Don’t walk your dog? What? Is this guy nuts? That is probably what you’re thinking right now. Well, let me explain what I mean.
We’re Unfair to Our Dogs
We are unfair to our dogs in many ways. Too often, we don’t respect them or treat them fairly. We don’t teach them well enough to understand a command but expect them to master it regardless. Then, we get mad at them when they don’t get it. How is that okay?
We don’t spend time building a strong relationship of mutual respect, seeking to understand what our dog truly enjoys and instead want to decide for them what they should enjoy. Can we decide what another being finds enjoyable? Hardly. And then, to top it off, we get upset or frustrated when our dog rather wants to chase a squirrel or play with another dog than pay attention to us. He wants to do something more fun. Our dog has no motivation or incentive to pay attention to us in light of such fun things. We are not putting enough into the relationship to have earned that. Yet, we still expect it. How is that fair?
We deprive our dogs of biologically fulfilling activities like chasing, searching, or playing with other members of their species and are surprised when they become fearful, reactive, or develop separation anxiety. We caused that, and then they often end up in the shelter. How is that fair?
We Can Do Better
I am sure most people are unaware of this, but it is unfair and disrespectful to dogs. No human would stay in a relationship with another and tolerate that kind of abuse for their entire life. However, our dogs don’t have much choice, and it is only because they are so amazing that they love us regardless. We owe it to them to do better! Let’s change at least one thing: Walking.
Let’s stop walking your dog. You are doing that to him. Stop taking your dog on a walk. You are doing that for them. Let’s walk with our dogs—together, as a team!
Don’t Walk Your Dog – Walk WITH Your Dog
Dogs love walking, but they naturally would travel up to twenty miles daily if left to their own devices, while humans cover ten miles at best. Dogs naturally travel about four miles an hour, and humans about two miles an hour. People feel a social connection at maybe eight to ten feet apart, but dogs still feel connected at 50-100 yards apart. The only disagreement between you and your dog is about the walking speed and what should happen during the outing.
While you want to walk your dog, your dog wants to do dog stuff, which is not happening when walking next to you. When you are going as a team, that should be happening, though. That doesn’t mean your dog loses respect for you; quite the opposite; it strengthens your relationship. A guide dog for a blind person is walking ahead of them, a military or police dog runs in the building before the handler, a search and rescue dog is far ahead of the handler too, sled dogs are pulling the sled, the musher is standing on, and even in a wolf pack, the fastest animal will take over the hunt, if the pack leader is slower. In none of these scenarios is there any confusion about who is in charge of the operation. Don’t let this silly “the dog needs to be next to you” nonsense get in between you from having fun walking with your dog.
Please don’t get me wrong. There are training scenarios during which temporarily keeping your dog by your side or even in a heel is very valuable. But that should not be the end goal. Ideally, the end goal is to be able to trust your dog at liberty, even if that seems unrealistic for most people. It takes a lot of time and commitment. But giving your dog more freedom while walking with your dog, and making it a team effort, is a very realistic goal for everyone. It starts by teaching your dog to have a healthier relationship with the leash and collar. Most dogs only know them as frustrating restraint devices instead of communication tools. Training can change that.
Also, dogs find pulling quite self-satisfying. It starts with the natural opposition reflex in all creatures and grows into a challenge from there. Dogs love a good challenge. If your friend shoves you, you lean into him to not fall over. That is a natural opposition reflex. Dogs have that with leash-pulling when it starts. It may look unpleasant to you, but clearly, your dog doesn’t feel that way, or he wouldn’t be doing it. A bit of training can change that too. A skilled dog trainer will be able to teach you and your dog these skills in a few hours, and soon your dog could have a full 6-ft leash (or more) to explore the walking path without pulling or making you fall. Your furry family member will be so much happier.
To be clear, I am not advocating letting your dog drag you down the street, or you are letting your dog on a retractable run wherever he wants and do whatever seems appealing. Quite the opposite. I am advocating training your dog to the point where he can earn more freedom. You’ll both be a lot happier!