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Thursday, October 8, 2015

A Walk With Buster

Buster's First Walk

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Almost a month ago my neighbors brought home a new dog, they were debating getting a second dog when they ended up with Buster.

I say, "ended up" because they hadn't looked at any other dogs and when they met Buster and his owner they couldn't in good conscious send Buster back to where he was from.

Buster is a Rottie mix, maybe some German Shepherd in him based on his long legs, thin body, and random sable patches in his coat.

At ten months old, he is still pretty underweight but is slowly putting on pounds with his new healthy diet. When my neighbor first saw him he had big bald patches of fur, dandruff, a painful red/itchy rash in his ears and between his toes, and he stank to high heaven.

Three baths and three weeks later he's a stink free, clean, and happy puppy again. His hair is growing back nicely and their is no rash or dandruff to be seen on his body.

Until this weekend I had only heard of Buster but never actually met him, not being a direct neighbor - his incessant barking wasn't heard at our house or I would have met him sooner (barking dogs drive me nuts! But i'm always polite when I go talk to the family.) 

This weekend I did a rotation with Dante, Ziva, and Jack. 

I took them all out to the field near our house for some one-on-one play time and training. On my rotation with Dante I stopped to visit with Buster's mom. While we were chatting Buster managed to open the door and came dashing straight for me and Dante! Thankfully for such a rude meeting he was received kindly by Dante and we helped put him back in the house.

Starting this week we're helping to train Buster!  He's a bit more than his family bargained for and they want to use positive training methods but need some help with laying the groundwork due to his strength and size.

Benefits of a Walk

Walking with your dog is a great way to bond. It also is a great way to allow your dog to safely experience the outside world, building up their confidence in new settings and teaching them proper manners for dealing with strangers in strange places.

Turns out Buster is getting ran but he is not getting walked, mostly due to how hard he is to handle. 

You should have seen them laugh when I said I was going to walk him! Yes, by myself...
I was armed and prepared though for battle!

My tools of war?
  • Sturdy Leather Leash
  • Sturdy Martingale Collar (Not for corrections! But because they don't allow the dog's head to accidentally slip out.)
  • Treat Bag - full of yummy chicken.
  • Poop Bag
  • Pepper Spray
  • 100 foot training lead - just in case.
I also borrowed Dante's sturdy leather martingale collar, Busters nylon collar I have seen him nearly slip out of and I didn't want to take the chance his buckle might bust loose. (Don't tell Dante!)

I know the use of pepper spray is highly debated in a lot of online forums and Facebook, but where we live their are lots of off-leash dogs. Having my own powerful breeds and knowing a good number of our neighbors also do, I personally choose the pepper spray because it is a stronger deterrent for a determined dog than the citrus dog spray you can buy at a pet store. I'd rather spray a dog than potentially have a three way dog fight on my hands if we're attacked while i'm walking Dante and Ziva. 

And NO it does not permanently harm a dog, it causes some major discomfort and leaves a lasting impression - but with some baby shampoo and a bath your dog will be fine.

Walking With Buster

A walk always starts at the door, so after leashing Buster up I spent a few minutes just asking him to follow me in the house while giving him treats - creating an association that I have something he's interested in, and rewarding him for following me.

Exiting the house was a huge issue for Buster, he immediately became overstimulated with his surroundings and the dragging began. Because so many of our neighbors and their kids were outside I decided to start by walking in the field which brought it's own distractions in the form of many different scents.

When working with a new dog keep your expectations realistic and set small goals.

Goals for Buster's first walk:
  • Get to know Buster better.
  • Associate myself with treats, i'm more than the inconvenient thing not allowing him to explore.
  • Work on teaching Buster to "check in".
  • Reward when he doesn't pull.
We were not going for a perfect walk on day one or even a "heel", all I was asking was that he not pull me while we were walking - a foreign concept to his brain.

Taking a break, still nervous breathing but he was doing better! He looks good in Dante's collar - shhh don't tell Dante!
Buster is probably an 80 pound puppy, he's got a huge head that doesn't quite fit his body yet, giant paws he still is growing into, and he clearly hasn't spent any time on a leash.

Every time he would pull I would walk backwards in a slow circle until the leash was momentarily slack and he had turned towards me. The instant the leash went slack I would say his name and shove some chicken in his waiting mouth. On a good note, he's really good about sitting whenever I would stop walking so that was rewarded too.

I hurried our way to field to get to a place that was quieter where the kids wouldn't come and bother us while we were training. 

Moving our way slowly across the field I worked on his attention.

I think he would have figured out a clicker really quick (I couldn't find mine) so next time I'm going to make sure to bring one to introduce to him. For day one I used, "YES!" where I would have used a clicker.

Following the Leader

We spent probably 20 min in the field and all we worked on was his attention.

I walked wherever I wanted to go - Buster needed to follow.

Call Buster rather than dragging him behind me if he wanted to go another direction.

Reward Buster for following and coming when called.

Reward Buster for giving any sort of glance in my direction.

"Sorry was I supposed to be paying attention to you?"

After Buster was beginning to get the hang of it I decided to take him down the street a little ways.

Keep training sessions short and successful!
Always end on a good note!

What I learned very quickly is that Buster is very fearful - fear can cause a dog to become reactive so he needs to go on more walks and be exposed to life outside of his home. He also needs to learn to trust me or whoever is handling him.

We only went about a block down and back, I made sure to pass out tons of treats and reward him for anything he was doing right. The whole walk was pretty stressful for Buster, he was pulling, tucking his tail, and walking in a very nervous fashion in general. He was also doing a lot of stress panting.

If you're walking a dog who is nervous and fearful take your time, try to keep it light, speak happily and don't get angry with the dog for pulling or dragging you - this is part of the learning process.

Also, please get professional help if you can't control your dog, and always be safe.

Some More Links That Might Interest You:

Loose Leash Walking - first you need a strong base!
Impulse Control - What is it, and why is it important?

Some Fun Blog Hops You Might Enjoy!

Walk Your Dog Week 2015 Badge4978840
Grab The Badge
Thankful Thursday Blog Hop,, pet centric


  1. Poor Buster. I hope he continues to make progress and learn not to be fearful. Thanks for joining the hop!

  2. well that was wonderful. What a lucky day for Buster to walk with you. He will learn to relax since you're in charge and protecting him. LeeAnna

  3. I'm tickled pink that you are helping your neighbor and more importantly Buster. Helping him understand what's expected of him and acclimating him to living nicely with humans will help him keep his family. That's a great win.

    Are you near me? Because if you are I will pay you to come walk my dogs with me. Dog knows I could use the help. :-)

    Thanks for joining the blog hop!

    1. Too bad you don't live closer! :-) I sure would love to meet Delilah and Sampson.
      I'm hoping today will be day 2 of working with Buster.

  4. Hopefully you can help Buster build some confidence. Thanks for sharing on the hop.

  5. It's very important for Buster to get frequent walks we hope he continues to improve! Thanks for joining #DogWalkingWeek!

  6. What a handsome boy!! Good job getting him trained to walk.

  7. I think a dog like Buster that is essentially a blank slate can be a lot of fun. I enjoyed leash training with Keemo in the time that he was with me. It's great of you to help your neighbor!


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