Don’t Forget What Assuming Does…

Sometimes it’s good to be honest about current challenges. As much as it hurts to admit, we often learn the most from situations that are the most difficult at the time.
This week, my dog and I are having a communication breakdown. She has had minor surgery and is wearing an elizabethan collar to prevent her from scratching the injury. Although she practiced wearing the e-collar before the surgery (yes, we did!), I failed to consider that her “tunnel vision” would greatly affect how we interacted during her walks.
Her regular breaks have now become exercises in fixation. Her limited vision is now the cause of a telescope-like focus on all sorts of delicious trash. Because of this unrelenting interest, my “leave it” commands have little impact on her obsession, and instead, I have been pulled around like a carriage behind the Headless Horseman.

After a good fifteen minutes of this, I was exasperated. I began to plead with her to leave the trash alone, and when she didn’t, I used all my strength to drag her across the sidewalk, and into a sit-stay. With bribes of Lean Treats I began a heartfelt counseling session, explaining to her that she needed to stay in a “heel” so that she could “visually connect with me.” With this in mind, we walked straight until she spied a ketchup packet looming in the distance. With me right behind her, she lunged cone-first toward the condiment.
I was at my wit’s end. The walk was a disaster, and Nora was stuck wearing the CONE OF SHAME for ten more days. This was obviously not working. And then I realized what I had done. Everything I have learned about dog training states that in times of crisis (i.e. cone-walking) I must remain calm, not repeat commands, and of course, set her up for success by training her in small steps.Whoops.
Looking back, I had made a whole lot of assumptions about Nora’s ability to walk with her cone on. Just because she could cone-lounge around the living room, did not mean that she was an expert on heeling while wearing it. I learned my lesson, and have reminded myself not to assume anything when training–even if I am training a human!

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