For me, things changed when the event ended. Later that day I entered the kitchen and I was by myself. For the first time the dogs were not barking at each other but at me and I was alone. At first it didn’t bother me but one dog continued to bark and that’s when I realized it was directed at me and it sounded different – hard to describe. Initially I felt afraid but I stayed calm and did not back down or away. He continued to bark but much less. There was a pause in the barking and I took that opportunity to leave because I needed to head back down the hill. The same dog and others followed me out and the barking started up again. There was a point when I thought “I could really get bit.” Luckily as soon as I thought that I realized that I needed to change my thinking or I probably would get bit. I started my visualization and the dog no longer moved forward. Eventually he went back up the hill. At first I was disappointed that the situation happened at all but then when I looked back and thought about the moment where I went from feeling like the “pack leader simply walking down the hill” to “prey running away and a bite was imminent” and I was able to turn the situation around I started to see it all as a success.
So the rest of the walk went great. Fritz was very cooperative. He didn’t move ahead or sideways or back. He did try to sniff a lot which I corrected and a few times he wanted to run after a butterfly in the meadow. I tried the riffing with him – walking forward, turn, correction, walking forward, turn, correction … he responded really well to that. I started to teach him to sit. He waited about 20 seconds on leash, at the bank of the creek, before I rewarded him with some off leash time in the water. On the way back I was able to hold the leash in two fingers without any tension and we were in the zone the whole way… and not a sound out of the dogs at the top of the hill on our way back.
Success #3 taking it home.
It was really hard to not be affectionate with my own dog when I picked him up tonight but I wanted to carry the lesson home – that was the main reason for attending. So I did things totally differently: First, I went home and changed clothes and rested for about 20 minutes before picking him up so I wasn’t tired and right off the 8 hour road trip. Second I just took the leash from the Petsmart person, adjusted the collar and started walking – no affection. We walked around the parking lot for 20 minutes before heading home. When I got home we went through some commands and then I gave him the job of lying down while I unpacked my suitcase. I used a few treats but he stayed the whole time. Then a bit of fetch, then some couch time. Now he’s crashed on his bed while I type this. It wasn’t easy giving him what he needs instead of what I need but I really wanted to feel the same type of success at home as I did at the Grove.
Sorry for such a long email, I just wanted to share and celebrate a very good day as a pack leader. Also, I am in touch with a local organization and I plan to foster a big dog soon. I am confident that I can handle the responsibility after this weekend and today.