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We live in a part of the country that is lucky enough to have a contract trainer for our puppy classes. Some puppy raisers sort of do it on their own without the help of CCI folks – today they are amazing, tomorrow they will be lucky. We have the best contract trainer ever, but Saturday morning I will see her as our drill sergeant and she is going to break us. If she had her own Army Marching cadence song would go something like this:

I had a dog whose name is Boo

Boo wanted to go to puppy school

So one day I took away his chow

And I motivated his bow-wow

Our trainer made us walk for days

And put us in a back ache haze

Now Boo’s a loose leash walker now

He’s got the service dog know-how

Saturday is puppy class day for us until Cate has all her shots and gets to go to the big girl puppy classes. Keeping in mind I don’t have children, but another place that puppy raising and child rearing is similar – that whole “I don’t remember the pain thing.” Tomorrow when you are enjoying a lazy sleep-in Saturday I will be stooped over like an old willow tree walking around in a toe-touch position trying to get a crazy distractible puppy to follow me in the right position. Between trying to convince my puppy that I am the coolest thing on the planet I will be thinking “Seriously, what was I thinking starting over with this little beast when I have a perfectly trained dog at home!” I am sure that we are a sight to see, and you can feel our envy as the “basic” class starts arriving with their perfectly positioned, loose leash walking pups.

While CCI dogs go on to learn a ton of great things, phenomenal things actually, it is the simple act of walking on a loose leash that is one of the simplest things that makes the greatest difference. Despite our best efforts Dave and I have become a dog snob, when we are out and about in the neighborhood I look with disdain at those people being walked by their dog. The right tools, treats, and training can often correct that. People always complement us on how nice our pups walk on a leash. We were lucky that for the most part our pet pups did well on a leash too, but not as great as our CCI pups. I can’t imagine having a dog that won’t walk on a loose leash.

I truly have come to think that a happy dog and happy family comes from good leash manners. When a dog has good leash manners family is more likely to walk it. Walked dogs get more exercise than those relegated to the backyard for bad behavior. Exercised dogs are exerting positive effort instead of releasing pent-up energy on things like chewing your favorite pair of shoes. Better behaved dogs integrate more fully into the family. I could go on and on, but I think you get the gist.

I love, and feel comfortable and confident, taking Sabina (our breeder) anywhere. She is not perfect, but she knows her leash position and that I expect her to be in it whenever I ask. No matter what we are doing, having fun or working, I am relentless about her position. I worked too hard, had to many back aches to let her slide. She knows it and so do I.

So we are off to mold the newest aspiring service dog Cate and her newly adopted sister Cindylu in to the best leash walkers ever. Think of us about as you finish up your breakfast and coffee, before you head out for the day – stooped over, waving a treat around, calling our pups in our high-pitched puppy attention voice and a cute feisty puppy at the other end of the leash – looking at us like we have lost our minds. Truth be told I can’t imagine a better way to spend a Saturday morning, and that pain in my lower back? Yeah that will be reminding me all day.

Thank goodness for ibuprofen.

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