Gentledogs, start your engines!

Cash has this tendency to get excited when he sees me get his leash out. Now, this wouldn’t be so bad because he’s good at controlling himself even when he’s excited, but he whines.

I mean, whines like you wouldn’t believe. It’s this engine-breaking sort of noise that drives me INSANE, and it continues from the instant he sees the leash until we get ten feet down the road.

Cash is a king shepherd. The breed came from interbreeding German shepherds, malamutes, and great Pyrenees into a whole new breed, recognized by the American Rare Breed Association. Of those breeds, the German shepherd is prominent — and do you know one of the things they’re known for? Oh, yeah. Vocalizing.

I’m noise sensitive. I don’t do well with whining. Or barking. Or shrieking. Or anything else like that, really. So Cash’s hysterical whining when we walk? I don’t do so well with it.

The usual fix for this sort of whining is to wait to move until the dog goes quiet. There are, however, a few problems with this if you’re me (or like me):

1. It takes the dog so long to go quiet that I’ve failed in non-reacting because it got on my nerves.

2. It takes the dog so long to go quiet that I had to leave because I was going to be late for everything else, so we either skipped the walk entirely or I left before he went quiet.

3. Every time I move when he does go quiet, he starts whining instantly and… see above.

I was talking to Quin about all this, because the whining drives her insane, too, and she started offering suggestions.

Q: What about scolding him?
J: No good. It’ll increase the anxiety and he’ll whine more.
Q: Oh. I guess the same goes for popping the leash or pushing him back?
J: Yeah.

And then Quin came up with a brilliant idea. It was this: get Cash’s leash out. Put it on him. Walk back into the house and continue doing whatever I was doing before. When he settles down, take it off him.

This was brilliant. More than that, it started working that very night! I’d been trying to fix this problem for months with no success, and this was so smart and so simple that I wondered that I hadn’t thought of it before. Leash him when I’m wandering around, so he learns to not get so excited at getting leashed, that very likely nothing fun is going to happen. Leash him ten minutes before I leave and continue about my business, so he has time to settle down before I pick up his leash and we go for a walk — rewarding the quiet behavior without driving me crazy or making me late.

It’s brilliant! And it’s worked! Now I know how my clients feel when I walk in, suggest something, and it works. So simple, and yet so clever!

J

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