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Let's walk the dog!

Humans are very attached to the concept of dog walking but there are some recommended dos and dont's and it's not easy for every dog.

The freedom to explore is enriching.

What do I think a dog walking with their human should look like?

Not like what I so often see - that for sure!

My house looks over a dog park and the beauty of this means that I can view from my kitchen window a large array of dogs and their caregivers. What I often see however frustrates me.

What I see is:

  • humans looking at their screens, or with their ears plugged into their headphones - oblivious to their dog's movements and interactions, so often with their back to their dog.

  • humans who let their dogs off their lead BEFORE they reach the dog off leash area and then madly chastise them for running after a cat or a child on the street.

  • humans who stand around in groups chatting while their dogs build in arousal and frustration and then who have altercations with each other.

  • humans who let their exuberant dogs run full bore at other less exuberant dogs and who thereby ruin the shy dog's experience of the park.

  • humans who run and leave their dog behind and never seem to look back to check what their pooch is up to.

  • humans who talk on their phone, again leaving their dog to greet without anyone watching to see how the interaction is going.

  • humans who only call their dogs when it's time to leave or if they are doing something wrong.

  • humans who use retractable leads.

  • humans who believe over aroused running, barking and chasing after birds, balls or sticks is actually good for their dog.

  • humans who let an unleashed dog approach a leashed dog, saying loudly that their dog is friendly when the person with the leashed dog is asking for distance.

  • humans who let their children approach unknown canines.

What I wish to see more of when I observe people out with their dogs is caregivers engaging with their dogs in ways that bring joy to both parties.

I suggest:

  • allowing your dog to sniff his world - for as long as he likes.

  • only letting your dog greet other dogs who are also off lead, but whilst greeting WATCH your dog for the body language he shows so you can see when he or the other pooch is uncomfortable and you can help disconnect the encounter by calling your dog to you.

  • this means your dog should be good at coming - perhaps practice this a lot in low distraction environments before imagining your dog might be able to do this when arousal is high and there are many competing interests to deal with.

  • take time during the walk to bond and work with your dog to build trust and reliability - call back to you often, for no reason, other than to reward (carry food) and then release again.

  • leashing your dog when you see another person coming towards you with their dog  on a leash and giving them distance so the dogs are not forced to greet on lead.

  • teach your dog not to overwhelm other dogs or people but how to be calm and polite when greeting.

  • keep moving so dogs do not become bored and frustrated.

Happy dog walking...

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