This time Russ and Tooey accompanied me on my second visit with Carlin at the Academy. Parts went about as I thought, and some parts exceeded my expectations but didn’t go as well as I’d hoped.
Sometimes hopes are just that — not something you expect, but something you really want, nonetheless.
Before our visit, I’d told the trainers at the Academy that I’d like to be able to walk Carlin on the same walk where Russ is also along, walking Tooey. In the past, this hasn’t gone nearly as well as I’d like, especially when Tooey is ahead and Carlin is behind. Carlin hates being left behind, so when he was behind, he would pull the leash until he was ahead. It seemed like I was always correcting him, which is unpleasant, so my usual strategies were to always have Carlin ahead, or to take an entirely different route altogether.
So, at the Academy, we tried it. Russ and Tooey sauntered along ahead of Carlin and me, and I did my best to remind Carlin to maintain his “right here” position, which is a loose heel. Carlin was really trying hard to do what I asked. I could see him trying, and then forgetting. So I’d remind him with a gentle pop on the leash, and he’d shake his body as to say, “Oh yeah! Right here. OK,” and then he’d hop back into place. But at the same time, he loves Tooey and what he really wanted to run and play with her, not stay a couple of steps behind.
So Carlin had a real challenge, and I did, too, trying to remember how to handle the leash, and when to say “No,” when to (or not) repeat the command. I’m pretty sure he’ll be able to do this — it will just be hard work on both our parts when we get Carlin home. And if I can get a solid “right here” despite any distraction, then I know I’ll be able to walk him at a hunt test from the holding blind to the start line off leash.
Then on to the next challenge: I wanted to know how to handle Carlin while going into and out of a room crowded with dogs, such as in an Obedience trial or conformation show. So, while Russ put Tooey up in the car, the trainer, Carlin, and I went over to an Obedience class that was being held on the grounds. I had Carlin wait at all the various gates and doorways, and he did a great job at that. Next he did a beautiful “right here” getting into the area where all the other dogs were working. Then the trainer had me work Carlin a bit, doing easy stuff like a sits and downs.
He did the sits and downs right away upon cue. And he didn’t move out of those positions until I told him to do something different. So that’s great. He was so good at this, better than I expected. But what I’d hoped was that he’d relax in his down, such as by tipping over onto one hip or putting his head down. Instead, he lay ramrod straight, like the Sphinx, watching (but not staring at) the other dogs intently. So, good. He lay down, he didn’t stare, and he didn’t bark or lunge. Finally, I could see that this was just very hard on him, so I started to say something to the trainer about our leaving. But just then, he relaxed onto one hip. Good boy! So I said, “This is a good place to stop. Let’s get out of here.” So, I released Carlin from his down, asked him for a “right here”, and we got out of there without problem or incident.
I think his being able to relax at a dog show will be a long time coming. He’ll get it, but I think it’s going to be a long time and a lot of work.
So, then we went back to the office, where Russ and I both got our rewards — being able to tell Carlin “Hugs!” At this, he leapt into our arms, and gave us kisses galore, over and over. Neither one of us could see past our goopy eyeglasses. And maybe at least one of us also had something in our eyes that made it hard to see.
Until next time, Carlin. We’ll be back.
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