JD Allinder


In Recent Posts on August 12, 2009 at 1:19 am

Jane walked with me for thirty minutes off-leash today. It might not sound like a big deal, but it’s a huge turning point for us. Huge. The bluetick coonhound is notoriously stubborn and difficult to train, and Jane is no exception. Their noses are always in the air (or on the ground) and when they pick up a scent they follow it – sometimes for hours. Their hunting instincts are so strong that they’re almost impossible to trust on their own.

That said, I knew what I was getting into when I adopted Jane. I researched the breed and realized she’d be a project and not just a pet. But what a wonderful project she is! There’s nothing finer than watching a dog bend to your will – no matter how slowly – and not just buy into your program, but celebrate it. And Jane is doing just that. It seems every few days we turn another corner, and today’s was the one I’ve been thinking would never come.

I enjoy living with dogs for many reasons, and one of the biggest is I dig their enthusiasm for exercise. They’re not only always ready for adventure, they require it – multiple times each day. Dogs keep me on my toes. They’re my personal trainers. Hiking is my favorite exercise – and it often turns into an adventure – so dogs and I are a good match. My last dog, Georgia, and I walked thousands of miles of trails in several states (I think her paws touched at least 15 ) and the bulk of it was leash-free. Absolute liberty is the only way to truly provide a dog with what she needs physically and psychologically, and the higher level bond that develops during untethered walking cannot be achieved when man and beast are connected by a leash.

I tried exercising Jane sans lead the first week I brought her home. It was a disaster. She ran away for an hour. (Fortunately we were in the woods.) After that she learned to climb the back yard fence and run away. (I can’t tell you how many times I chased her through the neighbors’ yards in my pajamas.) So not only did Jane have to be on leash on all of our outings, she had to be on a tie-out in her fenced-in garden. I eventually discovered the 50-foot leash for our hikes, and Jane finally assumed co-ownership of the house and yard and promised she’d stop running away. (I can’t explain how I know this to be a fact, but it is. It was after our six month anniversary. Maybe she held her head a little higher or began assuming the role of super watchdog, I’m not sure. I just know that one day she looked at me and I knew she wanted to stay and wouldn’t climb the fence again. And she hasn’t.)

Walking on the trail was a different story, though. In the early days I’d drop the 50-foot leash on the ground and run behind her. She still got away twice. The first time the leash was frozen and snapped (I was using a cotton lead – never again) and she took off for an hour despite my commands and whistles. The second time, we were in Stinchfield Woods in Dexter, and I was jogging along behind her trailing leash, and she bolted – vanished. Just like that, she was gone. An hour later I received a phone call (my number’s on Jane’s collar). She was wrapped around a tree in someone’s back yard. This episode really scared me. “Never again,” I told her. And I’ve kept my word.

Until today. We were walking in the field behind Highland Cemetery, and I’m not sure why, but I instinctively knew it was time. I took off her leash. And she didn’t bolt. She sat looking at me, waiting for my command. So I gave tons of them. I sent her off to check out trees and then called her back. I let her run 500 feet or so in front of me, and then gave her the whistle command to wait, and she did. Every time. Once I let her walk pretty far – maybe an eighth of a mile or so – and then I gave her the commands wait and sit with the whistle. She obeyed. Then I gave her a come signal, and she came flying at me with the biggest, sloppiest smile, her tail spinning like a helicopter. It was written all over her face: she was proud of herself. If she could speak English, she’d have been screaming, “I get it!” She does get it. I can’t believe it.

After our thirty minutes of success, Jane went back on lead and we walked together another hour or so. We’ll try it again another day. I’m really proud of Jane, and I feel good knowing we’re on the right track.

Jane's Booty

  1. Yeah! Jane! Don’t you love when they surprise you in a good way. I wish they had leashes for teenagers. Mine would definitely not be allowed off.

  2. yeah, Jane!

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