His head was out the back window of the truck, and his tail was lashing away so hard that it shook his whole body. Forty kilograms of muscle and excitement! I’d seen him a couple of weeks before for the first time. He was a rescue dog, super intelligent, but not so well behaved, had absolutely NO respect for humans’ personal space, and so big and strong. When I tried to place my hands on his body at the first visit, it quickly became a wrestling match, with him constantly grabbing my hands with his mouth, wriggling, rolling over on the floor, wanting to play, jumping all over me… It was a real workout.
By the end of the first visit, with some help from his mum (he didn’t listen to me at all) we finally managed to teach him an ‘out’ command, and he started to get the very first inklings that he may well have to actually ASK to come into my personal space before he barrelled in and jumped all over me, AND that when I demanded he move out of my personal space, then yes, he actually had to respect that. He was so obviously intelligent, and at the same time so boisterous and pushy, he really stretched my ability to communicate with dogs.
So I was a little nervous about how he was going to be on this, his second visit with me. I’d sent his mum home with lots of homework – I had asked her to do some WEBB for Pets Deep Pressure hands-on work with him twice a day, every day, and to also really strongly reinforce the training around respecting people’s personal space.
She asked him to hop out, on the lead – he was still pulling on the lead, not responding to his mum’s wishes terribly well. I said hello to him, and he was so much more respectful, even if still a bit of a boof-head. And I could work with him hands-on without too much trouble at all. However, the first thing to do today was to fit him with a Gentle Leader. These are the most effective tool I’ve ever come across to stop dogs pulling on the lead
However, the first thing to do today was to fit him with a Gentle Leader. These are the most effective tool I’ve ever come across to stop dogs pulling on the lead. You have to be gentle and careful with them, but they really, really work – and when you have a big, super-strong dog, and an owner with arthritic hands, the Gentle Leader can be a life saver. We still use one on our whippet, too, because she’s terrible at pulling on the lead. It can take a while for a dog to get used to wearing them.
It can take a while for a dog to get used to wearing them. And this big, strong fella was no exception to that. I had to gently teach him not to try to get it off his head and nose with his paws, and then teach him to give to the pressure. The key to this device is that release of pressure is the reward. It only took a little while before I was leading him around in all directions, holding the lead with only two fingers. His mum had a go too, and I could see the look of relief in her eyes at how easy it was!
Then I worked on his body – I could even connect into tight, sore areas without him getting upset and mouthing at my hands. He was a different dog, so much easier to work with, and so much more pleasant to interact with too. I love dogs like this – smart, independent, strong willed dogs. They are both the most challenging and most rewarding dogs to work with, and when you get clear boundaries and gentle respect on both sides of the equation, they are the most amazing life companions!