Dog Blog #13 – Who is Leading Who?

This week, I have continued in my mission to be more assertive with Margot to ensure that I am in charge and behaving as a leader should. (I know that sounds a bit strange when I am dealing with an animal. But for someone who still feels very new to this, it seems to be working for me.)

Many weeks ago I mentioned in a previous blog that I didn’t think that our pup was ruling the roost, but more recently I have been starting to wonder. One of the things that Fleur, our trainer, was adamant about was that dogs do not try and dominate their owners. I agree wholeheartedly with that concept – I don’t feel dominated at all, but there are times when I do feel like I am being manipulated. And there is a subtle difference.

Because I am a words person, I got straight onto my library app and ordered another book to read on the topic of training – this time from the Dogfather himself, Graeme Hall. (The man from the TV show ‘Dogs Behaving (Very) Badly’ on Channel 5.)

I found this book both helpful and fascinating, reading it from cover to cover over the course of a few days. The stories of his experiences are relevant, in some cases humorous and in another, quite frightening, when he recounts an occasion when things went wrong and a dog bit him.

Graeme starts off by outlining his three and a half golden rules near the start of the book: ‘1. Any behaviour that feels rewarding will increase. 2. Any behaviour that feels uncomfortable will decrease. 3. Some behaviours that are ignored will fade away. 4. Practice doesn’t always make perfect.’

This fits in with the philosophy we have been working with so far. We treat Margot when she shows us positive behaviour and we are continuing to ignore much of the jumping up. (Apparently, you have to be careful not to give in at any point in terms of your reaction or you could be right back at square one!) Do we ever make Margot feel uncomfortable in terms of her behaviour? I’m thinking about rule number 2 here and trying to decrease the bad stuff? Possibly, at times, when we show our disappointment.

However, it was chapter 12 which resonated with me the most: ‘Leadership – who is leading who?’ I read it three times. Benny, a cocker spaniel, knew exactly how to get what he wanted and his owner allowed him to dictate in terms of his food, when he wanted to play and when he was after more room on the sofa, for example. This dog was described as taking the lead, while his owner in her ‘desire to give him what he wanted placed her in a follower role’. I really related to this. Graeme’s advice not to jump to things straight away made perfect sense as well as taking the initiative when outside and walking her on my terms. Now if Margot decides to play the stubborn card, I pause, look ahead towards the direction we are headed and wait for her to follow me. I also don’t rush immediately to fill her bowl with the second half of her meal; she has to show good manners and wait patiently for a few minutes – especially if I am in the middle of making a cup of tea.

(In my previous role as a teacher, I always shared the old proverb that ‘Manners maketh man’. I still believe that both men and women are judged by their manners or conduct and the same can probably be said for dogs. I certainly feel judged by other dog owners when Margot jumps all over their pet. However, our quick learner now sits and waits at every door following the new command ‘Me first’ rather than pushing past to get through before anyone else. Let’s hope that we can encourage better manners when meeting other people and dogs in the future. Fingers crossed…)

Thank you, Graeme. I certainly feel a bit more of a leader now, whilst continually showing kindness and using praise to reinforce the good behaviour.

Crate Training

The crate training has been a success all round. I still can’t believe it has taken us this many weeks to see the benefit. Well, I can, because in one sense it seems a bit mean shutting Margot inside a cage, but if it keeps her safe, everyone is a winner. Our early morning routine is so much less stressful now because she lies quietly on her cosy mattress inside the crate while we eat breakfast and rush to get ready in time to take P to the school bus. She’s always so pleased to see me when I get back and let her out too, which is lovely. Rather than excitedly jumping all over me, which she used to do in the past, she will circle around my crouched position and let me stroke along her back. So an improvement in manners there too. I don’t play the ‘Crate Game’ many times during the week – only when I leave the house and she is left on her own.

Lead Walking / Jumping Up Update

Margot is definitely making progress with walking on the lead. Last weekend we drove to a new spot and walked through some local woods. The thing I noticed immediately was that she didn’t pull once when J held the lead. His natural walking speed is much faster than P and I, which I think our pup enjoyed. (Since then, I have donned my trainers this week and stuck to the less muddy routes which means I can also increase my stepping speed – there is certainly less pulling, but are we back to the question of who is leading who?)

You can see in the pictures below that we are continuing to juggle between two ways of attaching the lead to Margot’s harness. With one of the clips attached to the front, her leg sometimes gets caught, which can be frustrating. Personally, I still prefer having both clips attached to the back. I have also noted a slight improvement in terms of her reactions to other dogs. This morning she followed the command to ‘sit’ even though there was a dog passing by on the other side of the road. A small win, but a win all the same. (And we also had our first experience of using a dog poo bag outside of our back garden this week – I’m not sure I’d class this as a win, but there you go.)

I had a friend over this week, another experienced Labrador dog owner, who was eager to meet Margot. It was a bit of a shame that our pup’s jumping up was the worst I had seen when she was here. And I was worse than useless with my control – or lack thereof. H was very sympathetic and told me that one of her previous canine pets had been carefully managed as a puppy and turned out to be the most wonderful adult dog.

She also kindly showed me what had been recommended to them by a trainer. We put on her harness and the indoor lead, but instead of removing Margot from the kitchen, she stood on the lead to prevent her from jumping up. It did seem to work until Margot managed to somehow squeeze herself out of the harness! (Who is leading who now?) Nevertheless, J prefers it as a strategy and even just wearing the tightened harness and lead sometimes keeps her four paws on the floor for longer – I think she might know what it means when she wears it inside the house. Unless she is overtired, of course, when nothing seems to work. That’s when the crate game just has to be played…

New Tricks

P tried to teach Margot a new trick this week, by encouraging her to walk through her legs continually. I was quite impressed with the pair of them actually.

Shaking paws is not really a new trick and one we do every time she comes back in from the garden to check for moisture and dirt.

Garden Pics

Back to the roses this week… I still find it strange that she will chew on the thorny stems. I love the photo on the right because it looks like Margot is smiling at me – and you can see some of her adult teeth.

Margot says…

‘I am starting to enjoy my walks a bit more now. The new red harness is more comfortable than the old one and I don’t make a fuss putting it on anymore. They all seem far more relaxed in getting me ready to go outside than they were before. I’d like to be able to run around without all that extra clobber on like I do in the garden.

They have started putting those restraints on me inside. I’m not sure why. I continually bite the harness and the rope hanging down from the back. Sometimes it tastes really bitter, but that doesn’t stop me from chewing at it. My mouth still feels strange at the moment with bits wobbling and falling out.’

Margot asleep


There are times when Margot loves being stroked under her chin and down the side of her neck. However, there are occasions when she clearly doesn’t like it. Her bitey mouth has reappeared, especially when J returns home in the evening. I could blame it on being tired and irritable, but she also bares her teeth in my direction when she has not long woken up from a long nap during the afternoon. When she is open to receiving affection, it is so sweet.

Next week… February at last – will Margot experience the first signs of spring soon?

Please feel free to comment, share and spread the word…

4 responses to “Dog Blog #13 – Who is Leading Who?”

  1. Hello K, loving all the pictures and news of the lovely Margot! ❤️🐾 Just a note on the harness – I’m sure you’ve already tried it, but have you attached one lead to her actual collar and the other one to the back clip of the harness? Or does she dislike having a lead attached to her collar? Just an extra bit of security if one or the other fails. When we first got Gali, two leads attached in this way were recommended. ❤️


    • Hi M, thank you for your lovely feedback. And thanks for the tip about the lead / collar / harness attachment. We haven’t tried your combination before and it sounds like a good idea.Might give it a go this weekend x


  2. It sounds like things are improving! Graeme is just great, we’ve learnt a lot from him, we find when Freddie is excited to see a new visitor, I have a handful of high value treats and let him know he can have some if he keeps his feet on the ground, he’s definitely getting there!


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