Let’s Go For A Walk

There have been a few posts around the pet blogosphere lately about just enjoying a walk with your dog. Every time I read posts like that I think about how I can’t just enjoy a walk with Pearl. She pulls, she lunges at squirrels and rabbits, she barks her head off at other dogs. I have to be in training mode the whole time we are walking, clicker and treats in hand, reversing direction every time she pulls, constantly vigilant for distractions and triggers so that I can try to manage the situation. I am really excited about the progress Pearl has been making, but we never really “just” go for a walk, where we let my feet and her nose take us wherever. Lately I do not look forward to our walks because I feel like I don’t have the energy. I come home from walks frustrated and tired. I feel like I have to consciously choose the routes where we are least likely to encounter other dogs. We have to prepare ahead of time with handfuls of treats that I store in my always attractive home depot canvas apron (I must look like a loon to everyone I pass with my apron around my waist, and juggling a tube of peanut butter, a clicker, a bag of poop, and a lunging, panting dog in my two hands.)

I may complain about how it looks, but it's honestly the most convenient treat pouch ever (and only cost me 77 cents)

Well, yesterday I decided Pearl and I were going to relax and enjoy a walk, darn it. I filled my apron overflowing with treats so that they would last us and we started out. I took new turns, not really worrying about where we were going. I let Pearl sniff for as long as she wanted at each tree and telephone pole. I still turned around when she pulled and clicked when she was by my side looking up at me, but we walked slowly, we wandered, we explored. Changing direction at pulling was less frustrating because we weren’t trying to reach a destination or get through our walking route. When Pearl caught sight of an unfamiliar dog and started her barking and lunging routine, I redirected her with treats, she responded, and we moved on. I stayed relaxed and did not let myself get frustrated. And she did well. Not only were her reactions to other dogs not as extreme but she was able to return to a calm, happy state much faster afterwards when normally once she has seen a dog and freaked out the whole rest of the walk is shot because she becomes so jumpy and keyed up that she can no longer focus or relax.

We walked for over an hour and the time flew by. We explored new pockets of our neighborhood and walked down streets we had never been down before. We (or at least I) soaked in the beautiful weather, crunched through fallen leaves, felt the breeze in our hair and the sunlight on our faces. It was one of the best walks I have ever been on with Pearl. I want to hold onto that calm, zen feeling and make an effort to make more of our walks like this. I want walks to be about Pearl getting to enjoy herself, about being outdoors, about unwinding together, and about me taking time out of my day to enjoy my dog and let her be a dog.

I am going to try to remember that walks are for Pearl and I should not be thinking about getting it over with or wishing I were taking a nap instead or spending the whole walk on alert waiting for misbehavior. I may never be able to snap a leash on my dog and take her for a walk in the park without thinking about how many other dogs we will encounter or remembering to stuff my pockets full of liver and cheese. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a nice leisurely walk together. When Pearl sees me take her leash off the hook she gets so excited she can barely hold still while I clip the leash to her collar. I want to catch some of that excitement and be able to look forward to our walks from now on. I may have to work at it, but I am grateful for the recent blog posts that have prompted me to give myself an attitude adjustment, let my frustration and grumpiness go, and just be with my dog.

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About Pearl the Puppy

Pearl is just over 40 lbs of energy mixed with a pinch of crazy. We adopted her in March 2011 from a St. Louis rescue organization called Impact for Animals (now Pet Rescue Network). We are unsure about her age, but we are guessing she was born in Fall 2010. Her background is anybody's guess, but we are pretty sure that she has at least some sighthound in her. She's a whole lot of trouble but a whole lot of fun.

7 thoughts on “Let’s Go For A Walk

  1. Sounds like that walk did both of you a lot of good.

    I do training on walks sometimes, with treats and rewarding good position. When I just don’t have the energy to train it, I put on the head halter to stop any pulling and we go out with that instead. I find the head halter a great way to just go for a walk without having to worry about training but also without worrying that I will be setting us back in training for allowing pulling behavior that I am trying to train out.

    • I wish Pearl liked the head collar more! No matter how much I try to desensitize her to it she flings her head around so much that I get worried about her neck… we were doing great with the Freedom Harness but with the allergic reaction on her back right where the strap goes we have been going without.

  2. I hear you about getting it over. I catch myself having that attitude too sometimes, and then when I get out there and I see how much they enjoy their walks it makes me feel guilty. I try to remind myself that it is for both of us.

    I love your treat pouch, seriously I do! That is so clever!!!

  3. Hello. My name is Declan & I’m a greyhound living in the UK. I was just having a stroll around blogville & I came across you! I’m quite good on walks, but I do have a fair few other “issues” Hehe! Deccy x

  4. I completely know what you mean! Having to be ‘hyper vigilant’ on walks is exhausting. I am glad your training is working and you’re coming up with strategies to help you enjoy walks.

  5. great post! i completely feel your pain. we walk at 5:30 in the morning and i still have to be on high alert pretty much the whole time. i definitely use treats to help keep desmond on a loose leash, and it works for the most part. running into another dog–even a block or two away–is still a big problem. we’ll get there one day! in the meantime, i do my best to avoid and when i can’t, i just hurry up past the dog (after crossing the street, of course) and drag desmond along. probably not the best method, but time is not limitless on most walks. whenever i know we’re on a quiet block, i do let him take his time and sniff around. it’s the least i can do in return for him letting me hug him and squeeze him when we snuggle. 🙂

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