Asking an animal to move faster than they are comfortable with can cause stress, but what about asking them to go slower than they want to?
I was training with my poodle (as a guide dog for the blind) in the city today – the middle of Frankfurt. We both prefer to walk “fast” and really pace ourselves. I met his future, blind owner and noticed she was nervous when he walked fast. It is simply a lack of trust and unfamiliarity with walking with a guide dog on her part, but I am now training my poodle to walk slower. I am guessing that at some point they will walk fast together but, in the beginning, he needs to slow down.
He feels a need to speed up when we get in the busy part of the city – but only then. It feels to me that he wants to “keep me safe” and rushes through areas where there’s a lot of commotion. He dodges obstacles effectively as we go. (He’s the kind of dog who will guide me around a tissue or magazine laying on the ground – once he even led me around a leaf!)
Today he tried to contain himself but really wanted to walk fast. I had to keep reminding him to keep it slow through a tap on the shoulder or by saying his name. Knowing him so well, I could see it was causing him stress to walk slowly amongst so many people. He was acting professionally and keeping me safe, but it was obviously stressful.I’m not sure he’ll always walk that way – dogs and humans have their own, individual pace and have a right to walk that fast or that slow. I just want him to learn that there are times when, for the comfort and safety of his human, he has to walk a bit slower. Interesting how these little adjustments can cause such discomfort for an animal (and human). Breaking habits can be so difficult! It is a great way to teach patience on our part.