Quite often, when I’m out walking the boys, I see numerous other guardians with their happy poooches too. It is so great to see how many other folks believe in daily walks for their dogs as well.
Mrs. Big Nate and I walk our two mutts twice a day. I take them for a quick jaunt around the block first thing in the morning. This way they get to burn a little energy off from their sleep and I feel better knowing that they are going to be alone for the next 9 hours while we are at work. And then we both take them for a longer jaunt again in the evening.
I walk them so regularly; sometimes I forget what a walk is all about for my dogs. For them, a walk is about sights, sounds, experiences. It’s about checking “p-mail,” sniffing hydrants and trees to find out where the neighbor’s dog or cat last peed. It’s about shoving their faces down the hole of a gopher and sniffing until they finally pull their faces out, dirty, blissful, nostrils full of the smell of wild animals. It’s about munching a particularly tender blade of grass, saying “hello” to a friendly stranger they’d like to greet, lifting a leg on every fire hydrant, sign, or tree you pass, splashing in a puddle or creek, or chewing a stick for a brief moment.
This is what walks mean to dogs. It’s a chance to investigate and interact with their environment. It’s mental and physical stimulation.
I forget this and tend to approach a walk with the mentality that, “We’re going to walk x route in y amount of minutes whatever that takes. It will be your exercise for the day and you’d better well like it.” Some days it’s a “let’s just get this over with” mentality.
Let’s face facts. For many, many dogs, a half hour leash walk every day barely scratches the surface of their true exercise needs. Mojo, our Bichon Spaniel mix, is a very active dog and he could go for an hour at least, if I’m able to throw a ball even better! A 30-minute walk is a drop in the bucket for him. If I want to really tire him out, we need to go a dog park or on a long hike. For Oscar, he’s smaller and slightly overweight so he doesn’t need much to tire him out.
When we as pet guardians go on a walk, we need to remember we are walking for our dogs. It’s their chance to just get out there and be dogs, to sniff and explore. If Mrs. Nate I want to go on a brisk, no-nonsense, let’s-not-stop-for-anything-power walk, we should go without the dogs.
We shouldn’t insist on perfect obedience either. Sometimes they pull on the leash to meet a stranger or another dog. Sometimes they stop for extended periods of time to sniff something interesting. We have to remember they move faster than we do and think poop is more interesting than we do. I’m not saying I let my dogs pull me around, but sometimes the leash does go tight. So what? Just stop, wait for the tension to come off the leash, and then start walking again.
When it comes down to it, I don’t want robots, I want canines. I want them to have plenty of opportunities to just do the things that they like to do, even if means that they’re sniffing for 30 minutes our of a 45 minute walk and we only make it around four or five blocks instead of walking a few kilometres. Sometimes, I even let the dogs pick the route we take. Something smells good on the right! Let’s go that way instead of going left.
Next time you leash your dog up for a walk; ask yourself, “Whose walk is it anyway?”