Fresh air, innumerable scents, encounters with new things, and the chance for adventure! For a dog, the walk is extremely special and important – it does not matter if it is the first walk of the day or the fifth – it is the highlight of their day and a cause for celebration. We humans need to have a better understanding and appreciation of this special time. It is a chance to get away from it all and bond with our canine counterparts. Yet, so many people find walking their dog cumbersome and unenjoyable.
The walk should be an enjoyable and happy experience for all involved. The sight of the leash elicits wagging tails, happy dog smiles, and excitement. Perhaps we should take a cue from our dogs and take this sort of approach to the walk as well. After all, we are lucky to have such a willing accomplice on our little escape.
Personally, I love walking my dogs – there is nothing better in the world than walking with Beast and Saxon. It is a chance to take a break and simply enjoy being with them while getting exercise and fresh air. It brings a smile to my face watching them explore and simply have a good time. Dogs are like children in the sense that if they do not get to expel energy, they are often a bit wild. A dog is not born knowing how to walk on a leash, it must be taught.
Many people get frustrated on walks and actually dread them. I see people yanking, yelling, and doing other inappropriate things that make the walk a sad and stressful time for their furry friend. The walk is not about you, it is about your dog getting the exercise it needs and exposure to the world to help him or her be a well-adjusted, healthy and happy dog.
It is not their fault if they have not been properly exercised or taught how to walk on a leash properly. They have basic needs and exercise is at the top of the list. So many people simply do not exercise their dogs enough yet wonder why they are out of control. A dog that is healthy and not properly exercised can be like a bottle of soda that’s been shook up - the energy keeps building and building but either never gets released or is absolute chaos when it finally does.
Sure, we all have days where we are in a rush and patience is low, but instead of berating your dog to hurry up and pulling them around, why not take a kinder approach and talk to them in a voice that makes them want to hurry up while using appropriate body language and technique. It’s amazing what a difference our tone of voice, body stance, and frame of mind can do when working with a dog.
There will be days when there is little time or we are not in the best of moods, but our dogs simply don’t understand that. How would you like it if you were reading the paper or a book and someone kept yanking on you? That is how it is for a dog – they are gathering information with their noses to the ground while listening and looking around.
If you take the time and put in the effort to teach them how to walk with clear communication, it is a delightful experience. For instance, there is a difference between what I call a “leisure walk” and an “exercise walk” – one is for letting the dog sniff around at its own pace, the latter is focused and fast paced – but a dog cannot know the difference without proper communication.
A change in attitude is essential for making the walk a positive experience to look forward to. Look at it from a dog’s perspective: they are (often) cooped up indoors or only have their yard to experience until we take them out for a walk, doesn’t it seem natural that they are thrilled by the chance to smell and experience new things? Now, go for a walk enjoy the gorgeous December weather with your dog!
featured in December 8, 2015 edition of The Ponte Vedra Recorder