Pushing The Owners Out Of Their Comfort Zone

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Many dog owners tell me their greatest desire is to have a dog they can let off the lead and their dog will come back to them, regardless of distraction.
This is, without doubt, the holy grail of dog ownership and yet, like the holy grail, just as elusive.
One such owner has a young German shepherd dog that has experienced difficulties around other dogs and these difficulties have made her wary and uncertain with her dog.
As a result, her dog has become wary and uncertain when around other dogs and he barks and lunges at them.
This just adds to the owners stress and uncertainty and makes her more convinced she will never be able to have her dog off the lead when around other dogs.
This has been the situation for the past few weeks and it must have been bothering her because she asked me in tonight's dog behaviour class if I thought she would ever be able to achieve her ambition? Her face was a picture when I told her that her dog was more than ready and very able to behave in this way and it was only her uncertainty holding them back.
Now you have to bear in mind I have some very disturbed dogs in my classes so to take a dog off the lead in what is quite a volatile situation could lead to trouble should the dog decide to react to any of the other dogs in the class.
The owner did admit this was her worst fear and it was this fear that had prevented her from taking the risk.
Because I know all of the dogs in my classes very well, I know how they will react to stimulation, especially other dogs and in tonight's class was a Jack Russell Terrier who was reactive.
Prior to letting the German shepherd off the lead, I briefed the other dog owners so they knew what I was going to do and how to deal with the dog if he came up to them and their dogs.
The initial test is a simple one.
I took the dogs lead from his owner and asked her to walk away from her dog.
When she was about ten metres away I asked her to call her dog and I dropped the lead.
He ran straight to her, just as I knew he would.
I then asked her to drop the lead and walk away from him to see if he would follow her and ignore the other dogs.
He did not.
He walked past the Jack Russell Terrier who lunged and barked so the German shepherd responded in kind.
I asked the German shepherd owner to call her dog, she did and to her immense surprise, her dog left the Jack Russell Terrier and came straight back to her.
We repeated this test several times and the German shepherd then completely ignored all of the other dogs and walked around the field, off the lead yet with his owner.
At the end of the class when she had put her dog back on the lead, she told me that she had been very scared the whole time, yet had been amazed at how well her dog had behaved.
In order for this to succeed in the long term, she must learn to relax and trust her dog and she will then fulfil her dream, to be able to walk her dog off the lead and have calm and complete control of him.
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