At least every other person that I help with their dog believes that their dog enjoys the walk. Even in cases when people’s dogs are exhibiting some rather undesireable behaviour, such as aggression towards other dogs – many people will still believe that their dog essentially enjoys walking.
The question that I usually ask them is “How do you know?” so I would like to address that in an article today. How could any of us know whether our dogs are enjoying the walk or not?! The answer I usually get when I ask people includes at least one of the following:
- They prompt me to take them out.
- They get excited when I get the lead out.
- Their tail is wagging.
- They get all bouncy.
- They pull all the way there.
- Something along the lines of “dogs love walks”
Yes, but do we really know for sure that any of these things actually mean that a dog is enjoying a walk? How would we know that a human being is happy?
- They are smiling
- They are laughing
- They are always out and about, asking to meet up
- They post about it on social media
Yes, but do we really know for sure that any of these things actually mean that a human being is definitely feeling happy. . . ?
Now I am not suggesting that a dog categorically doesn’t enjoy a walk, just in the same way that I am not suggesting that a person who is smiling isn’t happy. I just want you to consider that there may be an alternative explanation. So let’s take a look:
They prompt me to take them out
Is it possible that your dog has learnt your routine and assumes that the walk is an essential patrol of a wider territory, and is reminding you that it needs to be done?
Or is it possible that your dog is prompting you to take them out as a subtle way of asserting that you will do things on their terms?
They get excited when I get the lead out
Is it possible that the behaviour your are seeing isn’t excitement? Is it possible that it could be some other response, like a rush of adrenalin, an overwhelmed response, a feeling of being ‘pumped up’ ready to charge out into the no-man’s-land that is outside of your territory?
Their tail is wagging
Is it possible that a wagging tail could indicate a number of things, including that your dog is in a heightened state, because this is a big deal? (And not necessarily a good big deal – like an exam, or court appearance would be a big deal for us) Or maybe the wagging tail is happening because your dog is trying to show friendliness to other dogs as a means of keeping themselves (and you) safe – in a similar way that some humans might take a default friendly position with everyone they meet, as a means of keeping out of trouble.
They get all bouncy
See comments about getting excited. It is possible that bouncy could actually mean that they are feeling over the top, or out of control?
They pull all the way there
Is it possible that they could feel like they are running the gaunlet? Getting through an unsafe area as quickly as possible? Could it be that they are pulling because they are experiencing too much adrenaline to be able to walk more slowly? Is it possible that they are pulling because they think that you need assistance in getting there, and that’s what the lead is actually for? To hoik you along?
Dogs love walks
Is it possible that any of the above suggestions may be true? And if that’s the case, could there be a chance that dogs may not all love the walk. Maybe it’s humans who love walks. Maybe we were taught that dogs love walks once, so we’re now following cultural conditioning. Is it plausible that your dog may prefer to stay at home sometimes, and would be relieved if you didn’t go?
What else might not be true?
Is it conceivable then, that if the concept that we have been taught about walking our dogs isn’t as rock solid as we previously thought, that there are other things which we believe to be true about our pet dogs that maybe aren’t?
To be clear, I am not trying to say that there are no dogs that enjoy walks, and no circumstances in which a walk can be enjoyed. I am merely suggesting that perhaps our British insistance that we walk our dogs every single day without question can be put under a microscope. If you are working on dealing with other stress related problems, is it possible that walking them could be hindering your progress rather than helping?
I work with people on developing a new understanding with their dogs to build a more mutually beneficial relationship, where we can get what we would like to have out of our relationship with them, but with more awareness and consideration to what is going on for our dogs. So in the instance of walking, we’d be keen to see that a dog is calm about a walk and happy to let you take charge of things. This is a great indicator that they trust your judgement and are happy that there isn’t anything to get worked up about happening.
To find out more about walking a dog with ease check out this blog post.