Annie and the Gentle Leader

Annie in the Mud
Annie in the Mud

After reading so many glowing reviews of the Gentle Leader, we bought one and took Annie out in the yard to give it a try. More accurately, Lauren took Annie while I took the camera. Somehow I knew this would be an event worth recording.

The Gentle Leader is much like a halter for a horse in that it wraps around the dog’s snout and head. Though some people mistake it for a muzzle because of the way it looks, the dog’s mouth is free to open with a Gentle Leader. The leader works because the leash is attached under the dogs nose. Where the nose goes, so goes the dog. At least that’s how it works on paper.

As with most things involving Annie, this was not to go as planned. Lauren got the Gentle Leader on her, and Annie promptly set to scraping it off with her paw. We figured it was too tight, so we re-read the instructions while Annie furiously pawed at her face in a vain attempt to remove the foul restraint. Though we felt that it was properly applied, we loosened the harness a bit just in case. She still didn’t like it, but at least she stopped pawing.

Lauren clipped the leash on and started to walk. Walking with Annie was not a pleasant experience – hence our experiment with the Gentle Leader. Annie’s lack of manners was our fault of course. We had not yet spent enough time with her, so she hadn’t learned the rules. Lauren had walked with her every day, but Lauren isn’t quite as strict as me. That’s not to say that she didn’t do well, but rather that Annie didn’t yet respect her as the one true alpha female.

As Lauren and Annie started to walk, the excitement began. Annie took a couple of steps, then jumped into the air spiraling like a dolphin at Sea World. When she landed she shook her head trying get the infernal straps off of her head. She reared up on her hind legs, bucking like a stallion.

“I don’t think she likes it”, I said, chuckling.

“Ya’ think?” was Lauren’s only reply.

The Gentle Leader is marketed as the five minute attitude adjuster. After five minutes Lauren got her to stop bucking and writhing, but I wasn’t entirely convinced of Annie’s newfound manners. We decided to give her a break and took the harness off. Annie’s plan had come to fruition. Sensing the long awaited freedom from her binds, Annie erupted into a full-blown heebie-jeebie running fit. Apparently she wasn’t tired after all.

She ran in the yard, bounced off of the fence and the trees, then headed straight for the mud. We had been having a drainage problem on one side of the yard, so we had worked with Annie on the dry side to avoid it. The muddy section was only about 10 feet by four feet, and was in the rarely used corner of the yard behind the patio. Our fenced yard was almost an acre in size, so the muddy area wasn’t even visible from where we had been working. Annie knew well where it was though.

“Annie No!” I yelled. She could not have cared less. She ran to the mud, then stood there as her feet slowly sank in. I imagine that she enjoyed the way the cool mud squished between her toes. She just stood there and stared at me. She knew she was being bad – she just didn’t care. After soaking for a few seconds, she started to pull her feet out of the mud one by one and then put them down. A rude slurping sound accompanied each foot and she lifted it out. I think she liked that too. Slurp… Squish….

“Annie! Get out of the mud!” Slurp… My commands fell on uncaring ears. As if knowing what I was thinking, she slowly – deliberately – laid herself down in the mud. All the while she stared at me with obvious defiance. Squish…

“Annie! No!” Still she stared. She knew I wouldn’t come into the mud to get her. Her belly now in the wet sloppy mud, she went for the checkered flag and put her head down with a final defiant squish.

One word echoed in my head. It started as a whisper, but had steadily increased in intensity. It wasn’t a nice word when misused, but it applied, and its double meaning appealed to my literary sensibilities. My eyes narrowed as Annie watched. Her head slid forward as she anticipated my next word. Overcome with frustration and resolved to let her know it, I let loose the word. In a low voice that only Annie could hear I growled, “Bitch!”

That’s what Annie had wanted all along. She had succesfully pushed by buttons and she knew it. Once the line had been crossed, she got up from the mud with a slurp, then ran at me at flank speed. Anger turned to fear as I considered the possibility of 100 pounds of muddy Landseer Newfoundland taking me down. On the video that I was shooting, there was a noticeable lack of my previous resolve as I exclaimed “Oh crap!”

She veered off at the last second and ran to the opposite end of the yard. Lauren, her part in the training debacle since complete, stood on the deck and laughed.

The score as it now stands is Annie: 1, Gentle Leader: 0. A rematch has not yet been scheduled.

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