Our oldest daughter got to town several hours before our oldest son’s family. While Eileen continued her frenzied pace to get her paper completed and our other two kids were at school, our daughter and I went for a walk. We took our dog, Ellie. I told our daughter that I always like to have Ellie on the leash regularly before Lindsay visits. Lindsay likes dogs very much. As well behaved as our dog is, she is still an animal to me. Therefore, I don’t trust her with my granddaughter’s life, and so I make sure that all of Ellie’s leash training is on cue before Lindsay visits.
When Eileen runs with Ellie (Ellie is on the leash), Ellie is allowed to run ahead or behind Eileen, but on the left side. When Ellie is on the leash walking, Ellie walks on the left side without walking ahead or behind. The leash is kept rather short and relaxed. However, if Ellie isn’t paying attention to the person with the leash then she’ll start to wander with her head. At the point we feel the leash tighten, we make a short small correction to put Ellie’s head to where the leash is relaxed and Ellie paying attention. Although Ellie rarely needs correction at this point in time, she periodically gets distracted by other sights and sounds along the way. While Ellie is on the leash, it is her job to pay more attention to the leash handler than anything else. Ellie’s leash time is a time for Ellie to be in an obedience mode while enjoying her walk.
This training has created a dog that loves to go on walks and runs, and is very well behaved. She trusts us and knows that we will keep order and safety in her world. Although Ellie is part of the family, we are unambiguous that we are human beings and she is an animal. We don’t confuse or blur those lines. We are her pack leader and she is a follower. As in a pack in the wild, Ellie is at peace with her role as a follower and we look out for her as part of our pack leader duties. Therefore, there is no question that the humans in our family are in charge and she is part of the pack.
This is very important when one-year-old Lindsay is around. We let Lindsay have free rein with Ellie but we make sure Lindsay doesn’t do anything to make Ellie feel threatened. When Lindsay is around Ellie, Ellie is told to sit and stay. Then Lindsay interacts with Ellie at her own pace. Sometimes she pokes Ellie with her little finger and such. For the most part though, Lindsay likes being around the dog and doesn’t touch her much. Either way, Ellie just sits there often times looking at me in the eyes.
We love Ellie as our dog and I think she knows we’ll always look out for her. It’s in her bloodline to watch out for us too. Ellie is an excellent dog who likes to please us and seems to really enjoy her life. As I said earlier though, although I trust Ellie as much as I have ever trusted an animal, I take precaution so that we don’t endure one of those horrific accidents from the family pet. First, Ellie’s place in the family structure (pack) is consistently reinforced. As in a pack, Ellie is not allowed to act however she wants. She operates within the rules, boundaries, freedoms, and limitations, set by the pack leader. Again, we are her pack leader. As her pack leader, we make sure she doesn’t have anxiety associated with inconsistent leadership and expectations. Therefore, we keep chaos out of her life. Secondly, we keep a constant eye on the interaction between Lindsay and Ellie while keeping Ellie in the obedience mode, paying attention to the handler. It helps keep Ellie from acting out of her instinctual nature even if Lindsay puts her finger in Ellie’s nose. Finally, I keep in mind that Ellie is a dog and not a human. Even humans hurt little children sometimes and I’m not inclined to trust an animal more than I would another human.