Yesterday a friend of mine came over to walk our dogs together on the land to help my puppy, Goon. See Goon struggles with meeting new dogs. She shows fearfulness at first when she SEES a new dog. Note that the SEE is important. But once she calms, she starts to use her nose causing curiosity to kick in. I’ve explained this to a couple of my training friends in this area and they agreed to help me by bringing balanced dogs that they have to help us work through Goon’s issue.
So back to yesterday, my friend shows up with two of her dogs and Goon of course reacts upon SEEING them. I pay her no mind and ask her to follow me through leash pressure. She applies and we start our walk together on the property. Not even 30 seconds into the walk Goon calms and starts using her nose to gather information about these two strangers. Two minutes into the walk Goon stops shooting daggers at the other dogs. 10 minutes into the walk my friend and I stop at the goat pasture and talk while the dogs mosey around and sniff on a loose leash. Goon finally has the courage to sniff one of the dog’s rear-end and my natural reaction was to become tense and be ready for action if something were to go wrong, but I caught myself and realized I had to trust my dog and my friend’s ability to handle her dogs. I relaxed and nothing went wrong. I mean absolutely nothing. We even turned our dogs loose to play freely and swim in the pond. Goon had a blast, as well as everyone else.
At the end of our walk my friend told me a story about her horse and loading in a trailer. She said she could never get that horse to load until one day she said screw it I’m just going to let him decide to load or not. She said sure enough with no battle that horse loaded.
I’m sure a lot of you are wondering why I’m telling you about my adventure, but there are two things I wanted to highlight. Most dogs need guidance and structure to know how to interact and play within our society. I highlighted several times that Goon uses her sight before using her nose, this causes reaction and is something I must help her work through. For example, a dog that uses their eyesight before their nose will typically give you some form of reaction. If the dog uses their nose before eyesight then the dog has information to make a decision vs reacting. Using their nose before eyesight needs to be taught to some dogs so we lessen the reaction.
The second thing I want to highlight is how we must allow our dogs to be dogs and give them opportunities to be free. Not saying turn your aggressive dog loose in hopes of he or she making the right decision. What I’m saying is sometimes guidance is setting our dog up for success in an area that allows them to be free. Overwhelming success plays a huge factor in your dog’s learning, especially if they think they’re the ones making the decision.