Thursday, November 13, 2014

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Walk

I love a leisurely walk with a canine companion.  I love fresh air and seeing everyone's yard changing from spring to summer to fall.  I love seeing holiday decorations go up and stopping to chat with neighbors and stopping to chat with my own dog sometimes, as we wait for a car to pass.

When we adopted Taco, I had visions of tandem walks.  People would marvel from their cars at how well behaved they both were, how pleasantly I was able to walk two dogs at once.  What a happy family, out for an evening stroll.  Oh my, how far from reality!

I knew Taco would need to be walked separately at first, to learn leash manners on his own.  So we did, and he did and then it was time for two dogs at once.  And it was a disaster.  I hated it, it stressed me out and soon I avoided walks altogether.  I missed being outside, the fresh air, the invigorating pace of a walk with long legged dogs.  But I hated the management it took and for some reason I was devoted to the idea of walking both dogs at once.

Our main issue is that our dogs have VASTLY different ideas of what a walk is about.  They have different goals and those goals directly conflict with each other.

Dot is all about movement.  She wants to trot fast the entire time, her goal is to get to see as MANY trees and squirrels and birds as possible and as soon as she sees one she is on to the next.  She does not want to stop, chat, sniff, or dilly-dally.  She wants to MOVE FORWARD at all times.

Taco wants to stop and sniff and pee on every bush, lamppost and fire hydrant.  He wants to check out who has been there previously, what kind of moss is growing on this tree and what the leaves from that tree taste like.  He is happy to stop and take it all in, then move on at a relatively relaxed pace so he doesn't miss the next opportunity to check things out.

As you can imagine, trying to walk a dog who wants to stop every 30 seconds and a dog that NEVER wants to stop at the same time just isn't in the cards.  And I finally realized this thanks to one of my DogVacay clients.  Chelle is an older girl who can still move like a puppy!
This is the best picture I have of Chelle on a walk because she also likes to move!
When I walk Chelle, it is nothing but pleasant.  It is relaxing and energizing at the same time.  It's like moving meditation and the reason for that is, there is no stress or management or trying or negotiating.  Only walking.  And I realized I could have this experience every day with my own dogs.  One at a time!

My dogs have different goals, so walks with each of them are different.  Walking Dot is like walking with someone who has to get downtown to a meeting in 5 minutes, but they are happy to chat with you as long as you walk and talk.  She is a power-walker (not a power puller, just happiest going at a nice fast pace), she's going places and you can come too if you can keep up!

Walking Taco is all about noticing the little things.  What's that bug on the sidewalk?  Who's across the street?  Can we go check out that bush?  And that one?  And that one?  There is some trash here in the gutter!  Taco is a master of schmoozing with passersby and gets the most compliments.

They both have their merits and now that I have given up my unnecessary obsession with walking them at the same time, instead of dreading walks and getting out less and less, I can enjoy each of them separately and make it out for a walk each and every day!


  1. I still have tandem fantasies. Unfortunately neither dog walks on a leash well. Though when walked separately it's manageable. I'm having a hard time admitting possible operating error. (Am I THAT bad at teaching loose leash walking?!)

    1. We pretend it's so easy to teach when leading Home Companion classes but it seriously is (for some dogs) the hardest thing!