Driving through a lovely little village today, I turn the corner to see a little dog in the middle of the road on an extendable lead. His owner looks up from her phone and pulls him out of harms way.
I hate extendable leads, dangerous things, but that’s a blog for another time. My main issue is that the owner was on her phone, not just talking to someone on the phone, but looking at the phone screen, maybe a video call who knows!
The point is, she has chosen this part of the day to take her beloved pooch for a walk, but instead of going for that walk with him/her she is doing something else instead and simply keeping hold of the other end of the lead.
We expect our dogs to pay attention to us on walks, to walk nicely on the lead, to come back when called even when there is something really exciting to chase/sniff. So if they have to be ready to attend to any move or sound we make why do we not return the favour?
As an owner of a reactive dog I have to be tuned in to what my dog is doing, I am on alert for any potential triggers that might scare him so that we can avoid or manage the situation. That doesn’t mean though, that when I take our steady old girl out for a walk I think I can multi-task and reply to emails, make some important phone calls etc. That wouldn’t be fair on her or me! The point of a dog walk is for you to go out and do something together. It is a bonding opportunity and if you want them to engage with you then you should pay them a bit of attention too.
Not only that, if you are staring at your phone you are missing enjoying your surroundings, the spring flowers, the wildlife, the sun finally peaking through the clouds after what seems like the longest winter.
I am so lucky to live in the Lincolnshire Wolds. On this morning’s dog walk I saw 5 red deer and 2 hares, as well as the usual pheasants and squirrels. I would hate to have missed all of that because I was checking my emails or scrolling through Facebook. If my dogs had seen the beautiful wildlife before me I may also have missed the opportunity to prevent a game of chase the critters.
If our dogs find walks boring they will create their own fun, whether that be chasing livestock or wildlife, running off after other dogs or rolling in fox poo, any of those options are undesirable for us as owners. Our dogs want nothing more than our attention. Yes I take a toy and treats on most of our dog walks, but JJ is happy if we play ‘Lets Go’ and ‘Left’ and ‘Right’, all of which just involve me instigating a change in direction. Humans can be fun, if we let ourselves, our dogs think we are the best things ever. Lets try and live up to that.
For clients that come to me with recall problems, one of the first things I help them do is increase engagement from their dog to them, but part of that is them paying more attention to their dog.