Rosie is perfect on walks. She was five months old when we invested in leash training, and it paid off beautifully. Now she is six years old, and she walks next to me, on the right side, and the leash is slack. (Unless she sees a rabbit.) She matches her speed to mine.
The training was a huge pain because it involved not letting her take even one step unless she was at my side, leash loose. I hated the training; it sucked all the joy out of walks and it frustrated her and it meant I couldn’t swing along, untrammeled and fast, but had to keep stopping and whirling around and making her sit and then telling her walk and then we’d walk two or three steps and she’d tried to pull and I’d have to whirl around and stop her again.
Oh, it was awful.
But oh, it was worth it, every bit of it, because after not that long of a time — a few weeks — she was walking sedately. There was no more pulling and jerking and I didn’t have to undergo six weeks of physical therapy for tennis elbow as I did with previous dogs.
Well, all of that is out the window now.
Because now we have Angus, and Angus is still a puppy and he doesn’t understand the rules of the leash, and he is here and then he’s there and then he’s behind me and wrapping the leash around my leg and then he’s walking directly under my foot and I have to stutter-step to avoid squashing him, and if we’re on ice, as we often were this oh-so-long winter, all bets are off.
And Rosie sees this and decides, What the heck! I guess there are no rules anymore! And she starts meandering off, and grabbing her own leash in her mouth and instituting a game of tug, which she knows she is not supposed to do, and I think it is a good thing that we adopted Angus in the dead of winter when there were very few people out and they could not hear me swear.
I do — I swear, I mutter, I talk nonstop to the dogs like a crazy person. One February night I actually told them, as they dragged me in a zigzag way down an icy hill toward Como Lake, “I am just going to chop a hole in the ice and throw you both in!”
I sincerely hope nobody heard me say that. I didn’t mean it. I would never do that to a dog. Really.
To be fair, when they both walk nicely, which is actually more than half the time, it’s great. Some walks are glorious, with Angus strutting along with his little General Angus S. Grant swagger, and Rosie nudging my hand sweetly for treats and looking at me hopefully, and all is forgiven.
But the difficult walks aren’t worth it. So for now, we are walking them separately. It takes longer, but it is easier. It saves us all frustration. Angus has just begun Obedience 1 training, and as far as I’m concerned that is as much as his little brain can keep track of — or maybe it’s as much as my little brain can keep track of. As soon as he graduates in early May, it’s Leash Training 101, baby.
It’s getting warmer out (sort of). I don’t want my neighbors to hear me swear.
Laurie Hertzel is not a dog expert, just a dog lover. She is chronicling the first few months of her puppy’s development every few weeks on this page.
Coming April 21: In praise of crates. Read previous installments of the Puppy Chronicles at startribune.com/puppy.