It’s been an unusually warm winter here in Connecticut, but on Wednesday it was absurdly nice. Maybelle and I happened to have a vet appointment at three that afternoon so I figured there wasn’t much point in going back home and finishing out the work day. Instead we headed to Blackledge Falls.
Whenever you start hiking with a dog, though, lots of questions pop up. Most parks insist that you keep your dog leashed, which is a good idea, because you never know who else is out there with their dogs and what those dogs are like. If your friendly dog goes running up to another dog on a leash, he may or may not be welcomed. Even if the other dog is friendly it might feel trapped on a leash, and if your dog gets hurt in a scuffle, it’ll be all your fault.
But let’s face it, when you’re in the woods you want to be able to let go of the leash and let the pooch roam around. In my case I kept thinking, “I’ve put all this time and effort into teaching Maybelle to walk nicely on a leash but I don’t need or want her to heel when we’re out here — but I also don’t want her to relearn to pull.”
I didn’t want to break the park rules, or lose my dog in the woods when she spotted a squirrel, but I also didn’t want to force her to walk politely beside me. So when we turned up one of the big hills in the park and we both slowed down, I decided to just drop her leash and let her drag it behind her. Anytime she got too far away I simply stepped on the leash. The truth was, though, I didn’t need it. Between the training we’d done on walking properly, and both of us getting our butts kicked by the hill, she didn’t really go anywhere. When she lagged behind to sniff something at the edge of the trail I just kept walking and she came running up behind me. (Sometimes I had to step on the leash when she ran by me in her excitement.)
We both got a bit of surprise, though, when a couple mountain bikers came up behind us. Having the leash still attached was handy then. May would have tried to herd those bikes into submission if I let her.
We’ll give her trail dog training another shot this weekend, and this time I’ll remember to bring the long training leash and all the yummy snacks we’ve got for obedience class.