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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Taking a few steps back


As some of you may know, I am learning about sled dog pulling.  I don’t compete, it is only for fun.  It is something different for the dogs and myself and we are both learning as we go.

When I started teaching Chance how to pull, he didn’t like the harness.  He would let me put it on and would run great, but he never got used to it.  He has a severe anxiety to foreign things on his body.  It took me almost a year to be able to brush him.  I sort of rushed through the whole getting-used-to harness-thing as I thought he would get used to it eventually, because he was always fine once he started running. I don't know what I was thinking, but to my dismay, I have found his anxiety has gotten worse after the last time I put his harness on him.  So I had to take a huge step back and try to break down this fear to the beginning.

I walked outside with a harness in hand, Chance immediately backed away.  I dropped it on the ground, crouched down by it and he came only so close.  I picked it up again.  He hesitantly came to me. I hung them on the fence while standing by them.  Chance was still on guard.  The harnesses were too much for him.  So I got rid of the harness and came back out with a leash that I’d made a loop through.  He stuck his head through the loop for a treat, while I put the loop over his head and hung it around his neck for a couple of seconds then removed it.  I tried this a couple more times, the tension in his body was still too stiff.  I had to go back even a step further.  I held the loop in front of him, while he stuck his nose through and he grabbed the treat.  WHEW, success!  His whole body heaved in relief that said, Now I can handle that!  His eyes crinkle with happiness, as I'd finally found that safe spot.  Putting his nose through the loop was all he needed and it was a relief for me as well.  Now I knew where to start and could take my time working through his levels of fear.

I may or may not be able to get a harness on Chance.  I don’t know.  We may or may not sled this winter, we might just practice sled training without actually getting on the sled, or we may do nothing related to the fact.    Whatever we do, I want the dogs to enjoy it, worry free.  The dogs mental and emotional well being means a whole lot more than learning any dog sport.  I ended up getting way ahead of myself when I started doing this sledding thing and I too, am ready to just take a backseat if necessary.  Whether we are riding the snow or just enjoying a walk through it, I want to make this winter a special time.  Any time spent together is too precious to not enjoy to the fullest. 

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8 comments:

Bailey Be Good! said...

Sorry things didn't work out with the harness right away, but Chance is lucky to have someone so patient and willing to keep trying. :)

Woofs & hugs, <3

~Bailey (Yep, I'm a girl!)

Mandy said...

Vigorously nodding my head in agreement with "Bailey Be Good"!

♥♥♥ The OP Pack ♥♥♥ said...

We send you wishes for lots of luck with Chance and the harnesss. YOu are so good to be so patient with him. We would love to pull a sled.

Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, Ciara, and Lightning

Hound Girl said...

we will keep our paws crossed he will get use to it. Fred is very shy and scared when it comes to things like that on his body - it took me forever to get him use to his backpack. hang in there

Maggie Mae said...

You is such a good and patient momma! All of your pups is very lucky to have you:)

Woofs and Licks,
Maggie Mae

browndogcbr said...

Hi Y'all,

Just when all is lost, or so you thought, trust returns and with leaps and bounds you accomplish your goal. Patience in definitely the name of the game and you have that!

Y'all come by now,
Hawk aka BrownDog

browndogcbr said...

Hi Y'all,

Just stopped back to tell y'all that you're nominated for "My 7 Links" -- stop by to see my post tomorrow.

Y'all come by now,
Hawk aka BrownDog

Siku Marie, White Dog said...

We love the fact that you took time to find his starting point for comfort. Anything you build from that will be positive and nonthreatening...you are so patient and have such a wonderful commitment to do right by your pups.