Well it’s been nearly two weeks now since little Specs was allowed to go for a walk, so I thought I’d do a quick progress report.
I’d forgotten quite how traumatic it is to take a very young puppy for a walk. I made a big mistake the first couple of times by taking her and Wilf out together – bad move! Specs was, of course, dancing from side to side, so we had the expected lead tangling to sort out, but she took it to a whole new level when she started running underneath his tummy. And it’s not like he’s a big dog himself!
But of course the main problem was Wilf’s poorly legs. He’s just not as nimble as he used to be, so he found the whole experience really stressful. It’s been a lot better since I decided to walk the two of them separately – I can concentrate on Specs, and Wilf can get some peace and quiet.
Then of course when we got to the field I was faced with the Big Question: should I let her off her lead or not? I decided not – I’m a wimp – only to be ticked off by Jenny and Sue and Linda and basically all my doggy friends the next day. No!, they said, let her off straight away – while she’s young and a bit wary and a bit clingy. She’ll stay close to you and give you a chance to reinforce that behaviour.
And they were right. The next day, I took her lead off and did she shoot off like a bullet? No – in fact, as soon as her lead was off her confidence escaped her and she just stood stock still. She eventually plucked up the courage to come trotting after me, which of course I rewarded with a treat. And not just any treat – an extra-special-home-cooked-lamb treat. Yummy yummy yummy in Specs’s tummy!
Since I thought she was likely to be a little bit braver the following day, I upped the stakes: not only did she get the lamb again, but I made sure I took her out when she was hungry. There’s nothing quite like a greedy dog for encouraging peak performance.
I’m pleased to report that Specs still hasn’t run off. That’s not to say she won’t – in fact, I can almost guarantee that she will – they all do when they see or smell something that takes their fancy. But if she runs off, it won’t be a problem as long as I can call her back. So that’s my goal for the next few weeks: teaching recall, and teaching it well. If you only ever want to teach your dog one thing, make sure it’s the recall – it’s a life saver.