This evening, we took the dogs for a walk. The original plan was for Ron to walk Song and Jason while I gave Riggy an obedience lesson, but Songdog apparently forgot that he knew how to heel, because he kept jumping around and pulling at the lead. Three blocks from the house, he got so insufferable that Ron and I traded dogs.
To get Song’s attention, I insisted that he heel, then added demands and distractions meant to throw him off his game: Walk through this puddle. Walk through this pile of snow. Stop on a dime. Change directions. Sit on wet pavement. Walk at heel while I splash through this puddle.
It sounds mean, but you don’t do it as punishment. You do it to build trust and respect. You know that it isn’t going to hurt the dog to get wet, but he isn’t so sure. He has to trust you enough to believe that you aren’t going to lead him into danger, and he has to respect you enough to be willing to do what you ask, even if he isn’t wild about your requests.
Fifteen minutes with She Who Must Be Obeyed settled Song right down, so Ron and I traded back, and I gave Riggy a similar lesson on the way back home. He did very well. A few hours after we got home, I realized that while I was giving Song and Riggy a lesson in obedience, they were giving me a lesson in metaphysics.
How many times in the past year and a half has the Father tugged my leash in a direction I didn’t want to go? How many times has he asked me to walk through snow, sit on wet pavement, or go with him into an intimidating situation? How many times have I balked, whined, snapped at the leash, or growled in protest before finally giving in? And how much trouble could I have saved myself if I’d learned to obey as quickly as my dogs do?