Thursday, March 18, 2010


Here she is! My dream dog, Millie back when it was snowy and not a sweltering 70 degrees like today (sweltering for Millie with all that fur. Personally I am happy Spring is here!) So it's been over a week now of trying to Millie to tug outside, and there has been some success! On our two long walks of the day we end up in a ball park where I get her to jump up and push at me to get her food (this was a challenge I will talk about later!) and then I run round to try and encourage her to chase me and a tug rope. The first day I tried this I dribbled a soccer ball around with her on a long leash beside me to see if being in a group chase mode might encourage her to tug, and it did! she tugged on her leash for a little while. So the next day I left the soccer ball at home and took a tug rope doing some pushing again, some running around and each time at the end she looks to the lead to tug and I replace it with the rope and we tug a little.
It's still slow going. She'll tug reasonably hard for about five minutes now and then she feels uncomfortable or is distracted so I leave it there. The last two days I've been practising getting her in a down stay where I back away about 20 feet and then get her to run to me and jump up for food and push with me again which she loves! I am almost bowled over by her jumping at me and the longer her stay, the more she seems excited to then look for the tug toy.
Why the fixation on the tugging outside I suppose one might ask. It's a natural dog training theory that maintains that tugging outside (and always letting Millie win!) gets her to express a lot of the energy that's balled up inside her in fear. It's a good way of her getting it out in a safe environment, and hopefully she learns that I am the one who helps her get this energy out. The aim is to get her tugging really hard for up to 15 minutes and enjoying every minute. It's not a replacement for exercise. We walk three hours a day, although I must admit I know I should be jogging with her. She's young and could do with higher impact exercise. Ah. I might have to suck it up and get jogging.
It is frustrating sometimes the slow progress with Millie. Today she pulled all over the place on her lead, barked at every movement outside the front door, and paced the apartment anxiously - three things that seemed to have subsided lately. But it is also easy to forget just how far she has come. I was reminded today when a man on the street called her to him, ruffled her cheeks and buried his head in his face to kiss her. When she arrived seven or so weeks ago, she would have barked immediately at him, jumped frantically around on her leash to escape with tail between her legs and then pulled me round the block. She may have even nipped him if he had got too close. Today, however, she wagged her tail, jumped up at him, and then, when his face moved in, jumped away, tail between her legs, but then recovered immediately and was calm. Similarly some neighbours were in the lobby yesterday and she ran out and jumped up then and wanted to follow them. Only three weeks ago she was barking at people in the lobby. So there is progress even though some days it seems there isn't.
So this week, all I want to do with Millie is much of the same. Patience is key. I'm going to add a few distractions to the downstay and try and increase the distance that I am away from her.
We're also going to try and work on dog socialisation! This I really need to not push her on as she has a lot of fear there. While she wags her tail around dogs, if they go to sniff her backside her hair goes up and she growls a little. I've started taking her to the dog run for five minutes at a time when there are only a handful of very calm dogs in there. In Tompkins Square Park that really is only five minutes a day!

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