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Feb 28, 2018 | Serra's Story

Wow, almost a month since we trained. I slipped on ice and got a really bad concussion. Lost several hours and couldn’t turn my head for two weeks without taking a moment for the world to stop spinning. Then we went out of the country for a couple of weeks and just got back.

To celebrate being allowed to drive again, Serra and I went for a walk downtown. Auntie Barbara, his babysitter while we were away, reported that in situations that aren’t outside stores (where we work a lot), his leash work is… not his best thing. The goal of this outing, then, is to work on a loose leash somewhere else.

He started the session out less than brilliantly by diving into the garage hoping to find a cat (he didn’t). I wasn’t ready so was holding the leash in the arm with the shoulder that’s going to be replaced next week. I was not amused. There may have been some unkind words.

When I parked downtown, I put his halter on (still thinking about my shoulder). I was determined, if possible, to use as little bait as possible. Up until today, he’s been paid almost every time he does something right, but he’s not going to be paid every time for the rest of his life. This would be a walk-walk, not a sniff-walk, and not a heeling session. Criteria would be a leash long enough for him to walk comfortably without looking at me, short enough for him not to reach the ground with his nose and for “walk comfortably” to take place in a very loose heel position. No sitting required, no watching required.

He started out eager to look around but more eager to get a treat. One treat for hitting the ground, one treat for keeping the leash loose as he got out of the car, one more for starting his walk. We’re on the north side of the street and there’s ice on the sidewalk, which makes me nervous. I’m glad I’ve got the halter on him. Wish I had a harness too so I could hang on to hit.

Then we started walking with no treats. I backed up a few times when he got to far in front of me, and bumped the leash a few times and sidestepped right when he got to far away to the left (don’t make it better, make it worse). Pretty soon we were having an enjoyable walk!

There were a bunch of kids on the steps of the library, which were on my right as we walked by. He didn’t exactly tighten the leash but he came around in front of me on his way to tighten it. Nope, sorry, buddy. I shorten the leash enough to keep him on the left half of in-front-of-me and shuffled forward into his feet. I was impressed with how nimble he his. Over the course of the walk, he tried going in front of me twice more with the same results, and after that he appeared to decide that walking in front of me wasn’t a viable option.

We stopped at a sculpture on the outdoor mall where I asked him to hop up on the base and lie down to watch people walking by. Fun to watch people see him, think about going wide around us, and then see his little tail announcing his love to the universe.

We walked the mall several times. No problem with people passing on my right. He didn’t lunge or even veer over for people walking on our left, but sometimes he had to stop, hold his position, and wag them past.

Two people tried to pet him. I said sure, but ONLY when his feet are on the ground. That didn’t work. Too general, I think. They DID stop when he jumped, but they couldn’t see the precursors and the only thing that kept him from flossing their teeth was the leash and the halter.

The third Interested Party was a teenage girl who approached reasonably and asked politely. This time I said ONLY when he’s sitting. If he stops sitting, you have to stop petting him. That worked brilliantly. Five times he broke his sit, five times she stood up and backed off, and five times the leash and halter kept him from French kissing her. Each time I asked him to sit again and she approached again. The sixth time, he stayed sitting and got his loving. Then she blew it. She was so excited by his success that she squealed OOOOH WHAT A GOOOOD BOOOY! and ran off to tell her friends while he tried desperately to hold her back. Sigh.

Then I got a phone call and talked for 20 minutes while Serra lay at my feet watching people go by and wagging quietly to himself.

Lovely outing.