Thursday, September 07, 2006

Leash or Tracking Device?

Ok, sometimes it's hard to keep track of me. ScruffyDog has been off the blog for a few days, dealing with family issues and an increasing workload. Of course, this also means that Baxter and I haven't been getting as much walking in, which means I get to sit here listening to him sigh and groan as he waits for me to leave the computer. We finally got out yesterday, in the heat of mid-day instead of the cool morning, and went for a jog (more like a slog at 90+ degrees, but it was short). And I further confirmed my suspicions about Baxter's pulling.

Interestingly enough, Baxter has continued to prove to me that the leash-pulling is less about pulling me and more about keeping tension so he knows where I am. Yesterday we started the walk on a greenway path winding through our area. Bax was very excited to FINALLY get out on a walk and he was at the end of the leash and tugging right away. When we got to a protected area away from cars and other people, I dropped the leash and let it drag behind him. The transformation was immediate. He slowed down and stayed just slightly ahead of me where he could keep an eye on me and my shadow (and where I could step on the leash if a quick stop was needed). I picked up the pace to a jog, he picked up the pace with me. I slowed down, he slowed down. I stopped. He stopped. He was right there. So I picked up the leash and continued. He started pulling immediately, as if the leash had set him free to forge ahead and sniff around without worrying about where I was. We did this two or three different times, each with the same results. It was amazing.

This pretty much confirms that I've been misinterpreting Baxter's behavior, at least the constant-tension-leash-pull part, for years. It's not just that I'm not going fast enough for him. It's not that the leash is a restraint for him... It's a tracking device for me! In Baxter-world, I'm someone who needs to be kept track of, and this handy device enables him to know where I am at all times without having to look or listen. Off-leash he has a job to do...maintain awareness of my location. And he does it well.

But I have to admit, I don't trust him entirely in that regard. At least not in a suburb full of cars, trucks and other hazards. I still think his hunting instinct is greater than his "keep track of alpha female" instinct, and I have no doubt that my little angel would take off if he saw a cat or rabbit dodging across the street.

So unless we're in a safe area, Baxter will continue to track me on the leash.

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