Gypsy starts whining when we turn into Jen and Jeff’s subdivision off 17 Mile Road. FLD Gus sits up so fast from where he was laying at my feet I’m surprised he doesn’t bonk his head on the dashboard. The excitement begins.
Jen and Jeff have two German Shorthair Pointers, Gauge and Odo although Jen is the reason Gypsy goes berserk-o when we visit. Gus keys in to Gypsy, but he is also remembers Gauge and Odo’s game “see-if-you-can-catch-me-racing-around-the-big-fat-tree.”
Gus. OFF, I command as Gus stands up with his front paws on my lap, panting and whipping his head to see out the windshield when we pull into their driveway.
He slides back down and then lurches forward when I clip on his leash. Gus, wait.
I get out of the van first and make him sit for a few moments, even when Andy lets Gypsy rocket out of the sliding side door.
Ok, let’s go, I say and Gus tries to rocket after her. I yell after Andy, I’ll be about 10 or 15 minutes, and turn to
take try to take control of the 55+ pound bundle of maniac-adolescent Lab writhing at the end of the leash.
Gus, heel. Gus digs his paws into the spring turf and almost takes me off my feet. GUS! NO!
Gypsy stands barking at the gate. Gauge and Odo erupt out the patio door and leap off the back deck. Name recognition, finger-pokes, even leash corrections don’t get through Gus’s thick skull during this impossible-to-ignore frenzy. I woman-handle him to the sidewalk (Gus, heel!) and
start try to walk east toward the corner at the end of the block. I’ll pull out all the tricks in the book and if Gus thinks he’s going to “win” this one, he’s wrong.
DIVERT HIS ATTENTION
One house away I command, Gus, SIT. He is straining to turn back to Jen’s house; I physically put him into a SIT. I say his name; after an insistent poke to the side of his neck, Gus whips his head in my direction but I only see the whites of his eyes as he strains to look back. I immediately command, Gus, HEEL, and start walking. Gus feels like a strutting stallion with a passion for a corral full of mares, but I am determined to get his attention.
I stop twice in front of each house to work different commands. SIT. DOWN. SIT. STAND. By the time I reach the corner four houses away, Gus sits but is agitated and won’t focus on me. I turn west and say, Gus, heel. He blasts off. I am ready and immediately take a few steps backwards; Gus corrects himself with his intensity and twirls back to my side.
I walk backwards one sidewalk square for every two squares I walk forwards. Progress. I work Gus like this back to Jen’s, pausing as before to interject commands. Gus starts to feign attention on me as we get closer. He is in for a surprise. I don’t turn up Jen’s driveway, where Gauge, Odo, and Gypsy are stirred up at the fence. Nope. I walk right on by.
Gus wants none of this! He leaps in front of me with a whine. I push him back into heel position and keep going. Two houses later he starts to figure out that I am serious and sort of settles into an “Okay, I’m trying to control myself” heel. Good boy, Gus! He glances at me and I pick up the pace and pat my left leg. What a good boy you are to heel with me away from the other dogs! At the third house I stop. Gus sits on command. I slip him a treat. Good boy!
Gus, heel. We turn east. Gus prances forward. I step backwards. Again. One sidewalk square backwards to two sidewalk squares forwards. We eventually reach Jen’s driveway; I prevent Gus from lunging and we continue in the same manner as before. Heel. Stop and SIT. Heel. Stop and DOWN…at this command Gus cannot contain himself any longer. He lets out a yip and launches. I restrain him with the leash but then he’s on his hind legs, scratching my side with his front paws, whining in frustration. NO! I place him into the down position, step on the leash to prevent another launch, and take a few moments to settle myself. Oh how I love teen-age puppies! Gus is DEFINITELY not going to win THIS battle!
When I’m calm, we begin anew. Gus, heel. He looks at me as if he’s thinking, “Boy, she IS serious,” and we manage to reach the corner without any more drastic reactions. When I turn west, we are still on the one-sidewalk-square-backwards-to-two-sidewalk-squares-forwards pace, but now Gus looks at me when I say his name (treat) and sits on command (treat). His “down” is slow (I count out three seconds), but I think the battle has turned.
I heel Gus past Jen’s house again, with less argument. We take another full lap west and east back to the corner. I don’t worry about what Jen’s neighbor’s think, I’m finally making headway.
On our return, Gus’s attention on me is so much better he holds a DOWN-STAY while I walk completely around him. His head spins to follow me like Linda Blair’s in the movie the Exorcist! I feel like I’ve finally exorcized his adolescent-demon and NOW I am inclined to allow him to join the other dogs in play.
It takes us a few more minutes to heel to the gate, with a moderate amount of backwards walking. Gus, sit. Gus holds his sit while I open the gate. I am glad that Andy brought the other dogs inside so the distraction level is not as difficult as it was before.
OK! I release Gus and at last he gets to rocket into the yard. Andy lets the other dogs out and the mayhem ensues.
Before we leave I let the pups inside. The play continues. Gus, I call loudly, and am pleased when Gus disengages with the mass of dogs in the hall leading to the bedrooms. Gus, sit, I say and give him a treat when he complies. Good boy, Gus! I clip on his leash. Gus, settle. He slides into a down and holds position while we say our good-byes. As we exit, Gus heels nicely at my side and does not rocket to the van.
FLD Gus is a tired puppy and—you know, don’t you?—a good puppy!