Walking the dog is part and parcel with dog ownership. After all, it’s how we get them to NOT make messes in the house. It’s also how they get their exercise and work off extra energy that can accumulate and make them fidgety, antsy, and depending on the breed, destructive. It’s a wonderful time to bond with our furry friends. However, there can be a disconnect between our idea of walking the dog and theirs.
I recently came across a post in the forums from an owner who recently adopted a dog. It was actually a two-part question. The first part regarded her dog pulling on the leash and stopping every 2 minutes to sniff the area for 5 minutes (as most dogs will do). The second part referenced the fact that she had recently adopted the dog and was trying to build trust. Since both parts of the question are somewhat related, I’ll be tackling both of them today.
Walking the Dog
First, let’s talk about walking the dog. There is one very important thing to remember when taking your dog for a walk. It’s an enrichment experience as well as exercise. Dogs “see the world” through their noses. Of course, they have good eyesight, but a dog interacts with the world largely through his nose. I have done articles in the past on how to get your dog to pay attention and stay with you on walks, so I won’t be getting into that today. Rather, I’d like to talk about our wants vs. our dog’s needs when it comes to walking.
Like I said, walking the dog is an enrichment experience as well as exercise. I repeat this already because it’s so important to remember. Although I strongly advocate for keeping control of your dog on walks for their own safety, I do not advocate for a walk that’s point A to point B and then home. That’s no fun for our furry friends. My point of view is that walking our dogs should be an enjoyable experience for them. The meat of that joy is in exploring their world, which means stopping every so often and sniffing everything in the area. We might be chomping at the bit to get on with things, but our dogs are having a heck of a time. Why deny them that? I learned a long time ago, that like children, dogs need us to put their needs first.All of that being said, the point is that there’s really nothing wrong with your dog sniffing the universe on walks. In fact, it’s super fun for them.
You should absolutely be able to control your dog on a leash, though. Don’t get me wrong. It’s incredibly important for their safety and for your schedule. My thoughts on the matter are that if you aren’t under the gun scheduling-wise, just let your dog enjoy the great outdoors. If, however, you need to be somewhere, use the training I’ve mentioned in previous articles to get your dog to do his thing and then move on.How do I get my dog to trust me during our walks?
The second part of the question was about trust, and while not exactly directly tied to walking the dog, these two things do coincide. If you recently adopted a dog – and major props if you did – you may have a trust issue. Often times, adoptive dogs have had lives that are full of stress, and unfortunately, outright abuse. It takes time to build a relationship and to earn their trust.
One of the major factors in building trust is doing activities together. Play fetch or other games that your dog seems to love. Give him lots of love. If he’s a couch potato, watch one extra episode of your favorite show with him nearby. Just be in his presence, filling him with love and affection. This is where building trust and walking the dog converge. Walks are an excellent way to build trust. Your dog will see that he’s safe with you. He can be on the leash without you yanking on him, rushing him, or generally giving him a sense of anxiety. Let him sniff to his heart’s content. But balance it with learning commands so he doesn’t bolt and so you can get down to business when your schedule won’t permit a leisurely stroll.
Walking the Dog – Balancing Needs with Wants
In my opinion, a “get out there and get it done” walk is more about the owner’s wants than the dog’s needs. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when a protracted sniff-fest of a walk just isn’t doable. That being said, if you have the time to let your fuzz buddy do his thing when you’re walking the dog, I always encourage that. Your dog will be happier for it, and he will learn to trust you more during your walks.