I introduced Garnet, my schnauzer mix, in “Heart to Heart Resuscitation”. She was a shy dog, who came to us abused and frightened. Someone thoughtfully and sensitively suggested that I use clicker training to assist my dog in becoming more confident (Fearful dogs blog). I have to say that I couldn’t make myself do something like clicker training. I respect the results from those who can successfully do it, but I just won’t. I hate the sound of the clicker, and I tend to look at dogs like furry people, who have lives of their own. If I want a dog to obey me, the first thing I need to do is bond with the dog so that she cares about what I want. After that, dogs usually figure what I want with mild corrections, and they do it just because they want me to be happy with them. (I realize this approach is not the most effective, so I don’t recommend it for anyone else.)
This is a slow way to train a dog, no doubt. But somewhere in there, I want my dogs to know they are valued as part of the family, not because of their blind obedience. We provided Garnet a safe environment where she felt secure and loved. She got terribly carsick at first, but she has gotten over that as her anxiety disappeared. We want to take her with us more, but she has refused to walk on a leash. We’d put her in a lightweight harness and try to cajole her to walk with us or tug her leash to get her to follow. She’d dig in her heals, the harness would slip over her head, and she’d stay put. So she has stayed mainly in the house and yard. When it was time for a walk or car trip, she’d run out the dog door and hide in the back yard. We respected her wishes, for the most part.
I want to take her on a trip this summer, though, so I decided to pick up the pace on her leash training. So a week or two ago, I took her on a short outing near our home, to work on overcoming her anxiety. I had a new harness for her that’s made for hiking. We drove to the greenbelt and put on the leash.
Garnet sniffed around, and I gave her a moment before heading to the sidewalk. To my amazement, she followed. As long as she was with me, she did great! When I lagged behind, she did too, even though my husband kept walking with his end of her leash. She wasn’t going to leave me behind! If he’d kept walking, he would have dragged her. It was the only time she balked. My husband was mildly irritated, but I was charmed! Garnet walked the entire pathway we had decided to try, and seemed to enjoy it! She had a little swagger to her walk by the end! I was so proud of her.
It looks like she’s become confidant enough to both ride in the car AND take go with us when we get there! It doesn’t sound like much, but for her, it’s a big deal. We are excited, because now, we can take her with us more places and enjoy her company in new settings. I think she’ll like making her world bigger, as long as we’re in it with her. Go Garnet!