This weekend we took our dogs up Provo Canyon to Bridal Veil Falls...and it was busy! So many people and so many other dogs.
My boxer mix has a history of lunging and being reactive to other dogs.
If I don't correct him in the moment he is thinking about lunging, it can turn very messy very quickly.
And especially my experiences with my boxer up this canyon have always been negative. I started training him once winter started, and we have not traversed this section of the city since then. To be respectful of other people I had him on his prong collar and a short 2' leash. However, the second we started down the path I was anxious, nervous, expecting the worst, and very tense.
Of course my dog picked up on my energy as dogs will. He wasn't paying attention to me, he had high energy, and my corrections on the prong were not as effective. When I train, I tell all my clients to relax and forget that their dog was ever a bad dog, and I wasn't even taking my own advice.
Finally, my husband noticing something was wrong, stopped me and said "Okay, this isn't working." He turned to me, "These dogs are off-leash trained and they do great. I'm going to let them off their leash and we are going to continue just like you've been doing for the last 2 months. And everything is going to be fine." Dogs were let off the leash and on we continued.
With that small reminder my shoulders relaxed, my jaw muscles loosened, my arms started to swing more naturally, and the sound and enjoyment came back into the day. Immediately the dogs were responsive, attentive to me and more obedient. We had a great walk, they went swimming and they were the best behaved dogs up there. My husband even asked me after "Did I see all the people staring at me and the dogs because they were so obedient and well-behaved?" Coming when called, heeling, running and sniffing and then coming back to heeling when we moved on.
I felt a little sheepish that I wasn't able to take my own advice in this instance. My memories and experiences of what it used to be like up this canyon crowded out the 2 months of incredible work and trust I've had with my dogs.
For people like me who had "bad" dogs that are now good dogs it can be hard to forget. We get around places or people where our memories tell us this was always a negative experience and we prepare for that negative experience....thereby causing the negative experience.
To all these people I say...chin up! It's a new day, and a new dog!