Why do you walk your dog? I walk my dog because I know that it is up to me to give them mentally enriching activities. They don’t have opposable thumbs, they can’t pick up the car keys and drive themselves to a movie when they are bored of being in the house. I walk my dogs because I enjoy getting outside, seeing the world and hanging out with them. It is an opportunity for me to really focus on my dog and enhance our relationship by spending time with them. My walks are enjoyable because I am not fighting with my dogs to behave politely. They don’t pull me down the path, they walk WITH me, not AGAINST me. This also means that I walk with them and not against them. We are walking TOGETHER. I am not walking them and they are not walking me. WE ARE A TEAM. We are cooperating. To many people that seems like a foreign concept. That is why the lady commented to me, she thinks that I must be walking them. Does that means they are walking in a perfect heel position or slightly behind me “respecting my leadership” as some people advise? I can’t tell you how many dogs I see being walked with a gentle leader or choke chain, heads down, tails down, just trudging along with their owners. Any interest in anything is corrected and the dogs are so clearly unhappy. I also see many dogs who are pulling their owners down the path, the owners have no control and the owners are clearly unhappy. Surely there must be a happy medium, a way for both owners and dogs to be happy on a walk. A way to walk your dog without hurting them or being a battle of wills. Yes, there is a happy medium, but it takes some work on your part to effectively communicate to your dogs what you would like from them. And, that doesn’t happen overnight. But, when you make an effort to really spend some quality time connected with your dog your life will change.
We want a dog that walks politely and doesn’t pull us. Have you ever stopped to think about what your dog wants? I think that dogs want a few things. They want to get out of the house. They want to hang out with us. And they want to smell, smell, smell the world around them. While we view and asses the world based on what we see, they base it on what they smell. We have approximately 20 million scent receptors in our nose, depending on the breed they can have up to 200 million scent receptors. Yes, 200 million to our measly 20 million. That is why the telephone pole is so interesting. We can’t smell anything but they can, and do. We see spring flowers popping up and they smell dirt disturbed. So, yes, they do want to stop and smell every pillar and post and bush and rock and….EVERYTHING!
So, we want to keep moving, and they want to stop and smell. In this Go, GO, GO world of ours I often wonder if our dogs aren’t trying to tell us to slow down and smell the roses. What’s the hurry? Can’t we just see (or smell) what’s out here? We think that we must walk at a quick pace so we both get exercise. I have news for you. Walking with us is not a physical exercise. No matter how quickly you walk it’s still a stroll for them. Studies show that they average 3 miles to our 1 mile when we are walking off leash. Their normal pace is so much faster than ours there is no way we can make a leash walk aerobic exercise for them. However, it is a MENTAL activity for them. We all know that having a hard day at the office thinking can wear us out faster than a day of physical yard work. And so it is with our dogs. I tell my clients all the time that you can physically exercise your dog for 30 minutes or mentally challenge them for 10 minutes. The results are the same, a tired dog. So, yes, leash walking is a valuable activity for our dogs, and us.
If walking your dog isn’t an enjoyable get some help. Life is about learning new things and once you learn how to walk your dog you can change it from a battle of wills to a cooperative experience.
“A dog is one of the remaining reasons why some people can be persuaded to go for a walk.”
For now, I leave you with this. If your thought is, “Ugh, I have to walk the dog. Man, it’s a pain and I don’t really want to.” Then don’t. They feel your emotion regardless of the words you say. So don’t walk them. Take them out back and throw a ball. Do something you find enjoyable with your dog. And if you can’t think of anything enjoyable that you like to do with your dog then perhaps it’s time to reevaluate your relationship with your dog?