Lead Walking

Walking with Sasuke is an honor and a pleasure, it can also be challenging at times. Heres why.

Before Sasuke was at Nose, he was a stray. Born in Gifu and with limited interactions with humans, he was and can still be considered as, a wild dog. This means he pooped and peed wherever and when ever he liked, lived in a pack (at the bottom of the hierarchy) and had never worn a collar, harness or lead. It is from this he is also wary of humans and other dogs however we will get to that in another post.

His pack was large and at the time of rescue there were about 30 dogs, all strays. When he was at the rescue shelter, volunteers worked with him and the other dogs to get him used to wearing a collar and walking on the lead. By the time I adopted Sasuke, he was comfortable wearing a collar, lead and harness. However being comfortable doesn’t necessarily mean he could automatically walk on lead and do this well.

At point of adoption, it is encouraged to take the dog you are looking to adopt, out for a walk to help bond and to see how you react to each other. Sasuke pulled. And pulled hard. He was often kept on a short lead to encourage him to walk by the person. This made for rope burn and pulled muscles at my end, however his enthusiasm on the walk more than made up for all of this. We walked with Sasuke’s handler/keeper/trainer and he said that if we come across another dog, we stop, turn and walk in the other direction so as to avoid conflict with the other dog. Nice. Also, if Sasuke stops (and turns round), it means he is ready to go back. Hmmm – we had only been out for 20mins or so. Interesting.

After adoption, one thing I completely overlooked and I’ve mentioned it before, is that Gifu and Nose are completely different to the center of Kyoto. This made our first try of walks bloody impossible because everything scared him. After frantically going through all the reliable you tube videos I could find as well as any posts online I decided to do it my own way with input from different videos. This is what we did.

First I set out three rules: 1.No pulling. When we walk, I don’t mind if Sas walks infant, behind, to the side of me so long as he doesn’t pull. As soon as he does, we stop – no words, just stop. When the tension goes out of the lead – no matter how long I have to wait for it – only then do we start walking again and I praise him continuously. Rule 2. He decides where he wants to explore – on the condition of rule 3. We see that road, path, whatever, until the end. If he shows signs of pulling to go back in the other direction, we stop and I take him by the harness and we walk until the end. This is to show him that it is ok, there are no monsters, I will protect him. And it’s worked. This is how we were able to go from walking in a small circle (more like oval) around the apartment complex to going on longer walks down by the river. These rules have yet to fail. They keep Sasuke on track and they give me a semblance of what to do should situations happen.

Secondly. Stick to these rules. Routine is crucial.. its taken 8 months for Sas to get the hang of this and to feel comfortable knowing that these rules will keep him safe. ROUTINE people!

Over the past 6 months or so Sas has reduced the amount of times he pulls on the lead to the point now where if he does its because something external has caused him to do so. I am much more aware as to why he pulls and do my best to reduce the stress, on both sides, of this happening. He is very happy to walk with his tail curled high in front of me and take the lead on our walks. I cannot begin to say how happy and proud this makes me. Rarely does he hide behind me anymore unless its because someone approaches unexpectedly or there are bicycles. All because of routine!!

Because of this encouraging behavior, I invested in a long lead – 30m, so when we walk by the river, Sasuke can go and play in the river bed without pulling me down too. Unexpectedly he comes when called, back up the embankment (something I have never formally taught him – recall – he just does it) and I swap leads to show him we are done with that part of the walk and its now time to go home. Occasionally he pulls, but not hard or shoulder wrenchingly, to show that he still wants to play however after a firm statement: ‘we are going home’, he follows obligingly.

For a breed that is very independent and strong willed, Sasuke is happy to follow these rules. They have kept, and will continue to keep, him safe.

Post Script.

Sasuke and I continue to go for our walks everyday, what he doesn’t know is that I have a goal in mind and that is to be able to take him to Fukuchiyama with me so we can do some exploring in the mountains with friends.
This does mean he needs to be acquainted with trains and traveling in a special dog formatted rucksack to meet animal travel requirements.
As such we have a long road ahead.
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