Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Release the tension

May 15, 2014

Lunchtime was coming, so we went out to the yard to practice stairs. Tammy challenged the guys to use "release the tension" TAG-teach to help the handler approach the steps with a loose leash. She said that often we unconsciously tighten the leash in anticipation of our puppy rushing. A tight leash only makes things worse.

Tammy gave a little demo with FLD Harper.

A woman wearing blue jeans and a dark blue jacket is standing on the right side, partially out of view. She is holding the leash of a golden retriever with her left hand at her waist. The leash is very tight. The golden is standing at her left side, his held pushing forward against his collar like he is choking. In the background are five men and one woman watching. To the left are a couple of wooden steps.
FLD Harper cannot help but demonstrate an opposition reflex when Tammy tightens his leash. See how he is leaning into his collar? Opposition reflex is "a natural resistance to pressure." When your puppy feels tension on the front of his collar from a tight leash, he will invariably pull harder against it. Before Tammy tightened the leash Harper was walking nicely beside her, the leash hanging in a "J" from his collar.

The same woman is more visible on the right side of the picture. Now her left hand is at her side holding the leash loose, and the golden retriever is sitting at her left side, looking up at her. There are more people in the background. On the left is the wooden stairs up to a platform and down the other side.
Now see the loose leash and FLD Harper's relaxed position? When Tammy released tension on his leash (TAG), he stopped pulling against it. She then asked him to sit while she explained what she wants the men to do in this exercise.

Check out all these loose leashes! (Say that three times in a hurry.)

Taken from an angle from below, a man dressed in the blue prison uniform with a blue stocking cap stands at the top of the wooden stairs. He is holding the leash of a black lab puppy with his left hand. The puppy is sitting on his left side looking at the camera. The man is looking down at the puppy. The puppy is wearing the blue Futurel Leader Dog bandana. There is another man far in the background on the right dressed in blue, in front of a white brick building.
Luke pauses at the top of the stairs and has FLD Copo sit before heading down them. Sometimes asking the puppy to sit first helps to refocus, but it is not a Leader Dog requirement.

An african american man dressed in the blue prison uniform with a blue stocking cap is just stepping onto the wooden stairs. He is holding the leash to a yellow lab puppy with his left hand at his side and looking at the stairs. The puppy is coming up the stairs with the man, looking at the camera with the leash loose. The puppy is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana. There are four men in the background dressed in the prison blue agains a white brick building. The wooden railing and deck of the stairs is on either side and in the foreground of the picture.
Mondo walks up with FLD Axel. Nicely done!

A side shot of a yellow lab puppy and the ligs of a man coming down wooden stairs. The man is wearing prison blue pants, white tennis shoes, and a blue jacket, only visible from the waist down. The man is one step down from the puppy, whose front paws are on the step behind him and his rear paws are on the top landing. The puppy is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana and his leash is loose. A woman's head is visible behing the puppy, she has short white hair and sunglasses. To the left in the background are four or five men dressed in prison blues with a black lab puppy standing by them. The man on the far left is wearing an orange stocking cap.
Mondo and FLD Axel take one step at a time - just like a wedding march!

A small black lab puppy is sitting on the left side of a man dressed in the blue prison uniform. The man is visible only from the waist down. He is holding the puppy's leash lightly in his left hand at his side. The puppy is gazing upward toward the man, and is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana. The pair are right in front of a set of wooden stairs, a white brick wall is behind them.
FLD Copo gets ready for a second turn with another team member. Do you think he is focused and ready to go?

A man is standing at the top of a set of wooden stairs. His right hand is on the railing and he is looking down at a yellow lab puppy standing at his left side. The man is holding the dog's leash lightly in his left hand at his side. The puppy is looking toward the man and is wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana. In the background are seven men and one black lab standing along a white brick building.
Steve and FLD Axel pause before heading down the stairs.

Before our session closed, Black asked me if someone could take a photo of me with FLD Bear and his team. Ricky added, "We'd just like a picture of Bear's original raisers." (I was lucky to have raised Bear for a few weeks before bringing him to Baraga in January.) Although I prefer to be behind the camera, this time I obliged.

A group shot against a white brick wall. Two men are standing against the wall dressed in the blue prison uniforms, the man on the right is wearing a blue baseball cap, Squatting in front of them one the left is a woman with short brown hair wearing blue jeans and a purple zippered sweat shirt. Squatting in front of the standing men on the right is  a man dressked in the prison blue uniform with a blue stocking cap and a purple jacket. Sitting between the woman and man is a black lab puppy wearing the blue Future Leader Dog bandana, he is facing the camera. The man in back on the left is an african american and he is raising his first finger on his right hand up. The man stand on the right is holding his hands at his waist. The woman is resting her right arm on her knee and the man squatting on the right is resting his left forearm on his knee and holding the leash to the puppy.
P and Black stand behind me, FLD Bear and Ricky.

The same group in this picture, but now the man standing on the right in back has his right arm around the african american's neck. The black lab puppy is licking the face of the woman, who is turning her head to the left. The three men are looking at the camera wtih big smiles.
FLD Bear just couldn't resist giving me a lick! His team tells me that every time we come and Bear hears my voice he "goes crazy."

The men talked to me about the things they've learned from raising FLD Bear. Black said, "I have three kids and one grandkid and I've never changed a dirty diaper! Can you believe that?" It was like he couldn't believe he was once that person. "And now you're picking up dog poop," I said.

Ricky said that he'd been in prison since he was 18 years old and listed at least six different programs he's been through. "I've learned more from this guy than from all those programs put together!"

Good job, Bear! I always knew you were special. 


  1. More like "Care Bear." That dog has touched many people! --LB

  2. Kayla's brother, Axel, is very handsome!!

    1. Indeed! Thanks for stopping by, Kim!