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Lucky Strike the Mastiff: Joining & Imitating His Exercise Pattern

I was scheduled to walk a giant mastiff named Lucky Strike, who was afraid of his shadow, most noises of very low, medium, and high volume, and moving objects. Lucky Strike was in recovery from serious orthopedic surgery on a leg, leaving his muscles weak and underused. My employer and his owner were concerned about underused sinews becoming a chronic weakness problem in his muscle and skeletal movements.

Given Lucky Strike's strong discomfort with many sounds and his penchant to remain very close to his home, walking him the 100 feet to the end of the property was his comfort pattern, though there was definitely high anxiety for him in this routine. He would habitually sit down and lie down when being coaxed to walk both on and off the property.

Due to Lucky Strike's resistance of walking off property, I realized the best way to improve his muscle use was to turn his exercise pattern into an exercise advantage by improving my routine on the property itself instead of trying to coax a very anxious giant dog off property. I refer to this in my book as similar to a Marriage & Family Therapy technique called "Joining the System." This decision helped me work with Lucky Strike where he was most comfortable. I simply started to command him to do what he was comfortable with while increasing the frequency. "Sit down, lie down, sit up Lucky Strike; stand up." He often complied with these commands multiple times during our 25-minute walk time. This process was something he was comfortable enough to comply with. A few treats and many affirmative statements of "Good, Lucky Strike" helped the process. His muscles were being used and he appeared willing and interested in the process. I may also use imitation in this process in the future. Using imitation, I could sit down on the ground as well as stand up. This might create more bonding between Lucky Strike and me, which I could possibly leverage into coaxing him to walk off the property.

Robert Berkelhammer is the Author of Pet Care Givers & Families: Getting the Most From Dog Playgroups, Pet Sitters, and Walkers. Also, see our MULTI-USE FAMILY PET CARE CONTRACT, a must-have organizing tool for you, your family, pet care professionals, and most importantly your pets!

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