Why My Dog Leads the Way on Dog Walks

People used to think that a "proper" dog walk was one in which the dog would walk in step with a person, not straying more than a few inches from the person's knee. What a sad state of affairs for both dog and person! I suspect neither of them was having much fun. Luckily, we've loosened up and are having more fun out there with our dogs.

Go On Sniffari

A walk is one of the few times of day that our dogs get to explore their world. They smell the new smells, see people and dogs, catch up on their "pee-mail", and enjoy some exercise. Dogs love to stop and sniff, and it can be more satisfying to them than just walking along mindlessly. Try this: when your dog stops to sniff, count 10 seconds before you ask them to move on. Gradually increase the stopping time.

Letting Go of the Loop

I let my dog decide which way we'll go on walks. Years ago, I used to walk the big loop around our neighborhood without even thinking, and it's been so much more interesting to see where the dog wants to go. Most mornings, we wind our way along the neighborhood trail and up and down some of the streets, sometimes backtracking or revisiting certain streets. Know your boundaries: We stay within a certain set of streets to avoid getting too far from home.

Fit In Exercise Intervals or Training Sessions

Now that I have a young dog, we wander slowly sometimes, and walk very briskly for a few blocks to keep it interesting. Occasionally we'll stop and practice skills like Wait, Watch Me, or Leave It. I even sometimes do yoga poses or take photos while my dog is sniffing around.

Try this: Alternate between slow and fast walking to keep it interesting.

Walking this way has led me to enjoy some of the micro-beauty around me. Noticing the changing seasons, which places my dog likes to visit again and again, and being more present is restorative.

What will you notice when your dog leads the way?

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