When I go for a walk, I'm going to walk--anything that slows me down is mildly to grossly irritating. I'm there for the sustained movement and auto-pilot activity.
I recently realized that this approach is almost universally incompatible with walking any dog.
The "Good Dogs" who don't pull and mostly ignore other dogs need opportunities for mental stimulation via sniffing. All that stopping and starting that drives the Type-A crazy is a central part of doggy fun.
To insist on sustained movement is like two friends going to the mall. One is there to power walk in the A/C, and the other is there to window shop--there's got to be some compromise.
The "Bad Dogs" who pull like they're in the Iditarod or give an Oscar-worthy drama performance when they see another dog need almost constant training AND sniffing opportunities. There is no autopilot for these dogs.
Taking the autopilot approaching to these walks will make you irritated with your dog and frustrated with the experience.
"But I want to walk!"
Believe me, I get it. Type-A here. As much as I know the walk needs to be for the dog's benefit and enrichment, I still chafe at all the Red-Light, Green-Light action.
I've come up with two compromises for the days I really want to move and the dog is equally determined to stop at every fire-hydrant and blade of grass:
- There and Back. Because of our location within the neighborhood, almost all the walking routes involve some form of doubling back. I often make a mental deal with myself that I'll let the dog sniff all they want on the way out, but the way back is for sustained movement. (Geek Moment: using the Premack Principle on myself here!).
- Block Quota. I've also mentally assigned a number of Sniffy-Stops per block. The dog has complete freedom to choose when he'd like to stop, but once the quota is met, we keep moving until the next block.
Stay tuned for Part 2, "Walking with the Bad Dog"