Getting lost is not generally recommended as a means of building trust. But it (inadvertently) worked for me.
The first time I walked Sandy we followed the sidewalk around a pretty pond. But it was such a small pond I decided she needed more exercise than just one circuit, so we started around again. About a quarter of the way, she seemed a little unsettled. By the halfway mark, she was visibly upset. She started marking the trail as we went.
I could almost hear her beagle brain: “We are going in circles. We are lost. What have I gotten myself into with the new human?”
Somehow despite my limited human navigation skills, I managed to find our way again and get us back home.
From then on, Sandy remained alert and cautious whenever we walked. Not a totally bad thing. Still it would have been nice if she trusted me at least a little.
Several times since we have been walking in an unfamiliar (to her) area and she has gotten agitated. It takes a great deal of reassurance from me to keep her calm.
Then when we emerge from the trail – right where I said we would – I tell her, “See, I told you we weren’t lost!”
Given the odd looks I get from people for this statement, either they never get lost or they are not dog people. Either way, I figured they are not my people.
They have no idea how much you can learn from your dog.
I got lucky. We were following trails in a local park. I let Sandy go first, since the path wasn’t that wide and she is good about staying on the trail.
I was watching. I had the park map in my head. And we took what I had hoped was going to be a short cut.
You know what happens next: the short cut wasn’t shorter.
It became clear to me that while theoretically we could keep following this trail and get to where we were going, it would have been the long way around.
It was hot and I didn’t bring water, since we weren’t planning on a long walk. We turned around. I took the lead. And we got back to our car and more important to our water and treats.
That night, she snuggled up next to me in the bed. This reward is reserved for times when I have been a particularly good alpha: taking to visit her best dog friend, for example.
Perhaps, she is beginning to trust me.
No, I did not point out that I could have stopped her from taking that trail.
In her mind, she was leading the way and we got lost. I took over, turned us around and got us un-lost.
I take my victories however I can get them.
© Copyright Suzanne Grosser