I am so proud of Drake I could bust! Drake is 3 years old now and is 90 lbs of muscle! If you are new to my tales of Drake he is not a weight lifting toddler but our Labrador/Rottweiler that we adopted last Christmas. He came into our lives full of love, mostly well mannered and with a taste for cat.
Drake tried to eat our cat, Sinclaire, on about Day 2 of joining the family. He also ate several dog beds, broke into our house and the neighbors house (repeatedly) and would drag me down the hill on our walks. Literally, it would be like water skiing down the gravel hill as I dug my heels in and Drake pulled/pressed on.
The first time I took him for a walk he was at heel the whole time and he ignored distractions like other dogs, horses, and wildlife. It seemed he had been trained in his previous life. Each walk progressively got worse as Drake realized that I did not know all of the rules. He became more bold at home as well, eating things off of the counter and the like.
Our walks became much more challenging. He would break off leash to chase deer or foxes or whatever. The deer were especially challenging for Drake to ignore because they were like Meals On The Run for him. The dog is a natural hunter. I think he would be awful to hunt with because he does not want to flush out critters he wants to take them down himself. He has come close many, many times. It's both terrifying and breathtaking all at the same time. Kind of like watching an episode of Wild Kingdom! It's a problem though. It puts me in danger and himself as well.
I tried a pincher collar.
I tried a harness.
I tried The Gentle Leader and it seemed to work but then...
After being dragged down a hill on my ass for Drake to break into my neighbors horse corral I finally gave up and called a trainer.
As soon as Christine walked in the door she immediately had Drake under her control. As I said, it seems that he's had training and he could tell that Christine knew the rules. He was always so perfect for her. He was either a genius level fast learner or he was smart enough to know who to behave for and who he could manipulate. (That would be me, BTW)
Christine came every weekend and Drake quickly learned to walk at heel, not jump to greet, and various tricks. I learned how to distract him from the wildlife, what words to use to calm him, and what leash and collar system would work best (and believe me...it's quite the system). We also did some training with the cat. It went really well as we were able to have Drake and Sinclaire in the same room with out him trying to eat her! (Though, I don't think Sinclaire thought it went so well. I am sure that was the day that she vowed to leave. She spent several days after scoping out a knew home for herself and then, the day before we left for a trip to NY, she packed her bags and walked away. I'd like to think she looked back a time or two at the home of those who cared for her for 12 years...but I doubt it.)
The day finally came when Christine announced that there was nothing more to do with Drake and that the leash was now in my hands. I have not walked Drake everyday as I should. I'm still very intimidated. Call me crazy but I just don't like wrestling with a 90 lb. beast nor do I relish the idea of being dragged down a mountainside. I've bit the bullet though, and have taken Drake on his walks, when fear does not get the best of me.
One such walk was with my brother-in-law, Matt. Drake was walking beautifully. I usually have two hands on the leash but dropped one so that I could respond to a text message. At that exact moment Drake happened to spot a deer and he took off. Matt kept calling for Drake and I just stood there, dejected and angry with myself for not paying enough attention.
"Well," I sighed, "let's just finish the walk and then get the car and go looking for him."
Just then Drake came bounding back and hopped into a heel at my side. I took up the leash and we finished our walk. I gave that walk a B- because had he not went after the deer it would've been an A+.
We have a huge snow fall about to be dumped on us this week and so I wanted to get my walk in before then. I strapped Drake's body harness on and then his Gentle Leader (told you it's a system) and we headed out to the bus stop with the boys. As we neared the bottom of the hill I saw a herd of about 6 deer.
"Gabriel, run ahead and scare the deer off for me, will you?"
I turned Drake back up the hill so we were behind a bush and he would not see them running. I put him in a sit/stay and caressed his face while I gave the command for "calm." Then I point to my eye and say "watch" and he stared at my eyes until I released him from it.
Good. I still have his attention and he's in a frame of mind to obey.
The deer did run off but only to the hill across the street. I couldn't keep hiding with Drake and so we walked on down to the bus stop to wait with the boys. Drake quickly spotted the deer. His ears were thrust forward, forehead wrinkled and body poised in full alert.
"Drakers! Drakers, sit."
He sat. Haunches twitching.
"Drake...calm..." I caressed his face.
His butt came back up off of the ground. I wrapped the leash around my waist. Most of the deer were pretty much out of sight but one stood right smack in the middle of the hill and kept making a a chirp/barking sound.
Drake eventually sat and the boys and I gave him loads of love for his good behavior and in hopes that it would keep him uninterested in the deer. Drake was still very heightened but he never even lunged in the deer's direction!
The bus finally came. I loaded the boys and then Drake and I continued our walk. His pace was brisk today and he stopped to smell a lot. The run in with the deer at the bus stop had him riled up! We made it through the walk and I was feeling pretty good about things. I was so proud of Drake and I! As we got to our road that herd of deer were back at the bus stop!
I wrapped the leash around my waist again. I grabbed onto Drake's body harness and then decided that we would just keep on and take the second entrance as our house is on a loop. Drake whined and pulled a bit but he obeyed and we continued past the deer. Seriously, you have no idea how huge a fete this was! (See Stags and Studs) Once past the temptation I released the harness and unwound the leash just as I finished this process we came up on the second entrance which had about 4 loitering Doe's.
I took a minute to assess my options. Bear Hunt came to mind.
Can't go over it. Can't go around it. Gotta go through it.
Taking a deep breath, I wrapped the leash around my waist again, grabbed a hold of the harness and began to pray:
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death....OK God, I know that's taken from the Drama Queen translation but what I mean is: help me! Give Drake some blinders or something. Scare the deer away. Just let us get home with out incident.
Drake was fully alert and aware of the deer but he followed my lead and pressed on up the hill. He heeded my pulls and chides and we were soon passed his greatest temptation. Man! And he's a DOG! People, when we are faced with life's temptations...sometimes they can't be avoided but we can get past them if we listen to the chides and pull of the Spirit.
If Drake can do that then I think I can make it through the potato chip aisle at the grocery!