Today was a very rewarding day at the Brown County Humane Society in New Ulm, MN. Two things of great importance happened. The first thing is that we have 3 pairs of dogs that walk well, and the second is that Boomer looks like a different dog when he wears the backpack. I don't know if it would be fair to say that either of these two discoveries is more important than the other but they both hold great importance in different areas.
First off I mentioned that we have 3 pairs of dogs that do very well. This means that we have 3 different cores into which we should be able to start introducing other dogs. Before we introduce other dogs into these pairs I it will be a good idea to mix and match the pairs we have so that each dog will become comfortable with a number of dogs. This will be good for their own individual psychology as well as for making them more appealing to those looking to adopt. If we can successfully mix and match our 3 pairs we will have one very strong core of six dogs into which we will be able to introduce the other dogs that may not do so well. The goal here will be to use the structure of the original core to rehabilitate the new dogs which we choose to introduce.
Now for the second great discovery of the day, Boomer and his backpack. As you may recall from previous posts Boomer is a very dominant dog which can easily turn him into an aggressive dog. While on walks it was very normal for him to pull on the leash, to lung after cars, birds, people, and other dogs. We had made some progress in the past. The last two times I walked him by the end of the walk he was choosing to walk behind me and give me full authority over him. But this didn't happen until the last half, or even quarter, of the walk. Today was completely different, in a much better way.
Since I was able to fix the dog backpack yesterday I couldn't wait to use it today and see how it worked. Boomer was my test subject. At first he didn't really like the idea of me putting it on him as he tried to run away from me but as soon as it was on him it was obvious that he was focusing all his energy on his new job which was to carry that backpack with two cans of dog food in it until I made it clear that he had finished his job. And as soon as I opened his kennel it became even more clear that he had already accepted the role of follower when he took on the backpack. The walk with Boomer today was the most enjoyable walk I have even had with him and I am convinced that this was the case for a couple of reasons.
1) I established myself as his calm-assertive leader the moment I picked up the backpack (before I even entered his kennel).
2) I did not give in to him when he showed me that he didn't want the backpack. Instead I insisted on putting it on him, but once it was on him I did allow him a couple minutes to get used to it.
3) The new object connected to him and swinging on his body gave him a new, more intense job to do rather than just walk.
4) We still followed the normal procedure set out for walks (He doesn't go through the door until I let him and he is always next to, or behind me among other things).
From the moment we walked out the door Boomer assumed a follower's position. As a reward I allowed him the full length of the leash to roam around next to or behind me. Through the entire course of the walk he did not lung at a single car, person, bird, or dog, and he never pulled.
A simple tool like a backpack can do wonders for releasing pent up energy in your dog as is clearly visible in the account of Boomer I have just given. Other accounts of this type of success can be seen in various episodes of Cesar Millan's show The Dog Whisperer among other sources.
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