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These Dogs Were Made For Walkin'

I watched way too many episodes of The Dog Whisperer this weekend. So much that I decided to "rehabilitate" my dogs based on what I'd seen him doing with the dogs on the show.

Cesar Milan grew up watching a pack of working dogs on his uncle's ranch and based his handling techniques off what he'd observed. The leader goes first. Always. Packs spend a decent amount of time following the leader around on foot over the course of a day. Dogs that step out of line get mouthed on the neck just behind the ears. Dogs are happiest with a calm, assertive leader (this is where we humans need to step up). In his philosophy, dogs need three things (in order of importance): Exercise, Discipline, Affection. He considers the affection to be of more importance to the humans, as there is little affection within a pack.

The first thing he usually does after meeting a dog on the show is take the dog for a walk. He generally uses slip leads (either chain or nylon) placed high on the neck (like in dog shows) to reinforce his leadership when walking a dog. Pulling ahead gets a quick pop. Fixating on something (cat, dog, etc) gets a pop and a tap on the butt to break the dog's focus. If the dog resists, he continues until they reach a "calm submissive" state. Just as important is the human's emotional energy. Excitement, anxiety, and fear can prevent the dog from reaching calm submission and accepting the human as the leader.

The noodles have always been pretty lousy leash walkers. Pulling, running ahead, going berzerk if another dog comes near (mostly Kira on that one). Luna had been getting a lot better since I started using a prong collar but I still used a flexi leash so she would be up to 26ft ahead of me. Leading the walk. Kira was so excited and unruly that I gave up on trying to walk her at all, even with a prong collar. Walking the two of them together is something that happens about every 6 months or so as a reminder of why I never walk them together.

Today I decided to walk Luna down to the local pet shop to try on slip collars (aka "choke chains"). I tried to keep the prong collar up high on the neck but it slid down pretty often. It worked alright to keep her at heel for the walk to the store. I picked up 2 24" chain slip collars and ordered a new ID tag for Luna (whose collar has gone missing *again*) and Luna got a cookie from the girl behind the counter. Much to Luna's disappointment, the little paper baggie that we left with didn't contain anything good to eat. I put on the slip collar and we walked home. I had trouble keeping it from sliding too but it was easier to readjust than the prong. Our walk ended up being about 40 minutes. I was interested in trying out the technique on Kira so I took her around the block with her new collar. After her initial corrections, she fell right in line. It was like walking a totally different dog.

Second Chance at Love, the human society from whom we adopted our dogs, is run by a woman who has trained with Cesar Milan. She gives workshops periodically, in addition to doing private consulations. The next workshop is supposed to be some time in March. Generally, it costs $250 *per dog* but if you have adopted from them, it is $50. The workshop includes information on dog behavior and handling techniques, a "leadership walk" and lunch for all the humans accompanying the dog (they recommend all family members over 8yrs of age attend). I'm seriously considering taking at least one of the dogs to the next workshop. Cesar Milan, himself, will be doing a seminar at a nearby community college this summer but that is $125 a head and doesn't include bringing your dog along. It is a fundraiser for the humane society.

My ultimate goal is to get the girls certified as AKC Good Citizens. Walking on a loose leash is one of the criteria. We'll start there.

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