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The way she walks (on the invisible leash)

I always wanted to have stress free, and above all, leash free walks with my dog. How cool is that you and your dog can have a relationship where the strong, invisible bond between the two of you creates this joyful freedom. I'm just fascinated by it, truly.

It didn't start that way, though. We were just past the initial process of learning to walk properly with the leash on, when the puppy training instructor at the dog school told us that the next is to go outside and drop the leash on the ground. I remember the visceral panic, fear and freaking out all too well to this day.

I envisioned my 5 month old puppy running away at the first chance and be gone for good. Obviously, the trainers were seasoned professionals, they knew exactly what they were doing and trust me it was all safe and professionally managed, but my first time dog owner brain could just not cope with the idea in the slightest way that this can end with anything other than a catastrophe.

Long story short, by the time Nara became 9-10 months old majority of our walks were off leash. It's safe to say that the basic training and generalization took about 3-4 months, and during that period all walks were hard work for me rather than stress free fun. We became so good, that at one point I had to incorporate walks on the leash just so she remembers how to do that, too.

Nowadays it's a 80-20% ration between off and on leash walks.

Naturally I always have the leash with me, and whenever I assess that the situation requires I pop it on her collar. Sometimes I'm not in the mood - I'm only human, I have bad days, too, when I'm more irritable and impatient - and then we go with the leash on all the way. This is a much calmer, less stress way for the both of us.

Here are the rules or characteristics of our stress free off-leash walks

Obedience, basic commands, come when called

If I say Sit, you sit. If I say Heel, you heel. If I say Come, you come. If I say Stay, you stay. If I say No, you stop whatever you're doing (i.e. drop that walnut/stick/whatever unidentified thing you just put in your mouth, don't even think about chasing that bird/cat).

Sidewalk rules

If she's ahead of me she must stop before the corner - I don't know what or who is on the other side (it can be a cat, a person with a child, an old person, a ditch, a broken glass...). I must be first who examines what's behind the corner.

She must stop at the end of the sidewalk and wait for my signal to cross. She has to wait for me when I'm behind. Then she sits in a heel position close to my left leg, and once she makes eye contact with me and I verbally- and hand-signal to her that it's a good time to cross, only then we cross.

Sometimes we play with sticks/walnuts/balls on the sidewalk. The life saving rule is that she mustn't ever follow the object that rolled off to the main road. Never ever.

Meeting and greeting people and dogs

Nara is a very well socialized dog. This was a top priority for our first 6 weeks together. As a result, she is a calm, balanced, curious and well mannered little puppy. She loves and wants to meet all people, all children and all dogs.

The rule here is that she can only do so with my permission.

Today we met up with a friend of mine for the walk. I didn't recognize when he arrived, because he approached from the direction behind me. But Nara noticed him, and although he tried to lure her away from behind my back, she stayed put next to me, waiting for my release signal. He couldn't believe that this happened, and expressed his greatest amazement for my relentless consistency with these rules.


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