This post was inspired by having a few memories jogged after reading a favorite article by Dave Carty: Slow Down (Let Your Dog Work)
After a few pit stops on our long and winding way, we arrived to the spot. Dave got his Chevy parked in one of the standard places for hunting the area and, it became quite apparent that the temperature was already getting the best of us. Dave was immediately expressing concern over ‘dropping’ Powder to hunt, but the desire to have her down was high, since it was clear she was not going to have another season. Having an old and frail dog now myself, you take it day by day. They could have six more months, or today might be their last. I know this is where Dave was, so I just did my best to be supportive and respect his decisions doubly so when it came to Powder.
The intent was to hike down one branch of a ‘Y’ shaped coulee, mill around at the junction and then head back up the other unmolested branch. So that is what we did with very little fanfare. I still have a soft spot for Brits since my own, Mountain Sal. As we hiked, keeping an ever-watchful eye on Powder, we reminisced over some of the hunts we had shared over her. One which will likely stick out in mind for as long as I am able to keep memories neatly cataloged, is the hunt in which Dave bagged a gorgeous fully masked adult bull Mearns over a nicely stuck point from Powder. Making the event even more memorable was the high overhead passing shot Dave successfully made to bag the bird. With the bird plucked from the sky, it pitched into some heavy cover. Powder was asked to make her retrieve, which she did so with purpose and grace and with an impressively gentle mouth the bird was retrieved perfectly preserved. Dave gifted me the bird and I had it mounted.
I digress - after hiking ever so slowing down to the heart of the ‘Y’ the heat continued to rise, and it was clear Powder wasn’t really liking the heat. It was easy to see in her gait, how much water she had taken, so it was no surprise the level of Dave’s concern was ever so increasing with every few minutes. We paused in the shade in the crook of the ‘Y’ and talked about the easiest way to go back up, how best to try and keep Powder in the shade and debated at what point do we consider picking her up to carry her. The more we debated the pros and cons of our ideas, interspersed with our normal casual conversation Dave became very frustrated with himself for taking her ‘this far’ and that she hadn’t even gotten birdy. The risk wasn’t worth it, and I understood. As we talked about all of these things Dave kept his gaze uphill, presumably looking at the peak which the truck was parked just below. I, on the other hand, was watching Powder.
So as it is we are likely to call this 'heeling' and/or 'leash manners', it is both and not at all, at the same time. We have been getting more and more into the Higgins Method of dog training, and frankly it is a direction I have been pointed in for years and didn't realize it. Brad really doesn't like using the words we have assigned to conventional tasks and I'm going to go out on a limb here and say this about it. Those old commands come with a lot of baggage and the baggage can be hard to leave behind. I mean after all the use of 'heel' has just as much been ingrained into our minds and how we employ it.
I wrote an article on this topic not long ago "Stop your dog from pulling!," and I am not disavowing what I wrote. Rather, I am going to build on it since I have learned more in how to put these things together. The title of the article reeks of disciplinarian style obedience (which wasn't intended and rather unfortunate). Having a dog that knows how to walk nicely with you is right up there with having a dog with a bullet proof recall. It can save your dog's life and on the lighter end of the scale make walking with your dog so much more pleasant.
Allow me to digress a little - over the years we have been using more 'classical conditioning' methods vs old school dog training, also known as 'operant conditioning', as outlined in 'Super Socialization' I recently posted. With Ila we have pushed further into this and have achieved some really nice results without any pressure.
Both methods I have highlighted here are very similar to using a JASA collar to teach this, without the expense or need of a JASA. In practice the 'figure-eight' you make in the lead ensures it is in the correct position to do its job. Through this it allows the dog to teach itself how and where to be when walking with you.
Your dog does need confidence walking on leash in order to employ this method. So if she is pulling hard at the leash, she is ready. The dog controls the 'pressure' it takes on. The dog really does all of the teaching it needs vs you pressuring the dog into position. Now that Ila's confidence on the leash has made her a bit of a nuisance, her 'leash work & heeling' has moved onto the phase of using Brad Higgins' 'The Walk' method and with really good success at that. So get ready to add another layer of teamwork and trust:
Kat from StandingStone Kennels uses essentially the same method, and she explains the use of the method a little more and maybe a little better. You will see she uses an EasyLead which in comparison to the light line Brad uses, I feel, is slightly less effective. Make your own mind up:
aka, Udo fan't Suydevelt. He is a stunning dog with a resume to match! Cooper is a Dutch, Belgian, Luxembourg youth champion, Youth Winner '14, Junior Benelux Winner, Herbst Jugend Sieger, Belgian champion, Belgian winner of the Raspeciale and, to top it all, Junior World Winner 2014! This is being modest, as his resume literally goes on and on and on... Enjoy this little gallery of this handsome boy. We strongly feel will be very complimentary to Mila and vice versa in all ways possible. This is without question, an exciting opportunity for the North American Drent community. As you might expect Two Gun just might have something else we have been working on...and hope to make that announcement soon. Until then, enjoy.
I'm just a guy suffering with an infatuation with gundogs since childhood. Fifty some years later this is what you get.