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Show Your Dog They Can FLY

by Grace Henke 2 months ago in dog

Push your dog just far enough to show them they are capable of more

Show Your Dog They Can FLY
Photo by Felipe Giacometti on Unsplash

You know sometimes the session just does not go as planned, and the dog just “made me look bad”, lol. Once upon a time, one of my virtual program clients traveled to me all the way from Sacramento to have an “in-person” session with me.

The session started off great, till I asked the doggie mom to get the pup on the platform (agility table), regardless of the food involved, she refused to get on the table, and she’s showing the typical “I’m putting on a break and not gonna get on that table” act.

The doggie parents told me that they’ve been to agility classes before but they dog would never jump on tables that high, they didn't believe she could do it either.

As I would do with most non-aggressive dogs, I took over the leash and tried to use the leash pressure to guide the pup get on the table, and now she’s throwing a fist, the classic “alligator rolls”, and the temper tantrum is going through the roof, awww, little gal has so much fear in her and she’s putting up a fight to make sure “she’s not ready to die by jumping on that table”.

I can see that the doggie parents start getting very uncomfortable and start worrying about dog’s well-being, “she’s choking,” the doggie mom yelled, so I let the leash pressure go and let the little gal back to the doggie mom, and told her to do the bar jump instead as jumping on this table just seems too much of a stretch to the pup.

The pup wasn’t in the mood to jump the bar either, so I lowered the bar and the pup finally picking up the pace and get more in the mode of corporation, and she’s able to jump quite high after several rounds of raising the bar, and the doggie dad told me that she’s never jump that high in her agility class before.

We sat down and relaxed at the picnic table and I know I need to address what just happened, as I know that the doggie parents were uncomfortable to witness what I just did to their dog, some others may call that “abusive” I’m sure.

I tried my best to explain why I did what I did, and also tried to explain why sometimes being able to “push” the dog to the next level is important, how sometimes small gestures like this are important parts of building the trust between the fearful dog and the owner.

When your dog believes they're gonna die if they do it, and you as the owner is able to guide them through it and push them through it to show them they are still alive after, their confidence from within, and their trust in the owner will rise almost instantly.

The owners really took in what I told them even though I was sure it’s very tough for them to hear or even accept.

I saw all those foods on the agility table, and I had some thoughts. So I told the owners that I’m gonna let my personal dog out to finish up the food.

The doggie parents told me that their dog would go crazy if she saw another dog, so I told them, hold your dog, and asked her to relax and we will go from there.

I let my dog out, the little bastard went straight to my clients to get petting instead go for the food, and my clients’ dog got very excited, hackles all up (fear and unsure and over-excitement), tried to pull herself near my dog, and she’s barking as well.

I called my dog away to show him there’s food on the table, and I asked my clients to have their dog relax.

Clients’ dog was able to relax for maybe 3-4 notches down compared to when my personal dog first came into the yard.

I stacked the tables so that my dog can get 2 table levels high, and I asked my clients bring their dog over as I know my dog will be the perfect motivation for my clients’ dog to get onto the table, the pup came over, really excited but still hesitate to get on the table (in order to sniff my dog’s butt, she needs to get to 1 table height).

What happened next was one of the most defining moments of the session.

Doggie mom didn’t hesitate while the pup was still unsure of getting on the table to reach my dog, instead, doggie mom kept the leash pressure and used the momentum of their dog's “interest in my dog” and got the pup on the table.


And doggie mom kept going, the pup jumped on the SECOND level table and now she’s on the same level as my personal dog!

The doggie dad started clapping.

I had doggie mom repeat this 2-3 more times while my dog’s on the table, then I had her do it while my dog is no longer on the table, and the pup was able to jump on 2 levels of the table no problems.

Doggie dad told me that their pup has never jumped on such high tables before, didn’t even mention the tables are a little wobbly.

“Now we’re done,” I said, “We ended on a good note.”

Doggie dad also commented that this success definitely lightened up the earlier “traumatic” event.

We sat back down on the picnic table, and I told the doggie mom, “YOU DID IT. How did you feel?”

The doggie mom said, it’s good, and she then shared that she has always been in her “okay” zone, as that has been the case when working with her previous dog that passed away, and they missed that pup deeply.

She realized that after what I told her today, she needed to get out of her “okay” zone a little in order to truly help her fearful pup, and now they have seen their dog’s success in just a couple of hours.

There’s so many different emotions across my mind at that moment and throughout the session. I’ve always shared with my clients that they need to truly “lead the way” and for a lot of fearful dogs, we push their limits to get them out of their own comfort zone.

More importantly, my clients are getting out their own comfort zone as well in order to help their dogs.

When your dogs show you “I don’t think I can do this.”

You can either show the dog “I don’t think you can either.” By the way, a lot of times, dog owners subconsciously choose this option when interacting with their fearful dogs, hence they don’t see a significant improvement of their dog’s confidence level.

Or you can show your dog “you can do this, and I’m gonna show you how.” And lead the way, show your dogs that THEY CAN FLY.

Hence ends the lesson.

Sending sunshine,


Grace Henke
Grace Henke
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Grace Henke

Grace Henke is a reactive and fearful dog training expert and the founder of Mensa Mutts. She helps dog owners to live a fuller life with a calmer, more relaxed, and well-behaved dog:

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