Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A humorous anecdote goes sour

Back in January I wrote a post called Dahlia the Drama Queen.  This posted was intended to be a humorous story about an incident on a recent walk I had with my dog.  However, recently I've taken some heat from it (not surprisingly, from the Alpha Crowd).

I wrote in that post that Dahlia "kept wanting to cross the road and I kept telling her that it was a bad idea because the road had been pretty clearly heavily salted."

One person recently said the following to me in regard to that post:  

Well, don’t you keep repeating ad nauseam that your dog has a CGC title?
Why you don’t gave to her a command? Stay, Sit etc.

To answer those questions, yes Dahlia has her CGC title.  What is the CGC you might ask?  It's the Canine Good Citizen test.  The CGC involves a variety of tests to show that the dog is well-behaved and well-trained.  Some of the things involve mimicking a visit to the vet or the groomer, meeting other people and dogs while out on a walk, and basic obedience commands.

What this means is that, yes she knows sit and stay (among many other commands).

But here's what this person doesn't understand and I suppose they need to know my dog better to understand what I meant by "kept wanting to cross the road."  I'm guessing they believe that she kept trying to pull me across the road, but this is simply not true.  Dahlia rarely pulls on the leash (the sole exception is when she has a reactive moment, which due to diligent training have become few and far between).

So what does she do?  Well, I've always given Dahlia a lot of freedom to choose the direction we walk in and we've gotten into an understanding as to what her signals mean.  When she wants to go in a different direction than I do, she sits down and looks at me.  When she has my attention, she looks in the direction she wants to go, and then looks back up at me.

I interpret this as her asking to go in the direction she wants to go in.

At this point, one of two things can happen:

(1) I say "Nope, this way!" and point in the direction I want to go.  Dahlia will get up and join me.  
(2) I say "Ok!" and we head in the direction she wants to go.

I'm a firm believer in this sort of freedom of choice.  I think having some freedom is a very important thing for a dog.  It shows that not only does she trust me, but also that I trust her.  Trust does go both ways.

In this particular instance, she would follow me, only to sit down and ask again.  After the third time, I acquiesced and hoped that the salt wouldn't bother her paws too badly.  Obviously I was wrong, hence the remainder of the humorous post.

This person also pointed out that if Dahlia had been hurt, it would have been my fault.  No doubt that is true, but I can assure you that Dahlia was in no danger the entire time this was happening.  Yes, her paws got a little sore, but she was not in danger.  Unfortunately, "sad paws" are a common occurrence here in the winter.  There's little one can do to avoid them.

So to sum up, this does not prove Dahlia is my "alpha," as this person claimed.  Nor am I hers.  We're partners and companions.  I like it that way.


  1. Wow. That's just crazy - but then a lot of DT people are, aren't they?

    Sure, a lot of the walks we take are mostly me getting to whatever offlead place we're headed to as quickly as possible (one great thing about dog ownership in the UK - lots of places to walk dogs off lead!) but there is nothing wrong with letting your dog take the reigns. The only problem I'd have is being pulled two ways at once!

    Why Alpha Crowd people have such strong reactions to dogs expressing their own thoughts and desires (wanting to stop to sniff this smell or go a different way) is beyond me. But then I have a dog that nudges my arm for strokes, and one that leaps onto my lap whenever she wants a cuddle or nap; I'm not very good at ignoring my dogs unless I want to bark orders at them. (:

  2. I've always been jealous over how many places you folks across the pond get to walk your dogs off leash! Here we have to either go to the dog park, the off leash area, or take them to places where it's technically illegal to have them off the leash. I admit to doing the latter. Our local pond has become sort of an unofficial off leash area, though everyone carries leashes and leashes up their dogs when they see another dog (especially one on leash). Frequently we just call out "is your dog friendly?" and if they are, the dogs get to meet for a good romp. It's a nice safe area and no one back there has ever complained about off leash dogs.

    The county next to ours has a rule in their parks that dogs only have to be under control. No leash laws! It's a great place to go! A little out of our way but it's nice anyway.

    I can't say I'll ever understand the alpha crowd folks. I love allowing my dog the freedom to choose things. She'll come over and ask for petting (or she'll roll over because she KNOWS we'll go gaga and have to pet her). She asks for a walk (by sitting very straight in front of you and putting a paw on you). I love that she is WILLING to do that and it makes me happy. I kind of feel sorry for people who are always on their dogs correcting them for things they do wrong and demanding them to be robotic in their actions.