I did it. I walked both dogs all by myself. It might not seem like a big deal, but it has been a struggle for the past six weeks and we’ve finally made progress. I can’t take full credit for it however, I have to say that the gentle leader has been a life saver when it comes to walking Laynie. One of the blogs I follow, That Touch of Pit, recently wrote about the benefits of the gentle leader. When we first got her we realized she probably had never been walked on leash before. Even if she had, she had absolutely no clue what is meant to have a loose leash. And man, is she strong. After the first couple of walks with her my arms, shoulders and back were sore. It was clear to us that we had to try something different.
With Nola, it was easy. She was a puppy learning from scratch and she was super food motivated. Put a piece of hotdog in front of her face and she will do whatever you ask. Laynie could care less if you were holding a Filet Mignon in front of her. She is going to pull you down the street if that is where she wants to go. The fist thing we tried with Laynie was a chain martingale. It gave us more control, but it never stayed in place and I always felt like I was hurting her. Then we tried an easy walk harness. We used this with Nola and it was a great tool.
When the trainer we worked with suggested a gentle leader we were desperate and willing to try anything. Luckily I had one that a friend had given me for Nola that we never ended up using because of the accident. Laynie easily accepted us putting it on (it helped that we had some chicken and were in a low distraction area so she actually ate the treats), and our first walk using it was like we had just gotten a new dog. When she would usually cry and whine and obsess about every squirrel, cat or dog that we passed, with the gentle leader she barely seemed to care. We have more control over her head when we walk so she is not able to use her full body weight to pull. She realizes it’s uncomfortable to jerk her head around to see the squirrel or birds, so she just doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t immediate, we’ve still had bad days where she spends most of the walk rubbing on the ground trying to get it off, but for the most part it has been an invaluable tool.
Walking two well behaved dogs with one hand made me feel so great. Here I am, a 5’3″ woman, walking two pit-bull type (who are inherently dangerous according to the Maryland Courts, but don’t get me started on that ridiculousness) all by myself. It was awesome. And now instead of dreading the walks alone with Laynie, I look forward to the time we spend together walking. I am telling her ‘good girl’ much more than ‘leave it’ and ‘this way’ and ‘too much’ and ‘hip’ like I used to. It also helps that she is so smart and just wants to please her people.
We still have a lot more work to do on her reactivity while on leash. We are taking advice from another one of my favorite blogs, Running with Squirrels because their
foster forever (yay, congrats!) dog McMuffin has some of the same issues. But overall, walking is less stressful and much more enjoyable for everyone in the family!