There is no doubt that smartphones have taken over our lives. Right this second, as I type, my iPhone has run out of battery life and I’m near panic. What if someone tweets me? Or worse, tags an unflattering photo of me on Facebook? That’s it. I can’t take the pressure. I have to go plug this sucker in. OK. Whew. Crisis averted.
It’s sad, but a fact of life for some of us that our phone is an extension of who we are. Is our love of being connected harming our relationship with our dogs? In some cases, I say yes. One time it is obvious that a dog mom or dad is neglecting their pup by putting tweeting, posting or texting first is during their daily walk.
Riggins, my 11-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer, and I prefer to hit the trails instead of the local sidewalks. One of the reasons is because it is easier to unplug. Not only do I not wear headphones while we hike together, but I put my phone on airplane mode to conserve battery life in case I need it for an emergency.
At first this decision was a practical one: I need to be alert to others on the trail, including oncoming mountain bikers, rattlesnakes or even other animal predators. Safety is our top priority, and listening to music, a podcast or being distracted by something happening online isn’t an option.
It turns out that the time-out from being connected through my smartphone is a lovely break. Not only do I get to experience being out in nature more fully, but I get to enjoy uninterrupted time with my baby boy.
Here are just a few reasons why I think you should put the phone down, too, and just walk your dog!
I’ve stumbled up (not off, but up) a curb before while walking Riggins. There I laid, sprawled out, face first on the cement. Riggins’ leash dropped to the side, with onlookers staring from afar for fear that the big black dog (aka sweet adorable Riggins) would eat them for dinner if they tried to help me.
I was able to pick myself up and continue on with nothing more than a bruised ego and a couple of skinned knees. Imagine how much worse the situation could have been if I were holding onto my phone for dear life because there was a Pokemon I needed just around the corner!
All kidding aside, walking on public streets while distracted can be very dangerous for not only you but also for your dog. A skateboarder zooming up from behind, a squirrel on the other side of a busy street or a distracted driver are just a few obstacles that can be found on your daily walk. All of which become much harder to navigate when you can’t give them your full attention.
You — with your eyes glued to your phone, your dog uncontrolled and roaming around, slowly crossing in front of my car as you make your way from one side of the street to the park — are annoying.
You’ve been at work all day. Your poor pup has been sitting by the door, patiently waiting for you to come home and for it to finally be his time. You come in, and his heart skips a beat. The leash comes out, and he practically goes out of his mind. Finally! It’s Mommy and me time! At last! Nope. It’s Mommy and Facebook time while poor Fido gets dragged along for the ride.
We get so little time with our dogs. Not only do they have shorter lifespans than us, but they get left at home while we go out to dinner, friend’s houses, parties, etc. The little time we spend with them one on one, like our daily walks, should be cherished and not tainted by the distraction of a silly ol’ smart phone.
You know how it feels when you are in mid-conversation during a meal and the person you’re talking to picks up her cell phone and starts Instagramming her food. It’s disheartening and makes you feel second best. Don’t you think it does the same thing to your poor pup?
That dull headache in the back of your head from starring at screens all day will slowly go away if you take the time to decompress, live in the moment, experience fresh air and feel the love of your four-legged companion.
Give it a try. Leave the phone at home or put it on airplane mode. Give your dog undivided attention, live in the moment, and experience the time your dog and you have together uninterrupted!