As owners, we control the majority of our dogs lives. We decide when they can go out, when they can eat, what they can and can’t do in the home, what toys they can have, when they can play, who they get to greet and what environments they can experience. We even control every part of their walk; where to walk, what direction, what they can sniff e.t.c
I get pretty annoyed when I see owners feel they need to hurry their dog along, that they don’t need to mark all the time because they’ve already had a wee and take control of the walk by dragging their dog away from a sniff. Do we really need to exert so much control on our dogs? We have all the power already, yet we are squeezing every last drop out of our dogs in the name of so called ‘obedience’. It goes against everything I believe in as a trainer.
Dogs are social animals and while it might be annoying for you to pause on your march around the park for Fido to cock his leg AGAIN, he’s actually communicating with other dogs. Urinating to empty the bladder and marking an area are entirely different things. Marking is done by both bitches and dogs and it isn’t just about ‘claiming territory’. It’s a complex communication system amidst canines sometimes dubbed ‘pee post’. Marking allows dogs to find out who has been about, when they were around, how they were feeling, their health and sexual availability. Even how dogs mark over, across or beside other pee marks tells its own story.
Your dog’s primary sense is also their sense of smell. Sniffing on a walk is one of the main things they enjoy about going out. They are not only taking in the pee post, but investigation a cornucopia of scents that we as humans will never be able to fathom. Allowing a dog to use their nose and their brain on a walk is for more energy draining than your frog march around your predestined route.
So today I let Bertie take me entirely for a walk.
The red path is Bertie’s. The blue path is me taking over the walk as I had to get back for an appointment. The spots on the map are where Bertie stopped to sniff, mark or have a think about the world before selecting his next direction. He would have kept going to the golden steps and down into Porthkerry Park. I have a feeling he would have eventually taken us back to the house via the Mill Woods but alas we ran out of time.
The point is we barely touched the routes I usually walk on, we went where Bertie’s nose took him. A few points on the walk we stopped and Bertie stood there for a good few minutes unable to walk further as he was taking in the surroundings or not sure what to do without me cueing the direction. In these instances Lulu took over and walked ahead which kicked Bertie back into gear.