So off we went again today, this time to Rising Sun Country Park since it was perfectly situated next to where we needed to go, and it’s been probably ten years since I was last there.
We had both, by this time, acquired wellies so the wet, muddy lanes and tracks we encountered were of less concern to us today, and Jasper, once again, trotted through anything and everything he came across – including horse poo, which required a LOT of persuasion and cheesy treats to leave behind.
He walked, again, mostly off-lead. I think we’re committed to this as a means of improving his independence and inquisitiveness, but I have my reservations about what it means for his on-lead walking ability. We will, I think, have to balance the two, so that he learns how to walk in a civilised manner on his lead – as much as it is fun and uplifting to see him run freely. It would be difficult for both him and us if, in future, he needed to walk on his lead and he was completely wayward, pulling, crossing our stride or worse, sitting down and refusing!
What is happening, though – on the positive side – is that his recall is improving all the time. Though he is rarely more than a few metres behind – and even more scarcely ahead – a shout or two of “come on then” and he is soon between your feet again. This was tested more today than it has yet when he encountered, off his lead, other dogs.
He is, to be honest, just bizarre! He stops and seems unsure, then bounds towards them and jumps at them – which is not ideal behaviour at all. Then no matter the other dogs’ reaction, he turns tail and flees for the safety of Andrew or I, whimpering! Silly boy. I do wonder if meeting more dogs on his lead might mean we can stifle the jumping behaviour better, and train a better response…
The highlights of today, though, were two-fold. Firstly, we encouraged a game of ‘fetch’ with a hard rubber ball, in which he slowly flourished – but not without the intervention of treaty, meaty goodness!
And secondly, that everyone we met, to a man, stopped and bent to make a fuss of him, and proclaimed how cute/adorable/beautiful/lovely/wonderful he was. This included a runner who he had initially chased down, a young family whose son was fascinated and an imposing older lady with a walker’s mac, stick and two fat black Labradors. It was, to me, an amazing thing. I, personally, find it difficult enough to speak to people, and dealing with praise is even harder, but there is something about walking a dog…
It just brings out the friendliness in people. You stop, and chat, and answer questions. Saying nice things about your puppy is, I think, like saying nice things about someone’s baby – it is simply polite – but still… People taking the time to stop and engage Jasper – and ourselves – it made us proud. It felt, today, like we were accepted as part of the dog-walking establishment and welcomed generously. Andrew’s Mum would tell you that’s how it is, and extoll for hours the virtues of the people you can meet out walking the dog.
Me, I put it down to the wellies.