Those darn people who talk on their cell phones while ignoring their dog at the end of a flexi-leash.
The person who insists her dog will listen to her off leash as she yells “Buster, Buster, BUSTER. Get over here.”
And how about that guy who yanks his dog away from every interesting smell?
On any walk, I see plenty of dog walkers who make me sad. But none are worse than the folks clicking and treating.
No Time To Talk; I’m Training
Honey and I have been practicing for her Canine Good Citizen test in high-distraction settings: the park, the coffee shop, the elementary school.
Every dog and his person is a challenge. Can Honey pay attention to me? Will she continue to listen? Can she avoid pulling to greet someone interesting?
Last week I saw a woman walking a black dog toward us. When she saw us, she made the dog sit and I heard the faint sound of a click and saw her pop a treat into his mouth.
The dog was getting excited and starting to pull. So I moved Honey up onto the steps of the church we were passing—about 20 feet away from the sidewalk where the woman and her dog would pass.
As the dog came closer, he got more and more excited. The woman worked hard to redirect his attention to her and when he was calm for a micro-second, she clicked and treated.
It was obvious they had a lot of work ahead of them. But she appeared committed to teaching her dog good manners.
A few days ago, Honey and I were walking home when we saw the clicking woman and her dog again. They had come far in just a few short days.
Since it appeared he could handle it, I simply moved Honey off the sidewalk and made her sit. We were no more than six feet away when the black dog walked by—pulling a little but mostly walking calmly by his person’s side.
As the woman clicked and treated, she met my eye and smiled.
I wanted to stop and chat. To tell her how wonderfully her dog was doing in a short time. To compare training notes.
But the woman was focused on her dog. And that’s the way it should be.
Finding Your Tribe
When it comes to all things dog, my tribe is online.
I was really excited when I moved to Ithaca. They have a dog training club that offers everything from puppy classes to advanced agility.
But when I read the instructions for the puppy class that insisted all puppies be fitted with a slip (e.g. choke) collar, I knew this wasn’t my tribe.
It was confirmed when my neighbor told me how his trainer in the club taught him to knee his exuberant Golden Retriever in the chest to keep him from jumping. It was ok for the kids to turn away to discourage the behavior. But adults could only teach a dog by causing pain.
So you can see why I’m so excited to see trainers on the street who “get it.” And why I’m so sad that we don’t have time to chat.
Maybe I need to make up some business cards I could slip to people training their dogs as we walk by that say, “Email me if you want to have a cup of tea with a fellow dog lover.”
Or post a notice on Craigslist and hope it doesn’t attract the wackadoos that often hang out in the pets postings.
Or maybe I’ll just continue to smile and wave at fellow clicker trainers on the street and be happy that they’re there.
Do you have “dog” friends in your neighborhood? Where did you meet them? At the dog park? Volunteering? Or is your “tribe” mostly online?