Oliver was afraid of going for walks. But he also hated being left home alone. This left me in quite a quandary when I had to get Shamus out for his potty walks. If I leashed them both up and got them out the front door, Oliver would stop dead at the end of the driveway, terrified of going any further.
So I would take them both back to the house, push Oliver inside, and slip out the front door with just Shamus. But as soon as the door closed, Oliver would start howling pitifully, begging us not to leave him. His pathetic cries would ring in my ears until we got far enough down the block that I couldn't hear him anymore.
After several weeks of enduring these shenanigans, I finally decided that come hell or high water, Oliver was coming with us.
So I strapped him securely into his harness, fastened every one's leashes and headed out the door. Of course at the end of the driveway, Oliver stopped dead. I cooed sweet nothing in Oliver's ear to try and calm him, but he still didn't move.
Sweet, patient Shamus just stood there wondering what was wrong with this guy anyway?
Finally, I took a couple steps forward with Shamus until I got to the end of Oliver's leash. I stopped, waited a moment, and then dragged Oliver toward us. He tried to dig in his heels and lock his knees, but I was able to move him one square of the sidewalk. Success!
I took another couple of steps to the end of the leash, and dragged him forward another square of the sidewalk.
Sometimes I had to drag him all the way down the street. Sometimes he would start walking after a couple of drags and off we would go, with Shamus happily leading the way.
But it didn't take much to scare Oliver into a freeze again. Loud cars, scary joggers, drive by barkings, people out for a walk, a leaf falling, the sun shining. Just about everything it seemed.
I'd give him a moment to decide to start up on his own, and if he didn't, I would drag him again, one sidewalk square at a time. I would look down the street and calculate how many sidewalk squares there were and how many drags it would take to get him home.
So off we went, drag, stop, drag, stop, drag, stop. If he would actually start walking, I was ecstatic!
With all this dragging, I'm sure we were quite a sight, and I was always surprised that passersby didn't stop and take my name so they could report me to animal control.
But every day, Shamus and I would try the same route, dragging Oliver along behind us. Slowly but surely, he got used to that route, and as his confidence grew, he would walk a little farther and I would drag him a little less.
After several months of this, Oliver got braver, and the more time we spent out walking the more confident he became. He grew less fearful of joggers, and other dogs, and little girls and cars. Sometimes we managed to do the whole route without him stopping in fear.
Yet, even as Oliver grew older and less scared of being outside, every now and then he'd get in a mood, and stop dead in his tracks. And I'd have to start dragging him again.
Of course, I was afraid to tell Geoff what I was doing to his poor dog, dragging him all over the neighborhood. I figured Oliver never did that to his daddy!
Then one day Geoff made an offhand comment about taking his dog for a drag. I burst out laughing, and said, "he does that to you too? I thought it was just me!" No apparently, Oliver was an equally opportunity anchor.
Needless to say, I was greatly relieved to discover that my sketchy dog mom skills had once again dodged a messy divorce!
Guest blogger: Barbara Beck, SA Grey Member