A major milestone

27 Jan

Wednesday morning Ilsa and I achieved a goal we’ve been working toward for over two years. No, it wasn’t a new title. And it didn’t have anything to do with eating. Or birds. Ilsa and I just went for a walk.

How could a walk be such a big deal? Well, this walk happened to be first thing in the morning. Without Gumbo. Without Susan. Just me and my girl.

Let’s back up so you can understand why this particular walk was such a big deal. It’s not like Ilsa and I never go on walks. In fact, on Saturday mornings, we frequently take long walks at a random park in the city. But to get there we have to drive. Many mornings I will get up early and run with Gumbo (he is frequently my alarm clock :)) and come home and take Ilsa for a walk on a nearby trail. But again, we drive to get there. Otherwise, Gumbo and Susan accompany us to the park located less than a mile from our house.

So why don’t I just walk Ilsa at such a conveniently located park on my own? Well, up until Wednesday, she wouldn’t go with me (at least not first thing in the morning).

Very early in Ilsa’s life, she developed an extremely strong attachment to Susan which later led to separation anxiety. We managed to work through that rather successfully, but if Ilsa knew that Susan was at home, she wouldn’t leave the house with me without getting in the car. Plus, who would want to leave the house in the morning when you can just stay under the covers :lol:. The car was no problem because it means we’re going to do something extra special!

Building off Ilsa’s success in the bird field last weekend, I thought we’d give a walk in the park a try once again. Normally, Ilsa would put the brakes on as soon as we hit the sidewalk. I’ve read every recommendation you can imagine trying to learn how to handle a dog that puts the brakes on – with no luck. On Wednesday, I mustered up the courage, and we set out for a walk. I packed a pocket full of treats which got Ilsa revved up before we even hit the front door. These treats were not meant as a lure or even an incentive to go with me. Instead, these treats were rewards for simple games like a touch game (I stick out my hand and Ilsa noses it) and sitting when I stop walking. I don’t give treats every time Ilsa performs a desired behavior. Instead I mix it up. One of the best things I’ve read about keeping a dog interested in you is to not be a Coke machine for you dog (action ALWAYS returns a reward) because that’s boring. Instead be a slot machine. Mix it up and every once in a while reward your dog with a JACKPOT. It turns out Ilsa would be one heck of a Vegas gambler!

The one other thing we’ve worked on quite a bit is eye contact. For just a couple of minutes a day, Ilsa gets a click and a treat for making eye contact with me. I picked up this simple suggestion from Click Your Way to Rally Obedience by Pamela Dennison. Dennison says after a couple of days your dog with be staring at you with laser beam eyes – she wasn’t kidding! I highly encourage you to try it.

So all in all Ilsa and I had a lovely walk at the park. She pranced around and had a great time. Sometimes the simplest things can be so exciting!


2 Responses to “A major milestone”

  1. 2browndawgs January 27, 2012 at 2:24 PM #

    Congratulations on your success. Hopefully it is the first of many more walks to come.

  2. Amanda @ Click. The Good News January 27, 2012 at 2:27 PM #

    Aww- that’s great progress! Glad to hear you had a good walk 😉

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