Being a start-up business owner, I’m still living in a townhouse surrounded by other townhouses, as opposed to the farmhouse surrounded by fields that I hope to live in someday. So instead of letting my dogs run loose all day herding cows and chickens, I walk Elsa and Reese on a leash along a sidewalk past many other people and many other dogs. And every dog we walk past goes crazy when they see me and my dogs. They’ll bark or growl or whine and pull against the leash, creating quite the scene and aggravating their owners. But my girls just keep walking forward, never trying to get to the other dog. Why? Because I taught them how to be snobs…
It began with Elsa. She had a lot of anxiety as a young dog so I taught her how to focus on me during our walks, as opposed to her “scary” surroundings. I’d ask her to “heel” or do a trick or I’d continue to change directions so that she had to pay attention to me. Very soon Elsa learned to always do as I did on our walks…so if I walked right past another dog, she would do the same. And in addition to joining me on my regular dog walks, soon nothing surprised her, she met all sorts of dogs but with little excitement…quite frankly, she became a snob.
My theory was that since Elsa was always “working” on our walks and focusing on me and we never greeted other dogs on the street, she never anticipated it. Whereas, the other dog owners of my complex always allow their dogs to greet others, therefore teaching them to react to every dog with anticipation: whining, barking, or pulling. So when I got Reese as a 4 month old pup whose only socialization was with the breeder’s other dogs, I had a clean slate to work with. And remember, consistency is key. I knew that if I even once let Reese greet a dog while we were out on a walk together, she would begin to expect it whenever we passed a dog. So I never let Reese greet another dog. At first, she would do the typical, having never seen other dogs, she’d be curious, pull, and (as quite a talker anyways) bark. However, Elsa and I would just keep walking. And turns out, over time Reese learned that we were never going to stop to greet another dog, and therefore wouldn’t anticipate it.
And though she still sometimes gets a little excited when she sees another dog…watching him with her tail up and wagging, maybe with a little hop or too…she never stops trotting forward and never pulls against the leash. And she’s just as happy as any other dog on the street.
And I don’t mind that my dogs and I are known as snobs in my complex. I’m just too proud of them every time we quietly and peacefully walk right past a barking, pulling, whining dog at the end of someone else’s leash.