I've been thinking about FREELADY's inquiry as to whether Charlie gets to run off leash when we take him for a walk in the woods.
And that's because (despite the very unfortunate muskrat massacre on New Year's Day cross country skiing . . . when he'd already exhausted his will power with several very provocative temptations) Charlie is almost always a very obedient dog.
We've taken all of our dogs to obedience training as puppies and as young dogs. Repeat sessions of obedience for each of them. And of course it's the dog owner who's really being trained . . . . but there are certain inherent and breed-related limitations!
Our very photogenic basset hounds (Ambrose, then Rufus) were much loved, but really impossible to train. They could never see the point of a "sit" or "down" command: they were already so close to the ground! And they were so ruled by their noses (bassets are scent hounds) that they had relatively little attention to spare for their humans. Our bassets spent a lot of time alone in the kitchen.
Our Irish water spaniel, Sabrina, was a highly individual one person dog: me. She simply did not connect with the other members of our family. She'd do what I told her readily enough, responding even to silent hand signals . . . but no one else. And that had fairly disastrous consequences.
Charlie, our golden retriever, lives to please. He is smart enough in the IQ department, but his outstanding characteristic is his high EQ (emotional quotient). He is intensely companionable and affectionate.
As a result, Charlie's life has been by far the most pleasant of all our dogs. He is almost constantly with one or other of us, moving freely throughout our house unsupervised. And that's because from puppyhood onwards we knew he would never ever mess anywhere, he would never ever chew anyone's shoes, he would never snatch food or get into the garbage. He joins us sitting on the verandah because we know he would never ever run into the street or chase a rabbit. And he runs off leash in the woods because we know he will come instantly when called. Every time. We only leash him briefly if there is someone else out hiking who might be frightened by such a large dog, and then only long enough for them to pass on by.
Charlie is trustworthy. He's trained himself not to be tempted to do what he knows we don't want him to do. He doesn't even consider such activities. He averts his attention from them. He focuses on the things he knows are OK.
It's possible to observe him doing all of these things. He's quiet but not subdued, not cowed or cringing, not suffering from any apparent loss of freedom. (Charlie has scarcely ever heard a cross word from any of us).
Instead he exudes confidence. He exudes a sense of dignity and satisfaction with himself.
So: in the category of "things I've learned from my dog"???
My own life is much more pleasant too since I've figured out that obedience to my nutrition tracking means I can trust myself "off leash"!
I'm not going to eat doughnuts. I'm not going to gorge on potato chips. I'm not going to inhale French fries. I've organized my life in such a way that these things aren't available to tempt me. So long as I drive past the fast food places and avoid those aisles at the grocery store and never bring any of it home I'll be OK.
And if once in a long while the dietary equivalent of an unexpected muskrat burrowing under the snow breaks my resolve?
I wipe off my muzzle, snap myself back onto my leash, haul myself back to my car . . . and just drive myself away.