New Equipment & Practices

cabana laying on the cement driveway, with one front paw tucked under, she is surrounded by walking paraphernalia, including my new rain boots which are black with crazy pink and white concentric circles, red tape long lead, and red flexi leashIn the front of this photo is our new snazzy red 26' Flexi leash, made for dogs twice Cabana's size. Our old retractable leash was not a Flexi, and the mechanism was not nearly as smooth or fast. In my opinion, the Flexi is worth every penny (only $26 on eBay). The tangled red tape/lead is the tape from the old retractable leash that broke. I still get use out of it by attaching it to Cabana's collar and letting it just drag along behind her. It gives us extra yardage, plus since it's old anyway, I don't mind if it gets all wet and muddy.

And my new mucker boots! After months of slogging through wet dog park grass in my sneakers and coming home with squishy brown socks, I finally bought these rain boots. The pink circles may be slightly garish, but they just make me so happy. C'mon, rain, I'm ready for you!

After reading this article about leash walking on Dog Star Daily, I realized how important it is to allow Cabana to "check out the world at her own pace". When Cabana was a puppy-in-training, I didn't have the confidence to just "let her be a dog". Like someone trying a new recipe, painstakingly measuring each ingredient, or a young painter with a new paint-by-number set, I compulsively tried to follow the GDB guidelines. My #1 goal was for Cabana to walk next to me in the perfect position, without sniffing or veering, ignoring all distractions.

But don't get me wrong, I love the GDB structure and guidelines! I believe those guidelines helped us raise a balanced, healthy, polite dog--one that doesn't bark excessively, isn't possessive of toys or food, doesn't lick or sniff inappropriately, and potties on command. Cabana gets an A+ in all those areas.

Well, we never did get the walking on leash exactly right, for a guide dog in training anyway. So I've had a hard time letting those rules go. I was still clinging to that old goal. And I didn't want what progress we had achieved deteriorate--but still, I wanted to give her more freedom and fun on our walks.

I think we've finally come to a good compromise. Using the Flexi leash, we start the first half of our walk with Cabana in a heel position, keeping the leash braked short. I still use kibble to help Cabana walk without pulling and as a reward for ignoring passersby. Then, when we reach grassy open areas, I let go of the brake and let her sniff like crazy, walk through grass and puddles, meander about, get way ahead of me or way behind. She LOVES it. It's a great time to practice recall, too--which Cabana is doing MUCH better at (thanks, Ro, for the Iams Biscuit info; it's been HIGHLY motivating to Cabana).

When other people/dogs are approaching, though, I tell Cabana to "stay with me" as I bring her back into a heel position. I only too clearly remember how difficult and detrimental it was to pass other dogs that weren't being properly controlled by their owners. After the people have passed, I tell Cabana, "go sniff" or "go play", and she happily goes back to her explorations.

I'd love to know what others of you with career change dogs do regarding leash walking. How much of their previous training do you hang onto?

Erin and GuidePupPompei  – (March 11, 2010 at 10:13 AM)  

Hmmmm I'm trying to think If I did anything differently with Victoria after she was CC'd, normally what I've done is when they are in coat I expect them to be a "guide dog" position but out of coat, I let them walk where ever as long as they don't pull.

Kari in WeHo  – (March 11, 2010 at 11:31 AM)  

I love the new boots. We always wanted to use flexis but is really hard with our dogs since they like to get tangled up

Sierra Rose  – (March 11, 2010 at 11:35 AM)  

Great great great!! SR and I are working on very similar things!! But, first, LOVE those boots. Yes, muddy sneakers are never the same! Our 20ft fabric lead severed have a new one (use in the snow) and a Flexi..but will check that it is truly a Flexi!
We're practicing walking nicely, not darting after ducks! (Civic Center Pond), recalls when in a safe location, just sniffing...etc... All good!

Hugs and snaggle-tooth kisses,
Sierra Rose (and mom!)

Samantha  – (March 11, 2010 at 12:14 PM)  

Wow! What a great job you are doing! It takes so much practice on a daily basis to teach a dog all the things Cabana does! Fabulous! Hope we can get together again soon!
Hugs xo,
Sammie and Miche

Mimi and CC Cabana  – (March 11, 2010 at 12:32 PM)  

Ha ha! The boots are a hit! I got the boots from for $22.99. They have some other cute styles, too.

Here's a link:

Becky  – (March 11, 2010 at 1:22 PM)  

Oh my - I LOVE those boots. Cabana you are adorable, too. Glad you are like Cricket and able to pose by whatever :D

Ally, Eclipse, Teddy and Kira  – (March 11, 2010 at 2:26 PM)  

I love the boots too! Of course we're working on getting Eclipse's walking to be more managable but I don't require him to walk in a tight heel or anything. I want my dogs walking With me on a walk unless I release them to sniff and goof off but that's always been my preference even with Teddy and Kira. I don't expect or require a tight heel, just a loose leash and the dogs being aware of what I'm doing/where I'm at and responsive to requests I make of them.

Anna  – (March 11, 2010 at 5:40 PM)  

The walking issue sounds so much like Avani! The only way she would calmly walk by one's side was with hard as we worked she never walked by our side if we didn't use must be a Bingham/Bosworth thing :)

Cassie (and Dagan - cheering Poppy on at GDB!)  – (March 11, 2010 at 5:56 PM)  

Love the boots!! Way cuter than mine - just plain blue with big white daisies on them.

Glad that you and Cabana are having fun in all her career changeness! I wish was had chatted about this some more before - even with a PIT, I do a lot of what you are doing with Cabana now. My pups get "fun" walks where they have a mixture of being good and getting to walk/run/sniff/be a dog! I did the same with my CC dogs - though they never had to remain in heel position (since there was always a puppy involved that "belongs" in that spot)

Al Brittain  – (March 11, 2010 at 6:07 PM)  

Sorry, those flexis are worthless - no other way to put it. Biggest reason I say that is if there comes a time when you really need to physically control the dog (I have the biggest baby CCI release dog in the world and it still happens sometimes), a flexi won't give you that control.

Second, I can't imagine anything but leather for the comfort - don't know how I ever used nylon, and those flexi grips are really uncomfortable and awkward - at least to me.

I use a 6-foot leather Ray Allen lead that I normally have folded up so it's much shorter, but I can let out if I want. And if I ever need to control the dog, I can. A lotta times I might be walking two (usually another visiting released CCI dog, also on a leather leash) so that control factor becomes even more important.

But, hey, I guess it's better than no leash at all... :-D

RILEY AND STAR  – (March 11, 2010 at 8:12 PM)  

Hi just stopped by your blog to say Hi! Hope you'll come by to see us too.

Riley and Star.

Emily and the Labradors  – (March 11, 2010 at 8:32 PM)  

I guess I do sort of as Cassie described with some "fun" or relaxed walks and some more formal even with the puppies. Especially since I don't have a yard to speak of, I feel like all the dogs need time to just relax and explore a little. They still can't be nutty, pull like maniacs, or relieve, but I put the leash on the longer setting and they have more freedom. I also do more "serious" walks too with the shorter leash and no sniffing, etc. With my cc'd/retired dogs they have mostly relaxed walks but I do at times make them walk in a more orderly fashion too. Ellis actually prefers to walk in a heel type position (out a little to the front though... I guess like guiding) and when given the option just sort of ends up there. So the way it really looks is he is walking like a little angel by my side and Gelly is doing all the sniffing, rolling, and darting left and right for the both of them!

Oh, and as for the Flexi, I don't use one much, mainly just for running around on the field at school trying to wear a puppy out! I am not very coordinated and with my busy neighborhood (people, cars, bikes, dogs, etc) I find I pretty much need tighter control most of the time so it I don't bother. I have been known to hike with one though I guess...

Mimi and CC Cabana  – (March 12, 2010 at 6:53 AM)  

Thanks for your input, everyone. Cassie, no, you have had this conversation with me. I have often heard you and other bloggers say that you "let your dog be a dog" on walks/hikes. But that's why I say it was a confidence issue with me. I really didn't quite know how to let go to that extent.

Al, I agree that it's more cumbersome to get control with the Flexi than with a leather leash (which is what I used up until a month or two ago) and not quite as comfy. But I have a somewhat elaborate system of using the Flexi more like a regular leash. ;)

Raising Reyna  – (March 12, 2010 at 10:33 AM)  

Ya, I am not a fan of those Flexi leashes either. In fact, they are a pet peeve of mine because most people (not you, Mimi) who use them just let their crazy dog wander 20 feet in front of them and their dogs come up to my pup in training without anyone controlling them. As far as what I do with Starling, our career change I have the same expectations while we are on a walk. At my side, loose leash, no pulling. Her off leash obedience is very strong, so when we get to an open field, I will let her off leash and throw the goughnut stick for her. She loves to retreive and she has a strong recall so she always comes right back. She won't disturb other dogs if they come by either. So that is the time I let her be a dog. But on the walk, I stick to the rules and she reponds nicely. If I walk her off leash, I still expect her to hold the same heel position even without the leash. On hikes, I do let her off leash and she wanders a little bit, but she pretty much stays right with me.

Lisa, Ellie and Hosta  – (March 13, 2010 at 4:44 PM)  

With Ellie - I let her have a few more freedoms, but I usually walk with Hosta too... She now walks on my right side instead of my left (with a guide dog style lead), and she still stops and sits at all curbs/changes in elevation... but I let her sniff and have more "leash" - as long as Hosta stays in control. This seems to have allowed Ellie to mellow out and not get so nervous on walks by allowing her more freedom. She now does better on leash than she ever did when she was in training. She does get MAJORLY nervous if men are approaching us... so I rein her in pretty good and pull off and make her sit while they pass, just so I can maintain control and not show off bad manners to Hosta.

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