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Weekly Training Update (Jan 8)

So far, it’s been a darn-cold winter around here. We’re not getting hammered with snow, like the mountain areas on the other side of the Continental Divide, but it’s been windy and c-o-l-d. I must be losing my tough, mountain girl barrier that usually protects me enough to go outside and play with the pups a few times a day. There was, however, one day of tolerable temps, so I performed an experiment with Lilly on our walk.

On our return route in our 3-mile loop, I dropped her leash. Using (as I recall) ideas suggested by Leslie McDevitt in Control Unleashed in a section called something like “We don’t need no stinking leashes,” I did NOT make a big deal of it. I just dropped the leash and kept walking. I continued to praise Lilly verbally and to give her food for staying with me. If she got ahead and turned back into me to check in, I used our marker word (since I didn’t have the clicker with me) — YES!

Much of the walk is along a rural, dirt road, so anytime a car approached, I calmly and without comment picked up the leash as the car passed. Then, I’d drop it again.

I’d say Lilly walked a whole mile in our test version of off-leash. She did GREAT!

Normally, in class, if we’re doing recalls or off-leash work, I unclip Lilly because she really does NOT like to drag a line. I’m pretty sure it stems from her bad, early experiences with our first (terrible) agility instructor, who required dogs to drag a thin line.

So, that’s another reason I didn’t want to make a big deal of it.

Still, I knew she wasn’t thrilled. We sometimes run sections, and when she’s on leash, Lilly keeps a good pace right next to me. But, while dragging her leash this week, she ALWAYS ran slower than I did (imagine that … said the slow, pear-shaped writer). I had to cheerlead her to keep up with me.

I will likely never be brave enough to hike with Lilly off leash, like Tom is, but I think we’ll continue working on what we call CLOSE (with an off leash twist).

Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

KB - January 11, 2009

You might consider a short training ‘tab’. These are leashes that are about 9″ long that you attach when you take off the longer leash. With one of these, you can reach down and corral Lilly whenever you need to. At this stage in my dogs’ off-leash training, I make sure that I have a regular leash very handy and I can attach it to the collar while holding onto the tab if needed.

They sell tabs (I can find the contact if you want). Or, you can take an old beat-up leash and cut it off. Be sure to add a knot at the end so that you can actually hang onto it without it slipping through your fingers. The nice thing about the commercial ones is that they have a loop like a regular leash – but they’re pricey and made of heavy leather (more likely to bug Lilly than a lightweight nylon or cotton one).

Peggy - January 9, 2009

Good job Lilly! I understand about the weather, here in upstate NY it’s dipped into the low teens, so walking outside isn’t too fun. I know Lilly appreciates your efforts!

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