Finding Hope Through Writing About Loss

henriandbill

Have you ever lost an animal companion so suddenly and unexpectedly that you struggled to come to terms with it for weeks, months, or even years? If you follow this blog, chances are you view your pets as part of the family, just like I do. I’d like to tell you about my experience of healing by writing about the loss of Henri.

Early in 2013, mhenriandliamy beloved Bichon, Henri, started showing signs of illness. He was gaining weight rapidly and he had strange skin issues, like a rash that wouldn’t go away and cyst-like sores. I was no stranger to a Bichon’s allergies and the vet didn’t think it was too big a deal. He was more concerned that Henri was getting fat and we both figured he was just eating too much and not getting enough exercise.

More problems kept popping up—the skin rash was a staph infection and he had fungus growing between his little toes. The vet ran tests and amped up the meds. Then, Henri went blind. It was horrible, but I was prepared to do anything for that little dog. I researched how to care for a blind dog, started a blind dog blog, and of course gave him plenty of bully sticks and games to play with. Henri is wicked smart and could solve puzzles in a snap, blind or not.

bullystick

Then, his hearing started to go. Trips to specialists were almost daily, because his sores wouldn’t heal and he kept getting more. He hated the constant poking and probing as much as anyone would! He was on so much medication I didn’t know how his little body could handle it. I had to wear gloves to give him one of the pills. I had to put eye drops in his poor blind eyes twice a day and it was obvious this scared him. One consolation was that, since he was blind, I had to carry him everywhere, so at least he was getting lots of snuggling and so was I.

Gradually, we were starting to realize that Henri was not going to puzzlesget better; he was only going to get worse. Before long, he didn’t want to be petted and comforted any longer. He didn’t want to sleep. He barked all the time, confused.

We made the hardest decision a pet owner could make, and on his last night with us we gave him a steak dinner. He couldn’t even smell the steak in front of his face. But once he had a lick, he devoured every bite.

I was so grief stricken after he died that I was inconsolable for days. Understand, I didn’t want to admit that Henri’s condition was fatal until about a week before he died. Maybe that’s what the vet was telling me, but since they couldn’t even name the disease—it seemed like some kind of multi-system, cascading thing of mysterious origin—I denied that he couldn’t be fixed until the very end. His breed should have a life expectancy of at least fifteen years. Henri was only seven-years-old when he passed.

My friend Amy Martin encouraged me to celebrate his life (and that’s something I tried so hard to embrace), but I wasn’t ready to stop mourning. I wanted to hold onto him somehow.

That’s when I decided to make Henri a character in the book I was writing at the time. We come into the story as a new character is introduced, driving into the small town of Shirley…

Driving into Shirley from the east always shocked Aaron Walsh after he had been away for a while. He’d be driving through the gentle rise and fall of the highway, traversing mostly highlands between the taller peaks, for miles. Then, he’d round the last summit, Widow-maker Point, and then bang!—the valley plunged, a deep crevice in the countryside below the granite cliffs. The transition was breath-taking. He usually felt contented by the vision, flooded with memories of a happy childhood spent rampaging through the forests with friends, siblings and cousins. But not that day.

That day, the scene made him feel homesick and sorry for himself. He wanted nothing more than to curl up in a cozy lounger and watch a Mystery Science Theater marathon under blankets. He turned up the volume on a melancholy country song and let his mood settle in. Aaron reached up to squeeze Henri’s collar. He hung it from his rearview mirror after the vet had returned the collar, empty, along with other personal items. The grain of the fabric was worn and soft, slightly oily from years of use.

Henri had started out as his wife Chloë’s, dog years before, but the dog had taken to Aaron. Aaron loved to give Henri bacon treats and dinner handouts under the table. Chloë bought him for a show dog. He was a Bichon Frisee with Champion lineage—his sire was actually named Champion, no kidding—but Aaron had spoiled her chances in a matter of months. He smiled, thinking about how mad his wife was when Henri got too fat. He remembered that glorious, flowing-white tail that Henri would wrap around his wrist while he petted him. Aaron had grown up with hounds and mutts, and he never would’ve imagined a fluffy white dog would or could steal his heart, but he had.

Then, Henri started showing signs of mysterious health problems. A pure bred dog after all, Aaron had tried to reason that inbreeding often caused strange issues. He took him to dozens of specialists and spent thousands of dollars on testing and treatments. Finally, he had to accept it. Henri was dying. Once Aaron decided to have him put to sleep, he made the commitment to be there with him when he passed away. He cried like a baby for days leading up to it and for days after it was done, but he was able to stroke his fur and whisper thanks in his ear, for being such a good dog. As difficult as it was, he was grateful to have been able to tell him good-bye.

Chloë was sympathetic and patient at first. But after several days of Aaron’s prolonged mourning, his moping around the house uselessly, she started to lose patience. He lashed out at her for not seeing Henri’s worth as a show dog (which was ridiculous; Henri would have hated that prissy crap), and Chloë suggested a week in the mountains might help.

She was right, of course. Camping always helped heal the soul. Aaron couldn’t wait to get out there, among the elements. He’d spent too much time indoors the last few years. City life did that to you. He figured he’d stop in and say hello to Dad before he headed south, into the most secluded wilderness along Red Ridge.

–Excerpted from The Tramp.

henriWhen I read that now, two years later, I know that what I was doing was witnessing Henri’s life and death. I felt so guilty about his illness, because I didn’t realize for so long how ill he was. I wondered if I had treated him kindly enough when he was probably feeling worse than I understood. Henri never complained.

Any pet owner who has had to make the decision to euthanize a beloved friend knows how hard it is; even when all professional opinion tells you you’re doing the right thing, the “right thing” is excruciating.

But also, I was sharing Henri with the world, making him eternal in literature. That helped the healing process begin. As Aaron Walsh finds peace in the book, so was I in writing about it. The sunrise that he watches, and the peace he feels afterward, was my way to describe what I hoped was in store for myself.

I’m not the camper he is, but I can imagine it…

Right on time, an American Robin broke into her, “Cheer up, cheer up, cheerily,” whistle not a hundred yards away, and Aaron decided to quit his tent for an early start.

He unzipped the door flaps and ducked out into the fresh morning air, then reached back inside for his coat, shocked at the drop in temperature. Feeling the yawn in his abdomen, he considered breakfast, but since the sun wasn’t completely up, it would be a hassle in the dark. Instead, he sat down on the blanket of fallen pine leaves outside his front door, tugged on his boots, and decided to sit out the sunrise with a better vantage point closer to the river. He inspected his jeep as he passed for any signs of ransacking, but seeing nothing amiss, he ambled toward the rim of the bluff.

The stroll was easy through towering pine trees, their high plumes of needles overhead floating over the forest floor like thunderheads. He could barely see the stars, much less the blossoming horizon to the east, but he knew the giant trees would stand aside for maples, dogwoods and holly bushes along the edge of the pinewoods. The heavens would open up for a gorgeous sunrise over the southern canyon. He heard the rapid, stuttering trill and then low, buzzing tones of a warbler in the distance, announcing the dawn.  Aaron picked up his pace. Near the edge of the forest, he slowed down to navigate a thicket of mountain laurel and rhododendron. He heard more birdsongs announcing survival of the night and warning enemies of nests still protected, and Aaron worried he might miss the sunrise.

But the canopy above cleared abruptly, and he was kissed by the fresh air of the open ravine, with an earthy smell of fast moving water churning up the riverbed below. He could just discern a delicate lavender wash seeping across the sky into the western blackness, the stars beginning to wink out with the advance of light. Aaron collapsed to the ground, leaned back in relief and dangled his boots over the side of the bluff, his palms damp on the cool, crusty granite. He thought about the healing power of a new day—of every new day—and admitted that he was starting to accept his friend Henry’s death.

“Bye, little buddy.”

The burst of sunfire was spectacular, perfect for Henry’s requiem. Bright pinks and oranges flared and rippled amongst feathers of clouds. Aaron’s face warmed as the sun rose and the pageant faded and the sky gradually fused back together in a cool, peaceful blue. It was morning, fair and full of promise.

–Excerpted from The Tramp

I am happy to report that I’m now able to truly celebrate Henri’s life. When I shed tears for him, they are tears of joy and gratitude. Recently, Amy Martin introduced me to Denise Mange, a certified animal communicator who helped me contact Henri. It was an amazing experience and one that I will share in my next post. Stay tuned! If you’d like to learn more about animal communicators, ask Amy or visit Denise’s site: www.denisenyctraining.com.

–Sarah Wathen, guest author


Headshot_1_smallTo learn more, follow Sarah’s blog at www.sarahwathen.com.

Sarah Wathen is an artist, an author, and the founder of the independent publishing house, LayerCake Productions, specializing in the fun part of creative writing—original artwork, video trailers, and musical soundtracks. She was trained in Classical Painting at the University of Central Florida, and received her Master’s in Fine Art from Parsons School of Design in New York City. If Florida was where she discovered her passion, New York was the place she found her voice. “Writing a book was my obvious next step, once I realized I’d been trying to tell stories with pictures for years,” Sarah says about transitioning from visual artist to novelist. “Painting with words is even more fun than painting with oil.”

Sarah lives in Florida with her husband, son, and at least a dozen imaginary friends from her two novels, a paranormal mystery called The Tramp, and a young adult coming of age story, Catchpenny. A painter at heart, her novels incorporate art judicially, both in narrative content and supporting materials. Her characters are derived from the people and places that have influenced her own life—at least one beloved pet makes it into every book—but the stories they live will take you places you have never imagined and won’t want to leave.

Contact

Email: layercakeproductionsllc@gmail.com

Twitter: @SWathen_Author

Facebook: SarahLWathen

Tumblr: swathen.tumblr.com

Instagram: sarah.wathen

Wattpad: SarahWathen

Medium: @sarahwathen

Dog Science Worth Sharing!

Studying animal personality can tell us more about both animals AND humans. ~ Sam Gosling

Science is about critical thinking not facts – Prescott Breeden

I love getting things for free, and I love convenience, but when fun and enlightening education is added to the mix, I am a very happy woman!  I haven’t written in a while due to a number of life’s callings, but I took a break to share this noteworthy news with you all today.  Rarely can anyone, anywhere in the world, join a conference for free from your home, with no strings attached, but YOU CAN!

This year the Society for the Promotion of Applied Research in Canine Science (SPARCS) conference is free to everyone all around the world!  They began their lively discussions and presentations on Friday and they run through today -all day! The daily presentation themes include:

  • Aggression and Conflict
  • Personality and Temperament
  • Science in Training

You have the opportunity to learn from some of the best minds in Canine Science from the comforts of your own home! Check out the amazing speakers here and see the full schedule here. You can see the daily TOPICS here!

There’s one more day left to learn from some of the greatest minds in canine science! Some of today’s topics include:

–> “Coyotes, Koalas, and Kangaroos: What the behavior of other animals can teach you about your dog”

–> “How owner personality influences the behavior of dogs”

 

Click here to tune in and learn more about your canine companion!


Here are just a few fascinating and enlightening quotes from today’s and yesterday’s speakers:

“Even the most complex behavior can be governed by some simple rules.” -Prescott Breeden

“Predatory behavior is NOT aggression” – Kathryn Lord

“We talk about aggression as if it’s a bad thing; natural selection supports some forms of aggression.” – Coppinger

“Taking breaks in play: allows dogs to avoid too much arousal.” – Patricia McConnell

“Results from C-BARQ suggest an inverse relationship between dog size and fear of  other dogs and strangers.” – James Serpel

“Miscommunication in play leads to conflict.” – Kathryn Lord

“One cannot generalize across the board about aggression. There are breed differences AND individual differences.” ~ James Serpell

“Breed Specific Legislation NOT JUSTIFIED” -James Serpel

“Humans unintentionally causing conflict for dogs ~
Dogs ‘appear in conflict’ and owners runs in and grabs by collar”

“A predator has to have built-in knowledge of where to bite to kill prey. Genes!” – Ray Coppinger

“Spaying & neutering effect on aggression in dogs? CBARQ data says yes, but very breed specific.”

“Dogs bark because they are conflicted. Some dogs bark MORE because they are more conflicted.” – Kathryn Lord

“Humans are selecting against owner-directed aggression all the time.” James Serpell

“Viruses that affect DNA can cause behavioral changes in mice”. – Prescott Breeden

“In dogs, conscientiousness and openness tend to meld together.” – Sam Gosling

“It’s important to know WHY dogs are barking in order to avoid anthropomorphism.” – Kathryn Lord

“Across several studies, pet store dogs are more likely to be reported as showing aggression.” James Serpell

“You want a dog you can call a pet, so you’re gonna drug it all the time? Give me a break!” Ray Coppinger

“Personality descriptions can tell us just as much about the person describing the animal as the animal itself.” – Sam Gosling

“The [animal] shelter itself can be a major negative influence on the behavior of a dog.” – Kathryn Lord

“Rely on MULTIPLE assessments for success in evaluating shelter dogs.” – James Serpell

“Dog bite data is biased toward common breeds, large breeds, and serious types of aggression.” – James Serpell

“Words we use to describe behavior may or may not be useful, too broad or too narrow or not descriptive enough.” – Sam Gosling

“Motivation can be learned (conditioned), and learning is fuelled by motivation. Keyword: ANTICIPATION” – Simon Gadbois


TUNE IN NOW to hear them for yourself!

If you are reading this after the live conference is over, the videos will be available to SPARCS members.  You can  learn about how to become a SPARCS member here!

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“Bringing the world together in our love for dogs!” – SPARCS 2014

Cat Agility Is Here To Stay!

The only difference between your abilities and others is the ability to put yourself in their shoes and actually try. ― Leonardo Ruiz

The world is full of crazy people doing crazy cool things, so it takes a lot to impress me these days, but a young girl from the Czech Republic has trained her cat, Suki, to do agility.  So have many others.  Yes, you read that right: Cats are now doing agility.  The sport no longer belongs to just dogs.

If you haven’t heard about dog agility, then you are missing out on some pretty amazing dog and handler skills.  My dog Hocus Pocus and I absolutely love to do agility together!  Nothing has strengthened our bond more.  We are not experts by any means, but we do have a blast, and I discovered that she is incredibly skilled at this sport.  Dog agility competitions are so much fun! Dogs soar through the complex obstacle courses with determination and speed.  Now, just imagine a cat doing that.

Well, they can and they DO!  Most people (even the most loving cat guardians) don’t realize that cats are easily trainable.  If you have a cat that is willing to follow a dancing feather toy, or favorite food treat anywhere, then you have the tools to begin cat agility!

cat tricks cat agility training

The videos below show cat agility in action.  It’s amazing not only because cats are doing agility – quite well I must say – but it’s so inspiring to clearly see the bond that the cat and the person share together.  This makes my heart sing, because it’s what I strive to teach young people; that they are capable of doing this and more with their feline companion!

Watch the 16 month young Suki’s agility in action, and performing cat “tricks” with her person! What a team!

suki the agility cat

 

Suki the cat at 8 months young and her person run the homemade agility course together:

You can view more of their happiness here.

Young people are practicing and perfecting cat agility in their homes all around the world.  This young man has taught his cat, Cashmere, to rebound off of walls, all through the use of clicker training!  Check out Cashmere and Puff!

cat agility

Feline agility competitions have rapidly grown in popularity all around the world.  The Cat Fancy Association started agility competitions in 2004, and other clubs have “jumped” at agility courses! The International Cat Agility Tournament is another example.  The first agility competition was held in Portland, Oregon as part of the Oregon Cats show.  It was titled, “Let the Cats Entertain You”.  Forty-five cats entered. Some were pedigreed and some were moggies! They ranged from kittens to adults!

You can find upcoming cat agility shows (where you can enter your cat, or just watch the event) on the CFA cat show schedule and here.  You can see a video of a kitten in training for the CFA Feline Agility here.

cat agility

With the insight and right tools, you can train your feline friend to do all of this!  Once you begin training your cat, you will interact in ways you never thought possible.  It’s really quite easy, and it’s FUN for both you and your feline friend!  Clicker training is how you can do it!

cat-training-kit-3

 If you can dream it, you can do it. ― Helen Keller

Of Wolves and Women

wolf and woman artwork

I came across a poem today. The words and images moved me to tears, each time I watched this video. May it touch your soul as well.


Video excerpt from Living with Wolves and Wolves at our Door


wolf and woman

 

“A healthy woman is much like a wolf – strong life force, life-giving, territorially aware, intuitive and loyal. Yet separation from her wildish nature causes a woman to become meager, anxious, and fearful.

With the wild nature as ally and teacher, we see not through two eyes only, but through the many eyes of intuition. With intuition we are like the starry night, we gaze at the world through a thousand eyes. The wild nature carries the medicine for all things.

She carries stories, dreams, words and songs. She carries everything a woman needs to be and know. She is the essence of the female soul.

It does not mean to lose one’s primary socializations. It means quite the opposite. The wild nature has a vast integrity to it. It means to establish territory, to find one’s pack, to be in one’s body with certainty and pride, to speak and act in one’s behalf, to be alert, and to find what one belongs to. It means to rise with dignity, to proceed as a powerful being who is friendly but never tame.

The Wild Woman is the one who thunders in the face of injustice. She is the one who keeps a woman going when she thinks she’s done for.

She is intuition, far-seer, deep listener, and she is loyal heart. She thrives on fresh site, and self-integrity.

Where can you find her? She walks in the deserts, cities, woods, oceans, and in the mountain of solitude. She lives in women everywhere; in castles with queens, in the boardrooms, in the penthouse, and on the night bus to Brownsville.

Whether you are possessed of a simple heart or the ambitious, whether you are trying to make it to the top or just make it through tomorrow, the wild nature belongs to you.

She lives in a faraway place that breaks through to our world. She lives in the past and is summoned by us. She is in the present. She is in the future and walks backward in time to find us now.

Without us, Wild Woman dies. Without Wild Woman, we die. Para Vida, for true life, both must live.”

~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D

wolves and women woman and wolf

Cat Sense

Cats have been popular household companion animals for thousands of years, and their numbers only continue to rise. Today there are three cats for every dog on the planet, and yet cats remain more mysterious, even to their most adoring guardians.  Unlike dogs, cats evolved as solitary hunters, and, while many have learned to live alongside humans and even feel affection for us, they still don’t quite get us” the way dogs do, and perhaps they never will.  But cats have rich emotional lives that we need to respect and understand if they are to thrive in our company.

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In CAT SENSE: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet, renowned anthrozoologist John Bradshaw takes us further into the mind of the domestic cat than ever before, using cutting-edge scientific research to dispel the myths and explain the true nature of our feline friends.

Tracing the cat’s evolution from lone predator to domesticated companion, Bradshaw shows that although cats and humans have been living together for at least eight thousand years, cats remain independent, predatory, and wary of contact with their own kind, qualities that often clash with our modern lifestyles.

As Bradshaw shows, cats still have three out of four paws firmly planted in the wild, and within only a few generations can easily revert back to the independent way of life that was the exclusive preserve of their predecessors some 10,000 years ago. Yet cats are astonishingly flexible, and given the right environment they can adapt to a life of domesticity with their owners—but to continue do so, they will increasingly need our help. If we’re to live in harmony with our cats, Bradshaw explains, we first need to appreciate their inherited quirks: understanding their body language, keeping their environments—however small—sufficiently interesting, and becoming more proactive in managing both their natural hunting instincts and their relationships with other cats.

A must-read for any cat lover, CAT SENSE offers humane, penetrating insights about the domestic cat that challenge our most basic assumptions and promise to dramatically improve our animal companion’s lives—and ours.

Read an excerpt here!

Click Here for a Chance to Win a Book Giveaway for Cat Sense!

In Defense of Dogs

John Bradshaw, one of the world’s leading dog experts and director of the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol, is dedicated to studying the relationship between man and the animal world. In his book, In Defense of Dogs, he calls for a new understanding of our canine friends . This book is a compelling insight into what dogs would ask us for, if only they knew how. The dog has been mankind’s faithful companion for tens of thousands of years, yet today finds itself in a type of crisis.

If you were a dog just over 100 years ago, life would have been simple. You would likely have been gainfully employed – perhaps hunting, herding or guarding – and provided you did your job, your owners would have accepted that you were sometimes messy, loud or unpredictable. Most dogs today are never expected to work, even though they are often still tuned into functions their breed has fulfilled for thousands of years. Instead, they are expected to behave like small children, yet be as independent as adults. To make things worse, our culture is awash with myths that prevent dogs being properly understood – in particular, the enduring idea that they harbour a powerful desire to dominate their family pack. Put simply: dogs are on the brink of a crisis. And as we have put them there, it is our responsibility to help them. ~ John Bradshaw

This scholarly and passionate book shows us a new understanding of our canine friends. It’s a “stand up for dogdom” – to understand dogs as they truly are, not as we assume they are. As a canine expert and dog lover, Bradshaw discusses how our treatment of dogs is based on so many mistaken beliefs, misperceptions, and assumptions. He sets the record straight through canine science.

In Defense of Dogs shows us the science behind:

  • Why dogs need us
  • Why reward-based training works
  • Why punishment never works
  • How they experience fear, love, affection and joy, but they do not experience guilt
  • How and why our better understanding of dogs can help them thrive in our human world

Biologists now know far more about what really makes dogs tick than they did twenty years ago, but this new understanding has been slow to percolate through to owners, and has not yet made enough of a difference to the lives of the dogs themselves. This book is here to set the record straight and it’s a must-read for all dog guardians.

In Defense Of Dogs John Bradshaw

You can read 2 reviews of In Defense of Dogs here and here

Who’s Walking Whom?

 Such short little lives our pets have to spend with us, and they spend most of it waiting for us to come home each day.  It is amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives and even how much closer we become with each other because of them. ― John Grogan, Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World’s Worst Dog

Dog walking human
Is this what you and your dog look like on walks together?

 

In our family, the evening walk with our dog is our “family time” together.  It’s such a great time to bond with our dog, and it’s a great time for us to talk about our day with each other.  Our dog gets to spend “happy time” with her people, and frankly, its the highlight of her day!  If you are gone all day, I can promise you that the evening walk is your dog’s most exciting time of the day.  They do look forward to it, and it’s the very least that we can do for them when they are stuck inside all day, waiting for their people to come home.

However, walks can be very stressful when we are not in sync.  One of my biggest pet peeves (no pun intended) is when a dog pulls on a leash while we are walking together.  It is incredibly frustrating, and it makes the walk very stressful.  The walk ends up being cut short because it’s not enjoyable for anyone.  This can also be dangerous for older people, or anyone with physical limitations. If a dog is pulling on the lead, you can literally be swept off your feet! (I know this for a fact.)

Here’s another problem:  Dogs need to be walked once a day – at a minimum.  Who wants to walk a dog that walks the person?!  No one does.  If walks are stressful, chaotic, or exhausting, you are probably going to be less likely to want to go on a walk with your canine companion. Avoiding walks because they are stressful is not a productive solution!

So what’s the solution?  Teach your dog how to walk politely on a leash.


dog pulling human
Does your dog walk you?

 

Dogs love to explore their outside world.  Going on a walk is the most exciting (and most stimulating!) part of their doggie day, so their desire to rush ahead of you is very strong.  It’s their nature to want to run ahead and seek out all of those incredible scents, sights, and sounds!

Unfortunately, we don’t make ideal walking partners for high energy dogs, since we only have two legs.  A dog’s natural and comfortable walking pace is much faster than ours.  When a dog has to put the breaks on their excitement by walking calmly by their person’s side, this is very hard for them, especially when the only thing our dog wants to do is RUN and EXPLORE!  Our boring, slow human pace can drive them nuts, making them want to get further away from the person that’s holding them back.

Contrary to popular belief, dogs do not pull on the leash while being walked because they want to be pack leader, top dog, alpha, or dominant over their human.  There is a much simpler explanation that does not give credence to the myth that dogs are on a quest for world domination! ~ V. Stilwell

Walking calmly next to a person while out and about on a walk, requires a great amount of impulse control.  This is often very difficult for some dogs to practice.  People often get frustrated and fed up, so they resort to punishment or tools that are downright dangerous.


Tools of the Old School Trade – What to AVOID

There are a variety of tools on the market today that claim to help with leash walking.  Be Aware: Some of these methods are outdated and downright cruel.

Choke, prong and shock collars can irreversibly damage your dog.  Learn why these collars cause hypothyroidism and other health problems:


FACT:  Modern behavioral science has proven that forceful handling such as physical punishment, using choke chains, shock collars, and leash yanking is psychologically damaging for the dog.

I invite you to do a little test: 

1. Open your hands with your thumbs touching each other. Place the thumbs at the base of the throat and with the fingers pointing back and surrounding the neck.
2. Now, take a deep breath, squeeze and pull back with all your force keeping your thumbs connected.
3. This is how many dogs feel when they are on the leash and collar and they are pulling.

If you are still keen to continue with this experiment, put a choke chain or pinch collar around your neck, attach it to a leash, and ask a friend to pull and jerk on it periodically.  Welcome to the dog world!

pinch collar choke collars

 

 


Tips for Success, and What You Need to Consider First!

Before you begin,  here are a few tips that you need to consider:

Reward:  Do you know what motivates your dog?  Is it verbal praise, toys, or treats?  Once you know what their motivation is, you can use that as a tool for training.  Find out what really excites your canine companion and what grabs their attention.  If your boss at work gave you sauerkraut when you performed well, but your favorite treat is chocolate, you probably won’t perform well again.  Make sure the reward is something that will be worth their effort.

Time Limit:  Remember that you don’t need to spend a half hour doing a training session.  5 to 10 minutes is best.  Do a training session with your dog two or three times a day.  Keep it short! Keep it FUN!

Punishment is Outdated:  Positive training is going to produce results faster and is going to last.  It’s far better to have a dog do what is asked because he or she wants to do it rather than doing it because he or she is afraid of the consequences if they do not.

Set them up for success:  Begin inside! Then you can move outside after both you and your dog have mastered indoors!  You want to start in an environment where there are few/zero distractions.  Once you have mastered that together you can move the sessions outside.  When you go outside, follow the same guidelines: zero distractions, in a boring, small area.  (ex backyard, no squirrels, people, or other dogs, etc.).  Once you master small, boring spaces, progress to moderately exiting spaces.  If that’s too much, take a few steps back, and make the environment less exciting. You want to set your dog up for success in an environment where you are way more exciting than anything else that’s happening. Then you can start to add in outside distractions.

TIP:  You will both succeed more quickly if you find a way to tire your canine companion before a training session.  Dogs pull, in part, because they’re full of excess energy.  So unless you can expend that energy, he or she will find it hard to control themselves.   Before training, play fetch in a hallway or your backyard, play a vigorous game of tug, Get crazy with a Flirt Pole, or let her play with her favorite doggie pal first!

High Note: Always end on a positive note (even if you did not see the results you wanted yet)! Ending it on a good note will help you both; your dog will want to do another session with you if she’s having fun, and you will too!

 

You will have more success during a training session if  your canine companion is relaxed and not full of hyper energy.
You’ll have more success during training sessions if your canine companion is relaxed and not full of hyper energy.

Training TRUTH:  The most successful modern training theories show that reinforcing good behavior with rewards while using constructive discipline is much more successful.   Learn more about why positive reinforcement works.

Hocus walking calmly on leash while surrounded by lots of neighborhood distractions.  She doesn't have to walk parallel to me, but we do continue to encourage calm, relaxed behavior on lead.
Hocus walking calmly on leash (while surrounded by lots of neighborhood distractions). Our Criteria: She doesn’t have to walk parallel to us, if she chooses not to, but we do continue to encourage (reinforce) calm, relaxed behavior on lead. Notice that the lead is loose, not tight, which is the criteria we have reinforced. She can walk ahead, but she has learned that it’s no longer reinforcing to pull on her leash. We never punish unwanted behavior. We REINFORCE the behavior we want to see more of!

 

 

paw prints

Behavior Bite:  We add tension and stress when we pull back on the leash.   Not only does pulling back on a dog’s leash prevent the dog from moving freely and naturally, but it creates tension in our dog.  Most dogs will resist this pressure on their necks/shoulders (that you have created) and they will pull harder!  Loosen up. It lightens the load on both you and your dog!


The videos below demonstrate easy and simple techniques that teach you how to teach your canine to walk politely on a leash.  These methods are using positive, force-free techniques:

Victoria Stillwell demonstrates how to teach Loose Leash Training – INSIDE:


Once you have successfully mastered loose leash training inside, you can train again outside:

 


Loose Leash Walking Outside  -Using Tasty Treats, Outside, with Minimal Distractions: 


 

Loose-Leash-Walking
Tip: The goal is to have a “J” shape in the leash/lead.

 

Remember:

Find their motivation.

Keep the training sessions short.

Always end on a high note.

Positive reinforcement always triumphs over negative consequences.

Set them up for success.

Make it Fun!

 

 


Training Truth + Tips for Success: See Beyond The Surface.

Not everything is what it appears to be. Most dogs who lunge on leash are highly insecure. They may look vicious, but behind many frightening Fido faces are dogs that are are experiencing frustration or FEAR.

This is why it’s never recommended to punish a dog that lunges on the leash.

When we yank, hit, yell, or jerk on the leash of a dog that is *reacting*, we are adding fuel to the fire. We are making the situation worse, AND in the process, we are teaching the dog that they should be afraid of whatever it is they are barking, growling, or lunging at.

Our job as their guardian is to do the opposite: We want to teach the dog to focus on something else, and to change they way they FEEL about the perceived threat.  Learn how to by clicking on the image below.

leash-aggression_dog barks lunges on leash

 


 

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