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