Peace, Love, & Belly Rubs

 It’s hard to believe that Leash & Hand is approaching its first birthday and that I have been in business as a professional dog trainer for nearly one year.  The time has simply flown by, filled with dogs and lessons and learning… and you.  So before 2018 ends, I wanted to take a moment to let you know just how much I have appreciated the support, laughter, and love.

I was blessed with great clients who made me look like a brilliant trainer.  I asked one client to bring ‘dog caviar’ for off-leash recalls–she showed up with baby food, deli roast beef sliced in cubes, and Cabot premium white cheddar in chunks.  She was delighted and amazed when her dog responded to the cue by wheeling around and streaking back to her.  I was delighted, but not amazed.  Fabulous treats, praise, love, and then a release cue so that Georgie could do it all over again?!  To the dog it’s the best game in town; to me it’s a matter of team work, building trust, and the right reinforcer.  My client made it easy because she’d done as I’d asked, using high value treats and her assigned ‘homework’ of laying a recall foundation before the off-leash practice.

I was blessed with great dogs who were a pleasure to work with–like Zoe, a 9-year old (or possibly even older) mastiff mix.  Her owner wanted to be able to walk her off-leash on wooded paths near his home.  A rescue who ran off if she got loose, he was worried that perhaps she was too old to learn.  This is a direct quote from the first email he sent to me:  “I am willing to put in the time to teach Zoe, if it, in fact, can be done.  Is this possible?”  I wish I had video of just how possible it was–and the simple, unadulterated joy Zoe exhibited during the training process.  She absolutely adored the “Come-come!” game. I actually got a lump in my throat watching the old gal bounce and hop as she galloped from person to person while we took turns calling her name and rewarding her with treats, praise, laughter, and love.  Her wonderful owner put in the time and effort; now Zoe, in her declining years, enjoys her morning walks off-lead with her person.

Then there’s Blue, an adorable 5-month old Cockapoo who kept me from taking myself too seriously.  She was a smarty-pants and her owner had great timing and skills.  By the end of our contracted sessions Blue actually had an impressive “leave it”…. but still wouldn’t consistently return the ball when playing fetch.  This, after telling her owner that ‘leave it’ was a fairly difficult behavior for a puppy to master, but I’d be happy to lay out the basics.  Oh and of course we can teach her to play fetch. Hah!  Blue would dash to retrieve the ball, spin to return, and then… zoom straight past us to lay underneath the picnic table, where she stayed, black eyes sparkling merrily, tongue lolling, while I cavorted, cajoled, back-pedaled, and basically made an ass of myself.  I can only guess at what the neighbors must have thought.  Blue though?  She was laughing at me.  (For her graduation present, I was quite tempted to give her a ball.)  

Here’s to Luke, Rama, Tonka, Ginger, Loki, Iris, and all the rest of you.  Your antics put a smile on my face and made me laugh.  You were quick to learn and a delight to train.  Your humans were conscientious, kind, and some of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.  Lulu, Charlie, and Clara, your fear was real, but with time, patience, and your dedicated humans, you learned that good things were out there:  hands held treats, harnesses were for walks, and the world was indeed a safe place.  Thank you for placing your trust in me. 

And finally, before I go, it is with true and genuine gratitude that I sincerely thank my FaceBook friends and family.  You’ve cheered me on, “liked” my successes, enjoyed my blogs, and shared my posts.  Happy Holidays.  I wish you all peace, love, and belly rubs.