A gentle leader approach

It was truly much easier than I expected.

I’m referring to my new walking regiment with Grace. As noted in my last post, I made a commitment to have Grace comply with my walking standards instead of hers. Rather than having her skip along in front of me, I asked her to walk beside me. I literally used those words: “Walk beside me, Grace.” (I also held the leash taut.)

This is called a “Gentle Leader” collar and while it may not look very humane, it’s recommended by some vets to instill good behavior. The nose loop wraps around the dog’s muzzle. When the dog pulls, pressure is applied to the back of the neck and bridge of the snout, the two areas mother and alpha dogs use to control undesirable behavior in the wild. I used this collar shortly after I got Grace and it helped a lot. Tools help to support what we want to accomplish, but it requires our initiative to make it happen. Change begins from within.

And generally, she did! We usually walk about two miles, sometimes a little less, and there is ample time to reinforce the behavior (hers and mine). As we walked, I could feel the pressure from the leash as she tried to move ahead, but it didn’t take much to bring her back and it definitely was not a battle.

This new way of walking clearly required my attention and focus. If the tension on the leash loosen, she started ahead of me.

On Day 2, at one point I realized she wasn’t pulling at all. She was willingly walking beside me! It wasn’t 100% of the time, but certainly there was progress. I had a flood of thoughts racing through my mind, ranging from frustration that I had waited so long to do this to delight that I had moved it forward.

It was so much easier to take action after I had publicly made the commitment here on the blog and that’s important to remember; telling others your goals is a great motivator. But I realize that two days of successful progress doesn’t mean we’ve met our objective; sustainable efforts will require a long-term undertaking. Yet it’s important to celebrate progress.

I’ve walked this road with Grace for several years and it would have been much easier to keep on walking the same old way. Rather than beat myself up for not doing something I know I should have been doing, the best thing to do is to acknowledge that I’ve made that first step. When good change happens, it’s always better late than never happening at all.

Do you have things on your plate that you are ignoring or avoiding? Acknowledge it, tell a friend that will support you, and be gentle on yourself. Taking the first step may be easier than you think.

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7 comments

  1. Congrats on following through with your goal. Now the key is to not lapse back into your comfort zone. Good Job, to you too Grace. I procrastinate a lot in the winter months, but now that spring is here, I get back up and do all the things I should have been doing in winter. Sometimes that ‘first step’ is just a matter of motivation.

  2. didiwright says:

    Good on you both for making such wonderful progress. Thumbs up!
    I like that strap over the nose, I’ve seen it often on other dogs and wondered what it was for. I thought it was meant to restrict the bite of a potentially aggressive dog, or at least let people know that a dog could show aggression. We were thinking of buying one for George for when we’re out in busy places, as crowds of unknown people make him uncomfortable, and he doesn’t like people coming to him and trying to pet him. Unfortunately, this happens very often, especially with older people who seem to think that all whippets are cute and waiting for a cuddle. We’re looking for a way to put them off sticking their hands in George’s mouth, and thought a strap like Grace’s might just do the trick.

  3. I had the exact impression as you, that the loop was meant to restrain biting. I think using it would help with your goal of limiting interactions of well-intentioned people because it does give them a soft warning. Grace doesn’t like people approaching her, either, and because she is cute, it’s hard to explain all the time that they shouldn’t try to pet her. If someone ignores her, then she gets interested to check them out — on her terms!

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