Fol­low my lead

Estab­lish­ing who is in con­trol with a few pearls of wis­dom from across the pond. By Rod­er­ick Emery.

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How do we stop a springer spaniel pulling at the lead? More specif­i­cally, how do we stop a young springer spaniel pulling on the lead? Now I don’t know how many of you will recog­nise the name Ce­sar Mil­lan, but he’s the hot thing in ca­nine psy­chol­ogy in the US right now and has there­fore all the an­swers to your dog train­ing needs. The Batty Spaniel Woman is all over his stuff like a rash. Which, I grant you, is not the tra­di­tional ap­proach of Batty Spaniel Women I have known in the past.

How­ever, con­trary to much of the dippy hippy non­sense which comes out of the US, a good deal of what this fel­low says makes real sense. This may come as a bit of a shock to the “reg­u­lar damn good thrash­ing” bri­gade. Their train­ing regime is founded upon the dusty tome pinched from the li­brary of a high­land lodge which con­tains the ad­vice of some Vic­to­rian dog breaker of note, but there we go. We must move with the times.

Un­cle Ce­sar’s first com­ment is: “What is your dog do­ing on a lead to start with?” Reliance on a lead to keep your pup un­der con­trol is a glar­ing ad­mis­sion of fail­ure in the mod­ern era be­cause you have not es­tab­lished your­self as pack leader, and your dog – or dogs – are con­stantly chal­leng­ing your author­ity by get­ting ahead of you. And they pull at the lead for the same rea­son: be­cause they want you to come with them to some­where else. The an­swer, there­fore, is not to pull back in­creas­ingly sav­agely with choke chains and growl­ing ever louder, but to stop. Dead. Like a tree. And not to go any­where un­til the dog has sat down. At heel. And recog­nised – as it soon will – that pulling is a non-starter be­cause pullers go nowhere at all, let alone any­where in­ter­est­ing. And it def­i­nitely works.

Old dog

I say, I wouldn’t do that if I were you. I know that there are some very in­ter­est­ing smells over there. I may be old, kid, but my nose hasn’t fallen off yet. Fox after a cat, I shouldn’t won­der. Prob­a­bly stalk­ing a pheas­ant and didn’t no­tice Mr Fox sneak­ing up be­hind. The hunter hunted, eh? Still, there’s no point pulling be­cause we never go that way. And if you pull he just gets red­der and louder. Oh, I used to pull. In my day. Nearly had him flat on his arse more than once. Of course, I’m big­ger than you, aren’t I? Didn’t change things though. ‘Cos he’s big­ger than me, when you come down to it. And he’s got this re­ally tight col­lar thing as well. And he has the key to the food store, too, you’re not wrong there. I should say not, eh? We wouldn’t want to jeop­ar­dise that, now would we? Not to men­tion Mr Naughty News­pa­per, what? Who is Mr Naughty News­pa­per? Well, let’s just say that he was a bit of a fea­ture in my young life. And he will be in yours, if you keep pulling like that.

Young dog

Let’s go over here! Can we go over here? Pleeeeease! No? No. You’ve stopped. We’ve stopped. We’ve all stopped. Hmmm? Can we go? No? No. OK, I’ll sit down for a bit. Maybe I’ll lie down. Uh oh, off we go again. Can we go this way? Pleeeaa...... you’ve stopped again. We’ve all stopped again. This is not in­ter­est­ing. This is dull. Off we go then. What about....... what’s with the stop­ping al­ready? I was only think­ing that we might just go over....... THAT WASN’T A PULL!! That was scarcely even a tug. That wasn’t fair. OK, I’ll do you a deal. If I walk like this can I have a bit of a run about when we get wher­ever we’re go­ing? Bit of a hunt? Sniff of this or that? Wad­dya say? Do we have a deal. OK you’re on. For now we walk and later we run. And I don’t get to meet Mr Nasty Kneespop­per, OK? Who­ever that is. You know, some­times I sim­ply can’t un­der­stand a word that old dog says. Lives in a dif­fer­ent world.

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