I think it’s safe to say that walking your dog is not always “a walk in the park”. There are so many factors that go into having a pleasant walk. The dog’s temperament, my mood, the weather, and where I choose to walk all play a part. I love my neighborhood, but I do not always like to walk around in it. People and dogs popping up around corners unexpectedly, and cars intermittently passing by can be a challenge for my dog that does not like surprises. Barking dogs behind windows and backyard fences is a trigger for my other dog. And with a narrow sidewalk there just isn’t room to make a lot of direction changes. As a result, I have found a couple of parks nearby that have low activity levels and wide-open spaces where I can see who is coming.
My older dog loves people, he is ready to make friends with everyone. However, he is big and not everyone is comfortable being approached by a large dog. My puppy is a little shy and cautious when approached by other people and unknown dogs. When I walk them together, I do have to advocate for her and decline some requests for approaching to give pets. By choosing a quieter time of day with less distractions, my dogs are more likely to sniff as we walk. Allowing them to sniff is a stress relief for them and helps to enrich their day. Dogs love to sniff, just as we enjoy reading the morning paper or a good book. It also builds their confidence by tapping into their natural instinct to sniff rather than them worrying about what they see and hear in the environment. A wonderful short video on dogs’ need to sniff is linked here, by Alexandra Horowitz.
The ability to manage my distance between my dogs and other dogs has also been key in enjoying our treks out in the world. Being able to see in many directions allows me to choose the quiet path. And if needed, I have the option to walk through a nearby field of grass to gain distance from others if my dogs need space to stay calm as we walk by. I want my puppy to see other people and dogs when we are out. I also want to manage the environment so that I can work on training without her being overwhelmed by others coming up close. Unforeseen incidences can of course happen but making the best plan I can for my dogs gives us a good chance of having a great walk.
Working at home on basic skills and getting their attention when you need it is also part of having success on the walk. If you struggle with your dog’s behavior on leash, working with a professional trainer or taking a class can help make those walks more enjoyable for you and your dog. Walking my dogs is one of the best parts of my day. Their joy is contagious.