had disappeared, just as the rain started. There she was, dashing around by some rabbit holes. I knew better than to tell her off or order her to come to me as she was in full on wild mode. Instead I said calmly 'Come on then, let's go walkies' and went back down the path again with everything crossed that she would follow me this time. After a couple of minutes I could see her starting to come after me but hanging well back. So I decided it was time to take charge.
I picked a spot on the path which had bushes or nettles on either side and nowhere obvious to wriggle through and escape. I then stopped. I have been watching The Dog Whisperer and his methods have really helped Bon and I. He says that when you are with an anxious dog the rule is no talk, no touch, no eye contact. When Bonny has run off like this in the past she gets herself worked up into an hysterically anxious state. If I talk to her or wave treats at her, it just seems to make things worse.
So this time I turned side on to the path so I wasn't confronting her and then waited. She stopped well back from me and started her avoidance techniques of running at full speed back up the path, then running back again and pretending there is something really exciting in the hedge. When I didn't react, she walked slowly towards me and then stopped. I glanced at her and immediately she danced about and tried to force herself into the hedge.
I waited as the rain started to run down the back of my neck. It was crucial that she submitted to me. This is all about who is in charge. In the past I used to run after her which of course meant she was leading. More recently I would walk away until she chose to catch up and be caught, which meant she was still in charge. But she is 8 now and really it's time for her to know who is boss!
So I waited and waited as she got close several times and then danced away. She seemed puzzled that I wasn't reacting as she had trained me to. Eventually, after around half an hour since she first took off, she finally gave in and came and sat at my feet. I calmly put her lead on and then walked on as if nothing had happened. For the rest of the walk I made her follow behind me just to reinforce the lesson.
We were both dripping wet by the time we got back to the boat but I believe we were both pretty pleased with the way things turned out. Dogs are natural followers but they need a leader they respect and trust. Because of mistakes I made with Bonny when she was younger, she struggles to trust me when she under stress and feels that she has to take the position of leader. Today she recognised that I was in charge and that is very good for both of us!