Why bother?

Sophie, a large mixed-breed, chews an enormous stick
Off leash time is as important as regular walks

Lots of people who have dogs rarely walk them. A recent UK study found that fewer than half of the respondents walked their dogs daily, and that, when they did, the walks were very short. I read a similar study several years ago on US dog owners.

Some dog owners leave their dogs outside (alone) for several hours a day, assuming that the dog will take care of her own exercise and toileting needs.

That’s not okay. Why bother haveing a dog if you are not going to meet her needs and take care of her?

Dogs are very social and need to be part of a family group. If you have two dogs, they can provide company for one another (if they like each other), but they still need their human family. It’s not enough to put down food twice a day and open the door to send the dog outside.

Walks provide mental stimulation and a chance to bond. They allow dogs to catch up on the news and explore the world beyond their own house and yard. They are also great for the people, providing regular exercise, fresh air, and a chance to relax.

Even better for the dog — a chance to run off leash while the human walks. If you are fortunate enough to live near an open space where it’s safe to hike with your dog off leash, try to build that into your schedule at least a couple times a month.

I know that many people who have dogs work full time and also have families. They don’t have a lot of free time. But the dog is a member of the family and deserves some attention too. Make play and exercise time with the dog a high-priority part of your daily schedule. You’ll all feel better and, guess what? Your restless, high energy dog will be better behaved, because she’ll be getting her needs met for exercise, mental stimulation, and connection with her family.

 

 

 

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A Journey — or a Destination?

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Jana and Cali have vastly different understandings of our morning walks. Each girl’s interpretation also describes her approach to life.

For Cali, the point of the walk is the destination. She wants to be at the park with every cell in her body. The closer we get, the harder it is for her to contain her excitement. She does her little skip-walk dance, where she bounces ahead, remembers, bounces back, walks nicely for two steps, can no longer contain her excitement, bounces ahead, remembers … I think she burns more calories doing this dance than she does at the park. Mostly because she spends too much time at the park jealously guarding her ball rather than running around chasing it.

Jana, on the other hand, is all about the journey. Even at the park, she’s on her journey. She investigates everything along the way with her full attention. Everything. Clumps of grass. Leaves, wood chips, tendrils of ivy trailing on the sidewalk, fence posts, trees … She looks and sniffs from every angle, breathing deeply and considering the nuances of the scent. Only then is she ready to move on … to the next leaf.

At the park, she sniffs and samples the grass, which is very fresh, green, and wet these days. She then rolls in it. Her favorite thing happened the other day: The mower was just finishing up, which meant that she got to roll in the freshly cut grass, turning herself light green in the process. I think “freshly cut grass” is her favorite scent. If I had shampoo that smelled like that, she’d willingly bathe every day.

Since walking the two of them presents certain logistical challenges, with one full steam ahead and the other moseying along … I tried taking them for individual walks. Jana was having none of it. She wanted to go with us. She’d bring me my boots, stand by the door, push her way out the door if I was leashing Cali, use all of her considerable expressive talent to communicate: Take me too! So maybe her walks are a little bit about the destination too.

Which is great, because Cali also has that bit of balance. Her delight in the journey is evident when we meet other people along the way. Her excitement is channeled at them as she beelines for this new best friend. Tail wagging, huge smile on her face, she eagerly waits for the person to greet her. Most do. To her credit, Cali brushes off the rare crushing rejection with aplomb. We’re on our way to the park, after all!