Anyone who has worked with me knows that I focus a lot on my dog making good choices.
Many of us want well-trained dogs, but ALL of us want well-behaved dogs who make good decisions without needing to be told or prompted by us.
On this particular day, Zuzu and I encountered a half dozen deer lounging on our hillside.
As a sighthound, Zuzu loves to (and is quite good at!) chasing animals. She LOVES the deer. She loves to run fast. She loves to chase.
I think one of the things she loves about the deer is that they can run fast! She loves playing with her dog friends, but most of them cannot keep up with her when she hits her stride.
So our objective today with the deer was to see, is my dog making good choices and staying calm around the deer without trying to chase them?
Since Zuzu was a puppy, I have taught her that when she is on leash, she does NOT get to chase.
My rule for leashed walks is that she remain tuned in with me and NOT hit the end of the leash. There should not be a tight leash. Even if a bunny runs across in front of us or a half dozen deer are lounging in the shade a short distance away.
Zuzu does a lot of her walks off leash. However, on our morning walks, we leash up before we go up our hill to ensure there are no coyotes lingering around, just to be safe.
So Zuzu was on leash when we spotted the deer. I use a ten foot line/leash with her. I did not give her any cues nor any prompting during the entire encounter.
While I could have used my Leave It or my This Way or other things in this situation, my goal was to see what choices she would make without my help.
Although she knows she is not allowed to pull on leash or chase deer when on leash, knowing something and actually doing it can be hard!
So this particular morning, Zuzu spotted the deer lying in the shade. She immediately went on alert. OMG! It's my FAVORITE! Deer!!!
However, she did not go to the end of the leash. She did not tighten or pull on the leash. She stopped a few feet in front of me and watched.
The deer stood up and walked just to the other side of the scrub oak – just in case Zuzu tried to chase, they wanted a bit of a buffer to buy them a little time. But they did not run away. They watched us. We watched them.
We probably watched for a minute or so. Maybe two. But if you're waiting for someone else to make a good choice, it usually feels longer than it really is.
Zuzu watched quietly for a bit and then turned and checked in with me. Good girl! She got a treat for that.
She turned back and watch again. For maybe another thirty seconds or a minute.
Then she turned and checked in with me again and started continuing on our path up the hill. We walked past the deer and up the hill. The deer stayed still and watched us go.
There was never any tension on the leash during the entire time. She watched but never attempted to chase or get the deer to run. She made good choices without any help from me.
She was a very good girl today!
Read more about Zuzu making good choices with goats.