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  • Deb Bauer

Time to Walk the Dog?

Three dogs smile happily with tongues gently out, while posing along a walking trail in the woods.  Dog on left is white sheltie, dog in middle is a dark brindle shaggy pyrenean shepherd, and dog on the right is a white rough coated collie.

When I was a child, “walking the dog” was a chore that I was assigned to do. If I wanted to have a dog, I needed to walk him every day. Usually this was an after-school activity, and we walked the same route briskly to get my dog his exercise.

My dog was a willing participant, as this was likely the most exciting part of his day (except for mealtimes). He alternated between stopping suddenly to smell things and dragging me down the street. Sometimes he lunged and barked at those passing by.

Today I know much more about dogs and how they experience the world. I’ve experienced dogs that didn’t want to go for walks. I’ve experienced dogs that didn’t behave very well on their walks. I’ve even been one of those people who didn’t really like to walk my dog.

Walking a dog down the street or through your neighborhood can be a mutually enjoyable activity for many people and their dogs. It’s a great time to enjoy the outdoors and connect with each other. Other people and dogs will find this stressful, yet they may push forward because the cultural expectation has been to “walk the dog.”

I’m here to tell you, it’s perfectly acceptable not to walk your dogs! It’s also OK to take walks that look differently from other’s who are walking their dogs. I regularly help people create the ideal walking plan for them and their dog. It's important to take into account how to meet both your and your dog's needs in a way that is enjoyable for both of you.

Today, I love walking with my dogs. My dogs will walk with me down a sidewalk if I ask them to. But what we really enjoy and seek out is walking in places that we are surrounded by nature. Usually these are places that are not crowded with people or other dogs.

Sometimes we walk a distance - but most of the time we actually really don’t power it out and walk very far. The experience of being together and exploring nature is what our walks are about.

My dogs get plenty of exercise, but when we go for walks, that’s not our intention. My dogs spend a LOT of time sniffing. They delight in taking in all the smells. I spend a lot of time breathing in the fresh air and smiling while watching them do something that they love.

If I need to interrupt them and move them along, they are happy to oblige because they know they will get plenty of opportunity to sniff other things along the way.

It's important to create the "walking" experience that is right for both you and your dog so you can get the most benefit out of your time together.

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