Daily walks should be fun, pleasant – something both you and your canine companion look forward to doing together. My dogs beat me to the back door when I say “let’s walk!” But sometimes those daily walks turn into a duty, just one more thing on the to-do list. Or it’s a battle of the wills – human versus canine (I have this memory of a certain monster-puppy who had a very different idea than I did when we were attempting to walk together and the shoulder injury that was the result of our differing perspectives). What makes a walk successful?
The walk is as much about building the human-animal relationship as it is about exercise. It’s about spending time together, exploring, wandering, thinking, talking (yes, I do talk to my dogs – even the deaf one…). One of the lovely thing about dogs is that they are happy to simply be with their person, going forward, moving through space and time – together.
What happens when the walk goes wrong? Some days it will. You can do a thousand puppy classes and still have challenges on the walk. It would be nice if once trained dogs were 100% reliable, but that’s not reality. Dogs are not robots. They have good days, they have bad days. So do I. I’m not always the best dog walker, but my dogs put up with me. In return, I’ll give them a little slack on their less than perfect days.
What does a successful walk look like to you? If you don’t know, then how will your dog know? My dogs are almost perfect (to me), but if I don’t let them know what my expectations are – what the house rules are or how to behave on a walk – can I honestly be angry or frustrated when they don’t meet my expectations?
Once I decided what “success” looked like then the walks became pleasant, something I looked forward to and missed on days when I got too busy. The walk became my time of day to move forward, through space and time, with some of my favorite companions. It became healing, relaxing, and fun. When I began thinking about the world “through the other end of the leash”, I experienced new things – some good (budding plants after a long, cold, snowy winter) and some not so good (like the skunk in the bush that we met late one summer night – not one of my shining moments as a dog walker).
There are simple, practical techniques for making dog walking easier. There are lots of places to walk – parks, trails, sidewalks. There are tools – collars, harnesses, leashes – that help with training. But the key to a good walk lies in the human-canine relationship.
Crossroads Pets is hosting a community dog walking class. Delores Carter, our Adoption and Animal Care Manager, is the class facilitator. We’ll discuss leash walking techniques, present tools for the walk and suggest relationship building tips to make the walk fun. For more information or to register, call 615-712-9758.
Monday, August 19th, 6PM
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