When Murdoch and I started on our latest adventure in dog training, my biggest hope was that we would be able to get Murdoch walking calmly on a lead without lunging to attack other dogs while we were out and about. However within a matter of days Murdoch had progressed from lead, through long line to being off lead with a muzzle on. We'd already exceeded my expectations and I thought we'd reached the limit of what we'd be able to do. And I was so proud of my boy. I can't describe the happiness that I felt every time I saw his fat little staffie bottom running away from me with his tail in the air, making his crazy little noises as he ran about with the other dogs.
The one downside was that I couldn't see his staffie smile as he ran back to me; it was covered by a muzzle. And he just couldn't let that muzzle be, he was dragging his face along the ground, using branches to try and hook it off, nuzzling his face against peoples' legs (bruising them in the process - you should see the state my calfs were in!). It was starting to damage his face, which had constant red marks where he had rubbed the muzzle, desperately trying to get it off.
Last week, as we neared the end of our Friday morning walk at the Dog House, G suggested that I take Murdoch's muzzle off so that we could see how he reacted. I nervously agreed and my boy did not let me down, he was just great. Veered a little close to his arch nemesis Nico a couple of times, but was corrected and didn't do anything stupid. He then did the remainder of his walks that day without his muzzle and was the very model of a well behaved dog. Had a good chat on Friday evening and G made it clear that I couldn't use the muzzle any more, otherwise I risked setting Murdoch back.
I'm not going to lie. This makes me nervous. Murdoch's behaviour is still a bit of a worry to me; he behaves much better at the Dog House than he does out and about alone with me. This is because I get nervous and he feeds off that energy, so I need to build some confidence to make sure that we continue to succeed. To help me get started with this, I spent quite a lot of time with the Dog House guys over the weekend, walking Murdoch without his muzzle, both in the usual walking location and in a couple of new places. On Saturday afternoon we did a walk at Blackheath near Wonersh. This is a regular walk, but it was our first time there. I knew some of the people, but most of the people were new to me, so Murdoch didn't know their dogs either. At the end of the walk, G confiscated the muzzle. I am not allowed to have it any more. I don't need it.
We also did a Sunday morning walk at Ockham Common which we've done before. This walk is very German Shepherd heavy and Murdoch had issues with this breed after his run in with Nico so I thought it would be a pretty good test of his behaviour. On both walks he was a perfect gentleman and had a great recall too.
This morning I did my first solo walk without the muzzle. I took Murdoch to one of our local haunts in Farncombe which is part of the Surrey Wildlife Trust's McAlmont Reserves. It's a mix of fields and woodland and we usually encounter other dogs there. Today was no exception. And when he saw a dog ahead of us, Murdoch did his usual full pelt hurtle towards it. I didn't much like this, as by this time we were at the corner of a field and I couldn't see what was going on. So I really don't know what happened, but when I called Murdoch in, he came back to me and the other dog walker waved at me as I entered the next field, so Murdoch clearly hadn't tried to eat his dog! We encountered another staffie as we headed back towards home and Murdoch again went hurtling off. Both Murdoch and the other staffie came running back to me and she jumped up a bit which made Murdoch a little hackly and growly. Instead of correcting him, I grabbed his collar and guided him away from the dog. That wasn't the right thing to do, but I didn't panic and I'm learning on the job here, so bear with!
I can't adequately explain how happy all of this makes me. I never thought that we'd be able to achieve this and while I'm still a little bit nervous, we're just going to keep at it and take each situation as it comes. Life is good.
Also, today is weigh in day. Over the past two weeks I've managed to drop 3.5lb. Huzzah! This is very good news, especially with my holiday less than two weeks away (GAAHHH IMPENDING HOLIDAY WEIGHT LOSS PANIC SPIRAL OF DOOM!). I have bought a new bikini, but I don't look very nice in it - too much podge and not much I can do about it in the time available. But it doesn't really matter. I'll do what I can in the next two weeks and then I'm going to go and enjoy my holiday, which I've been looking forward to for ages.