We’ve all seen them, and perhaps we’ve even been them: People who multitask while walking the dog. Talking on a cell phone, smoking, yakking with neighbors — it seems that secondary pursuits take precedence when we really ought to be focused on the activity at hand.
Notice I call it an activity, not a chore. Walking the dog isn’t a chore. It should be fun for both of you. Dogs, especially urban hounds, look forward to their outdoor time with an anticipation bordering on religious fervor. Sadly, however, many people view the dog walk as a drag, just one more thing to get done, so they combine it with other things they want to do, and the dog misses out.
And so does the human.
Think about it: The distracted dog walker places the dogs in his care at risk, especially in a busy urban environment. It’s up to you, the one holding the leash, to keep your dog safe out there. Anyone who walks a dog (let alone more than one), ought to train himself to keep his eyes moving. But talking on a cell phone while dog walking is dangerous in the same way texting while driving is dangerous.
Now multiply this risk by six or seven, if a professional dog walker talks on his cell phone while shepherding a pack across a busy intersection. The things that could go wrong (especially in a Mercury Retrograde period, such as we’re in now), are too awful to contemplate. How tragic would it be if, say, a car jumped the curb and your reflexes were slow because you were yakking on your phone? How horrific if you slipped on an icy sidewalk and lost your grip on the leash, and your dog bolted?
As for smoking while dog walking, please, for Spot’s sake, just don’t. Secondhand smoke is as damaging to dogs’ health as it is to that of our kids — especially breeds and mixes with long snouts, who are especially susceptible to nasal cancer.
But beyond safety, there’s the matter of security — the security of the bond between you and your dog. Listen, Spot’s been waiting all day for you, his favorite human, to accompany him in his element, the great outdoors. Please don’t spoil the fun by ignoring him! Commune with him. Be present for him, just as he’s present for you. Stay in the moment. Talk to him, making eye contact and using simple words. Stop to pet him and just enjoy your time out together. And turn that cell phone off!
There are so many dog-walking styles I frown on that it’s paws for celebration when I spot a comrade in canine arms whose walking style I admire. When I moved to my new neighborhood and observed a young man on my block walking his two extremely friendly, very well-cared-for Pit Bulls, I knew I’d found my new dog walker. He’s not a professional dog walker, as it happens, but he takes care of business more professionally than most fancy dog walkers who routinely escort large packs. Plus, he’s always wearing a smile to match those of his Pits, and he keeps it fun for them. He’s one of very few people I trust with my dogs’ leashes. And my dogs are crazy about the guy.
Says Paige Polisner, a meditation teacher with New York City’s Kadampa Meditation Center, “There is nothing more caring that we can do for dogs and for ourselves than giving our full attention to such a virtuous and loving act as taking our dogs out for a walk. It is so easy in these busy, fast-paced times to take the people and beings we love for granted. … Then something like Hurricane Sandy comes along and shows us the error of our ways.”
Speaking of Hurricane Sandy, so many people and pets were affected, and they’re stressed out as they rebuild their lives and businesses. They would love to have the opportunity to go out for a quality dog walk free of distractions. Think of that the next time you view a dog walk as a chore, when it’s actually a blessing.
In the end, the one who benefits the most from focusing on your dogs is you.
As Polisner says, “One of the loveliest ways we can give fully each day as a pet owner is to make our acts of caring for our pet, and in this case the act of walking our dog, an experience of deep connection by being fully present. Dogs give unconditionally, which is why they have been dubbed man’s best friend. They ask for little in return. When we give from the heart and make our time spent with our pets an act of love, it is actually we who benefit the most.”
So, Dogster readers, don’t hold back: What’s the “right” and “wrong” way to walk a dog? Please share in the comments!