Have a mental picture

I am at my client’s and she is telling me that her little dog did not want to go for a walk last week.

She cannot understand why her dog refuses to walk on lead and basically popped her bottom on the ground in protest.

I am not very familiar with this dog as I have only seen her twice so I cannot immediately shed some light as to why she chooses not to go for a walk.  Is it the collar that she has been recently wearing? As we try to “clear” the aversion she has for the harness my client was using for her.  Perhaps she does not want to go for a walk and potentially meet the neighbor’s large dog that once ran up to them.  At this point it is all a mystery.

I proceed to leash the dog and I encourage her to walk with me in the spacious home. I show my client how to position her body in order to encourage her dog to move forward with her. All this I learned courtesy of TTouch.

Her little dog begins to move along with me.  Initially with slight hesitation but I kept having a mental picture in my mind as to what I wanted the dog to do.

My client can’t believe it.  Her dog is almost trotting along my side delighted in the small treats that I give to her as she approaches me.

Well, I tell her, I have no idea as to why she would not walk at all on lead for her, but here are some of my suggestions.  I tell her that she should have a picture in her mind as to what she wants the dog to do.

I proceed by explaining that having a clear mental picture of what the dog needs to do is helpful in a few ways. First it gives us clarifications as to what exactly we will be reinforcing. In this case, any movement forward on lead which by default precludes the dog placing her butt on the ground and not moving forward.

Secondly, we are focused on the solution, so to speak instead of staying focus on the problem.

I learned of this “technique” from some fantastic horse trainers whose methods of training I admire.  What they can accomplish with their horses is truly out of this world and all of it is trained by using gentle methods, cooperation and never coercion on the horses. My line of thinking was that if these highly skilled trainers were using this technique I could too. Now, it has become part of the natural way of approaching a situation that needs some modification.

We proceed to take the dog outside.  Proof of fire- I tell my client, let’s find out if perhaps there was something out there that concerned her and she wanted to avoid.

As I step into their front patio, I continue to use a matter-of-fact tone of voice. Another proven technique to encourage cooperation. You see, dogs are highly social animals and as such they are constantly taking cues from their environment and us.  If I asked the dog to move along with me without having any hesitation in my mind or tone of voice she then can muster whatever was lacking earlier in her ability to walk forward on the lead.

Once outside, I continue with the same approach as I did in the home and long and behold the pup is keeping up with us now sniffing and almost prancing with delight.

As we turned around to head back home I gave my client the lead as she continues to encourage her dog to move along.

The dog’s reluctant to go for a walk was one mystery I could not resolve. But at least, I had the opportunity to encourage her ever so gentle to walk with me on the lead.  The fact is that there will be many times that we will not know what is behind a particular circumstance or behavior, but we can still use the formula of having a clear picture in our minds as to what we would like that behavior to be instead and from that premise we can come up.