Further to my initial Titbit post, when I had just started off as Tilly’s dog walker (which can be found here), this post is an update on the regular walks and the development of our relationship; the further adapting to each other, and the behavioural changes seen in Tilly as she has learned to work with me more.
Just like a new puppy, Tilly has been pushing the boundaries with me recently; she knows I am a regular person in her life, and it is obvious that she wants to clearly define the boundaries with me… which means pushing them, to see where I set boundaries. This is a good thing, as she is learning to respect the boundaries I am setting, and this makes for a happier walk for the both of us! If Tilly does not respect the boundaries I set, she then needs to be brought back into line with the established boundaries, and understand what behaviour is acceptable.
As Tilly is now able to walk off-lead with me, this is why we are now establishing new boundaries and developing a new level of trust with one another. There is a lot less physical control (that you get with a lead), and a lot more trust and patience with her when she is off-lead. Tilly has learned “wait”, “come”, “walk on” and “keep up” so far with me, whilst being off-lead.
Tilly can often bound ahead of me, especially if I walk her in a new place, as there are so many things to see, smell and scent mark! However, it is always good practise to ensure you keep your dog in sight when he/she is off-lead, and I don’t always know what is up ahead or around the corner; people with kids and/ or other dogs, horse-riders, cyclists, an open gate… you get it. If Tilly gets ahead of me, for whatever reason, I have taught her to “wait” at my command, some examples being; she will stop in sight before turning a corner, she will stop and wait out of the way when necessary, and will stop and wait for me to put her lead back on her (if it is necessary for me to do so). This command is often preceded with a loud whistle or a couple of claps, as her hearing (at over 10 years old) is not what it used to be, and she can be a fair distance from me.
“Tilly, come” always sounds to me like Tilikum (the real name of the male Orca who played “Shamu” at Sea World, Orlando), but is often necessary when other dogs are around, and “come” is to generic, and I end up with more dogs than just Tilly with that command!
I often use just “come” when there are no/ few others around, but in closer proximity and with more dogs/ walkers around with the ease in lock-down, “Tilly, come” is becoming the norm. Personally, I find that using either “come” or “[dog name], come” depends on the situation, and often what the individual dog responds to better. Tilly is good at responding to both (most of the time). This command is sometimes preceded with a loud whistle or a couple of claps, if she is a fair distance from me.
My little Bedlington, Barney (R.I.P.), used to respond well to “come” alone, but if he was playing up and choosing to ignore me or take his time in coming back, a firmer “Barney, come” would do the trick, more often than not.
Sometimes on narrow pathways, Tilly likes to take her time and take in all the smells; this is fine when it’s just us, but with other people waiting to use said narrow pathways (and social distancing needing to be adhered to) Tilly sometimes needs encouragement to “walk on” and keep moving. Sometimes she is just being a bit lazy on our morning walkies (we’ve all been there!), and so needs a bit of encouragement to pick up the pace. I will often whistle following this command, as she sometimes doesn’t pick up on how close I am to her, and the whistle will spur her on if the command alone does not encourage her to sufficiently speed up.
This command is kind of like the opposite to “come” and “walk on”, this is when Tilly is lagging far behind (often because something just smells so amazing that she needs to sniff around for what can seem like forever!) and I feel like she may lose sight of me (which often means I won’t be able to see her either), so I encourage her to “keep up”. This command is often preceded with a loud whistle or a couple of claps, as she can be a fair distance behind me.
Setting boundaries with your dog helps to establish a positive and healthy relationship with your dog; lack of boundaries can lead to all sorts of behavioural problems. Dogs are pack animals and should be treated as such; dog owners must take on the role of Alpha. Dogs with leadership to follow are happy dogs; dog owners must be willing to take on the leadership role, and all pack members (human family) must be consist with the boundaries set. Behavioural problems can also arise when each different (human) family member has a different idea of what boundaries the dog is to follow – unclear boundaries can cause confusion with your dog, and cause anxiety as they are encouraged in a behaviour by one family member, yet reprimanded for the same behaviour by another family member. If everyone is on the same page, the dog will be too, and this is better for everyone!
These commands that I use with Tilly, I have also explained to my husband, as he will walk Tilly with me when he is able to (weekend morning’s mostly), so we are all on the same page. My husband will also use these commands with Tilly, and knows what to expect from her, with each command. Tilly knows to respond to him using those commands, in the same way she would respond to me.
Tilly trusts us both, and likes to ensure we all keep together when we are out and about; going back to those narrow pathways, Tilly is usually in the middle with myself or my husband taking the lead, and the other bringing up the rear, she will always keep checking behind her, to ensure the person at the rear is keeping up. If she feels this person is not keeping up, she will wait for them, whilst keeping check on the person up front. By walking this way when necessary, it helps us keep a decent pace, and means the front person can look out for what is up ahead, and the rear person can check on anything coming from behind. We do this mainly due to Tilly’s nervousness around bigger dogs, and fondness for eating whatever she finds on the ground – by doing this we can steer her around anything we need to, and prepare for a situation if other dogs are around.
If Tilly (or any dog I work with) is consistently ignoring my commands, she will go back onto the lead, and walk to heel until I feel like she is listening to me. I will practise commands with her whilst she is on the lead, then let her off-lead and practise the commands again. If she responds well, she will stay off-lead, if not she will go back on the lead and we will repeat the process. I am happy to report that this is a rare occurrence, and the frequency of me needing to do this is reducing with time.
Tilly is a happy dog, and enjoys being off-lead, so I always try to ensure her walks include safe spaces where she can be off-lead and have a run. Where she has to be on the lead she is accepting of this, and is well behaved on the lead.
All images are either open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.
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