I’ve talked about my Bullmastiff Brando, pictured here with his friend Sasha, and how far we have come since training with Pip. After a bout of bugs on my part and swelling on his back legs, which meant he couldn’t be walked for a time and I felt sorry for him, things had gone rather awry. On our last walk I realised the error of my ways, when chatting to a fellow dog walker, and made sure that the latter part of our walk was led by me. I was determined that from then on I would ensure that all our interactions honored him as a dog and that I would make sure he felt secure at all times, through my leadership.
I had a friend visiting yesterday and I asked her if she would like to join us for a walk on the beach. Brando loves the beach and keeping him to heel is always a bit more of an effort on our walk to get there. However, getting that walk right ensures that once we are on the beach he follows me and behaves well. Because of the swelling on his legs we drove to the beach instead and so only had to walk a short way before reaching the sand. Instead of taking the time to make sure he was walking to heel willingly, I just kept correcting him and carrying on.
We got down onto the sand and I put him in a down stay. When I called him to come on he ran off like a loon! Each time he came in front of me I turned around and changed direction so I was in the leading position. This went on and on. It was at this point I made a really poor decision. I was getting embarrassed and feeling harassed because I was with my friend and thought this constant changing of direction might be annoying her! So I thought ‘oh for goodness sake’ and decided instead to enjoy the walk, chatting with my friend and taking in the view on the beach. I even tried to convince myself that, as you can indeed be dominant from behind, maybe it was ok? For that to be true, it would of course need to be at my behest and not at Brando’s! As it was, Brando kept looking around to check in with me and when I called him away from running up to people, which he doesn’t do if he is behind me of course, he responded. We had a lovely walk and chat and came back to the car.
The thing is, this was the most selfish thing to do! If I am inconsistent in my training then I am going to create anxiety and uncertainty in my dog. How can he possibly know what the rules are if I keep changing them? I’ve also made a rod for my own back as next time it’s going to take even more effort to enforce my leadership, as I didn’t this time.
I’ve learned from Pip how important it is that we honor our dogs and horses and their true nature. That we make their needs, not our own, a priority at all times. Whatever benefit I felt in that moment of choosing to ‘give up’ has been completely overshadowed at how ashamed I feel for letting my dog down. Someone once said to me that in life there are talkers and doers…...enough of talking about it, from now on I commit to being a doer! If I want to be a loving dog owner then it is my job to commit to being his leader, not just when it suits me or is convenient…..but always!