You apparently can teach an old dog new tricks. That stuff about you not being able to is apparently rubbish, which is good news for old dogs and old dog owners everywhere. But can you teach a young dog tricks he never got the hang of when he was a pup, even though you paid for expensive one to one dog training and bought all her expensive harnesses and training accoutrements?
Sonny the Black Menace pulls me on the lead when we go for a walk. So much so that you can see his back and leg muscles rippling through his fur and he has the appearance of a mountain climber scaling a rock face even though he’s on horizontal tarmac. He looks like Tom Cruise in the opening sequence of Mission Impossible 2, but a tad taller and less excitable.
I have tried for three years to get him out of this, but to be honest it’s exhausting. He’s so much better off the lead that I have opted for the easy life, and the continued use of my left arm. It’s easier for me to leave him off the lead or if needs must to slip a Halti on his head (think pony harness) and control the problem by dragging his face about than actually persevering and teaching him the correct way to walk with a human being attached. He seems to view me as the double decker bus that he, as a contestant of Britain’s Strongest Man, has to drag across a car park.
A dog in a Halti/My Little Pony
So this year I have vowed that I will teach Sonny the Black Menace to walk with me on a loose lead. If it kills me. Which it very well might.
We are on Day 4 of the new regime. It’s not going that well. I say that, but it went really well on Day 1. In fact we cracked it on Day 1. He was trotting beside me like a Lipizaner pony- you know the ones they used to get in to Blue Peter with Princess Anne?
See? He DID do it.
And then on Day 2 we did even better. On day 3 I was so chuffed that I decided to ask Meeester M to come out on a walk with the Black Menace and I to see us showcase our skills. I am confident that he will declare me the new Dog Whisperer and the Black Menace the greatest dog since that ace wee wiry one in Frasier.
Sadly that didn't happen. Once out on the street The Black Menace reverts back to Britain’s Strongest Man like his internal hard drive has been left too near an industrial magnet and the contents have been erased. “But you were doing it yesterday!!!!Heel! Heeel, Sonny!” (to Meeester) “he was doing it yesterday, honest he was...!” I shrieked as my arm is being wrenched out of its socket.
“He’s no Eddie from Frasier, is he?” says Meeester as my heels dig trenches into the road in an effort to stop the drag westward.
So all the books I’ve skim-read on dog training, all the videos I’ve searched through made by slightly mad doggy people on YouTube, all the Dog Whisperer episodes I’ve SkyPlussed- what use have they been? Surely some of these techniques must work? No, not on this mutt, they don't.
But I am not defeated. I have decided that the key is that I must fully understand the psychology of my dog in order for our work together to progress. Once I break into his little freakish mind and find out what makes him tick I will be on my way to success and dislocated shoulders will be a thing of the past. I have decided to give him my username and password to the Misssives so that maybe he could write about his perspective on the situation. Then maybe I can begin to understand the motivation behind the pulling and suss out where it went wrong.
This week the Black Menace speaks!