A Walk is Worth a Thousand Sniffs
“Good news, my friend! We are going on a most amazing trip to Paris and Rome. It will be so much fun!”
“Really? That is so exciting!” you exclaim in disbelief.
“Yes, it will be great, except I forgot to mention one thing. You’ll have to keep your eyes closed the whole time.”
Really? No sightseeing, no scenic views. What a boring trip, you think glumly.
Humans live in a visual world. With just a glance, we notice the finest details. Visual information helps us understand our environment and gives great joy. We savour colours and textures. With photos, we preserve memories. Life is a beautiful thing!
Our dogs by contrast, live in a rich and vibrant chemical world. They are all about smells. Although they see well enough, vision is secondary to olfaction.
Like time travellers, dogs catalog odours from the present, the past, and with far ranging odours, predict the future. A dog’s scent picture is a rich tapestry of information.
So what about the trip with your eyes closed? Well, that is akin to walking our dogs on short leashes with no opportunity to sniff the ground. It too must be boring and frustrating.
With just a few easy changes, we can enrich our dog’s walk experience without sacrificing our own enjoyment. We might even marvel at our scent detectors in action.
First, it is time to toss out old-style walking gear and replace it with modern equipment. A harness, (“No-Pull” front clipping harness if the dog is strong) and comfortable 6 to 10 foot leash, are the gold standard in today’s dog-walking world.
Pulling a dog around by the neck, is no longer a good choice because it turns out dogs have necks just like ours - there are no magic parts - just the same soft tissue, nerves and blood supply. Dog necks are important and sensitive body parts.
With a firm hold on the handle and the leash feeding loosely out, our dogs can set off blissfully to sniff the ground.
But what about keeping our dogs right at our hip? It looks nice when they walk in sync with us. Won’t there be trouble if we let them wander freely?
Actually, that is another example of how things have changed. Precision walking is perfect for the competition obedience ring and is rewarding to train but we know that dogs are happier and more confident when they have choice. If the walk is “for the dog,” let the leash be loose.
Navigating crosswalks or crowded places can be a safety issue, so for those occasions our dogs need to be close by our side. Armed with fabulous food rewards, we can call our dog to come and feed in the desired position.
Like humans surfing the internet or reading a good novel, dogs sometimes are completely absorbed with the environment. In case they don’t come when called, move food closer to their noses to grab attention and then lead them into position where you feed the treat. By continuing to feed every step or two, we can keep our dogs by our sides as we walk.
Over time and with practice, we can stretch out our payment schedule until we easily cross the street, for a treat on the other side. To get additional help with training a close walk or other behaviours, contact a positive reward-based dog trainer such as an Academy for Dog Trainers graduate.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a walk is a thousand sniffs!
Where will you go on your perfect walk-adventure together?