Following the "Happy Leash" seminar

Adventures in trying to let Pippin be a happy dog while also learning how to walk nicely on a loose leash.

Following the "Happy Leash" seminar
Notes taken during the @djurpedagogen "Happy Leash" seminar on 2024/01/21.

Whenever I have a question about dogs that I'm not sure Google[1] will be all that helpful with, I ask my friend V about it. So when she recommends a dog behaviourist or trainer to follow on social media, I try to sit up and pay attention. This is how I discovered @djurpedagogen on Instagram.

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Pippin is an incredible puppy. But there is a gulf between "growing up with doggies as chill house mates" and "your very first working dog puppy." And, no matter the canine's family history, as I wrote in December, there is a great deal of learning that has to happen to learn how to coexist harmoniously with a creature that, on a genetic level, is basically a baby wolf[2].

A 6 month old Brittany dog falling asleep on a wooden floor, licking his nose.
An odd-looking wolf pup, indeed.

For example, Pippin wore a leash for the very first time on November 18, 2023, the day he came to us in Montréal. So Leif and I have been entirely responsible for his lack of leash etiquette. Additionally, it's been tough finding dog trainers in Montréal willing to do "force-free"[3] leash training in winter. I had one trainer flat-out tell me they only do leash training in the summer — it's nearly -20 Celsius with windchill today and we still walked Pippin for just under an hour on the Mont Royal, so I guess I get it.

Through scrolling Instagram early this morning, I discovered that @djurpedagogen was running a two-hour seminar called "Happy Leash" — I was so pumped and bought a spot immediately. Leif and I usually take Pippin out for a "big" (by puppy standards) adventure on Sunday mornings, but we would be back right in time for Pip to have a big nap before lunch and then we would be able to catch the seminar, held virtually from Sweden.

The seminar (which was in English) was really fantastic: I have five pages worth of notes and I'm already thinking of which parts I'll rewatch when I'm given temporary access to the recording. All the concepts were really accessible and carefully thought-out. I also really liked how the emphasis throughout was not on perfectionism (perfect cues, perfect timing, perfect discipline) but on setting your dog and yourself up for success in as many situations as possible.

A photo of Gersande and Pippin from the back, walking through a snowy and woody clearing on the Mont Royal
Walking a leashed Pippin on the Mont Royal or in big parks is generally much easier than loose-leash walking in the Plateau. There are both fewer and more distractions to sniff!

I've long maintained that in creative pursuits, especially writing, perfectionism is often, usually, a form of self-harm or self-denial. Since Pippin's joined our household, I've been thinking a lot about the parallels that can be drawn between various practices (especially dance, writing, walking) and canine-human relationships, especially in the context of a dog I'll eventually want to "do work" with.

Loose-leash walking through busy Plateau streets is genuinely a really tough skill for an excited gundog like Pippin to learn: Pip is movement distilled: especially as a chaotic, sniffy, world-loving yet stroller-fearing 6 month old puppy. And, frankly, loose-leash walking is also a tough skill for an absent-minded, occasionally hyper-focused, wandering human such as myself to learn.

Before I conclude, I want to express once again my gratitude to @djurpedagogen for a really informative seminar! If you're on TikTok or on Instagram, I recommend giving that account your attention if you're a dog human.

  1. Though I have been, more and more, exploring alternatives to Google for finding information. I still haven't reinstalled TikTok, however, I understand that's how many youngins are getting their information today. ↩︎

  2. Thanks, Snopes: "Are Dogs Really 99.9% Wolf?" Yep. They are. ↩︎

  3. There are as many philosophies to dog training as there are humans on the planet. In this context, I'm referring to leash training without the use of choke or prong collars or other physical punishments. ↩︎

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