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Saturday, August 17, 2013

"I'm too old for this!"

Despite our best training efforts, the trail to better dog behavior can get bumpy at times.  The older we are, the more the bumps can hurt.  It's best to know when to change directions, accept the way things are, and learn to manage situations to minimize potential problems.

Yesterday my boisterous young Lab, Angus, pulled me right off my feet.  He saw a squirrel to chase, and I went horizontal before I went "splat" on the gravel road.  The retractable leash jerked free of my hands and chased the dog, as I lay there yelling cuss words in the dirt.  (Maybe you've seen the HILARIOUS YouTube classic of the little old lady going horizontal behind the Great was just like that, only not as funny to me!)

Mind you, this is our sweet, charming, normally dependable Lab who excels in obedience competition.  But yesterday was a rude reminder that he is not bombproof and never will be.  Nor, perhaps, do we really want him to be.  Making him bombproof would require a frontal lobotomy, and we don't want a zombie dog!

So....we deal with the facts.  When 60-year-old people incur strains and bruises, they take longer to heal.  We're not as strong and agile as we used to be.  Their reaction time is slower, their balance is worse.  Bottom line:  older people have to be more careful with their activities.  They must adjust and modify.

That's why I've ordered a Gentle Leader head halter for Angus.  I don't want to quit walking him; I just want to be safer when I do it.  Rather than take chances and depend on training alone, I'm going to be ready for the unexpected.  The Gentle Leader is no substitute for training, just as a seat belt isn't a substitute for a defensive driving course.  But it will help minimize chances of my getting hurt (or my dog getting away) if the surprise squirrel reappears.

I have a friend and former student whose two leashed Great Danes bolted, pulling her off her feet  and slamming her into a car.  She spent months in a body cast.  My advice to her after her accident was to always walk the Danes in Gentle Leaders, "just in case."   Now I'm going to use the same advice.

Training is necessary, but it's not always enough.  Awareness of situations, management, and common sense are all required for responsible dog parenting, and even more so as we age!

For more on Gentle Leaders, check the post I wrote here several years ago.  It explains the system very well.

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