Friday, November 27, 2009

The Miracle Cure

I live in the city, and my husband and I have to walk Denny twice a day (and sometimes a before-bed quick step outside the building, too). We try to give him at least a mile to two miles for each walk (depending on the rain, naturally).

For the first four years of Denny's life, this was an exercise in misery for me. I had watched the Dog Whisperer, read the books, and tried every single device out there to try and get Denny to heel. We did short step exercises with treats. I tried tying him to my belt loop on the left side around the house (never again!). I tried martingales, chokes, chain chokes, prong chokes, halters...nothing worked.

His neck was so skinny that all the stuff that was supposed to stay up around the top of his neck just slid right down (and yes, I know about the technique and all that, but either I was too uncoordinated or they never worked with a Basenji).

Denny lunged, pulled, tugged, refused, ran, jumped, snarked...whenever and however he wanted. In the house, he obeyed me perfectly. He even does tricks (sit, stay, lie down, tummy, shake shake, paws up, say your prayers, dance). But outside, with squirrels and birds and little dogs abounding, it was a lost cause.

It got to a crisis point after I had my kidney transplant. I had a 10-inch incision in my abdomen, meaning that I had no ability to tense my abdominal muscles and any little effort would put me into waves of pain. It was three weeks, I think, after the surgery that we brought him home, and I was determined to use him as part of my recovery to get me walking.

Well...I was so frustrated and in so much pain that I was really at my wits' end. Finally, a man at pet supply store suggested the Gentle Leader. It was expensive, and I already had a basket full of failed contraptions, but I thought I would give it a go.

I bought it, and my husband and I watched the training DVD. The first inkling of hope I felt was that there was a Basenji featured as one of the dogs used for training. Naturally, the Basenji wasn't as good or obedient as the other dogs, but it was good enough for me!

The first few times, Denny pitched a fit, trying to pull it off his snout and thrashing as we dragged him along. But, practice, with the help of liberal dosings of training treats, had him walking like a pro just two days later.

Now, Denny is a dream to walk. For the most part. He still refuses sometimes when he wants to go another way or it's wet outside, and if he sees a squirrel, all bets are off. But otherwise, he walks beautifully. We can go for miles and hours walking, with him trotting perfectly at my side. He's easier to control if he gets snarky with other dogs and people, and it's transformed our walking relationship.

So, for anyone out there who despairs of giving their B a long, easy, disciplined walk, I highly recommend the Gentle Leader!


  1. Awesome advice Cait. We have a gentle leader for Raleigh(Ms Snarky herself)!

  2. What size is recommended; small or medium?

  3. I use small, though a medium can be adjusted to fit.

    Denny was a very good boy this morning, like he always is, and he simply stood there patiently when I put the gentle leader on. In fact, sometimes, he yawns, he's so used to it now! LOL

  4. I have a puppia harness that my Basenji walks beautifully on after being dragged behind a choking dog on a normal collar and lead. Basenjis don't respond well to dog whisperer style leash checking, they only fight harder. The less on them, the better that they seem to walk