Dog Lessons: The Walk

Although I’m no expert, dogs have been some of my best teachers for years.

My first lesson took place at age five while ringing the doorbell of a friend’s house where I had been invited to play.

My friend opened the screen door to let me in me and out leapt their energetic Shepherd mix who greeted me with an oversized bite at the waist.

What was the lesson learned?

With dogs, always expect the unexpected.

I’ve made that my overarching mantra with my own canine crew especially when they’re around other dogs on walks.

And my current pack and I have picked up a few more tips along the way that we’d like to share:

1) DE-ENERGIZE THE ENVIRONMENT. A Lab neighbor named Junior, whose’s now a graying senior, will charge up to my crew when he sees them walk by. My tightly wound Yorkie will often tense up and go on the defensive out of fear.

Currently we’re walking on the other side of the street to turn down the heat. My pack and I are still fairly new on the block. As my dogs and Junior get more face to face time, with a fence between them as peacemaker, I expect they’ll eventually become friends.

2) GOOD LEASHES MAKE GOOD NEIGHBORS. I’ve encountered plenty of well intentioned dog owners on walks who think they can quickly catch their dog’s attention and attach a leash when they see another animal. But often these pups have been quicker than their owners.

Besides potentially putting other dogs at risk, if your own dog is unleashed and in a high traffic area he may be at risk as well. I know that my canine crew will spy any squirrels scurrying up oak trees long before noticing speeding sports cars barreling down our block.

3) HARNESS THAT ENERGY. Consider the use of a properly applied harness when you’re walking your dog, particularly if their energy level is high. When I’ve fostered dogs, I’ve seen some with incredible skill at sliding out of collars and pulling so hard on leashes that they’re almost choking.

4) DRESS FOR SUCCESS. Cute checkered chihuahua coats and bright bandanas for the beagles are great, but first on a dog’s list before leaving for a walk are tags with your current address, phone numbers, and other required info for your area.

5) CURRENT ON VACCINATIONS. Do yourself and all dogs a favor. Make sure you’re not exposing your dogs to others without the basic vaccinations required or recommended by your vet for your region.

My first pup as a child was exposed to another dog with distemper. Both animals died which was devastating to both young families.

Also remember the other dogs your pup might be meeting on walks, in dogs parks, or just running loose may not have been vaccinated, putting yours at even greater risk.

6) GO WITH YOUR GUT. Always keep close eyes on your dogs, especially when you’re in public. And consider going with your gut if the behavior seems off the mark.

I watch for eye contact and indications of an elevated prey drive between dogs before there’s an escalation. If I see or even sense it, I remove my dogs from the situation.

And I admit I err on the side of assuming the worst. Many dogs are rescues with backgrounds lacking detail so we can never be sure of how they might react with others. Yet even dogs coming from reputable breeders are first and foremost animals after all.

Something can always set them off.

7) EXERCISE IS KEY. We know how crucial exercise is to good health for our canines and ourselves, so those walks are so important.

Just remember to take necessary precautions and always expect the unexpected. Also pack those favorite treats, some water, and dog waste removal bags so they’re handy.

And if you’re currently lacking time or ability to get your dogs out there exercising, dog walking services are available to assist you like Rover and others.

A healthy dog will more likely be a happy dog.

And a happy dog makes even a happier dog owner!

Dog Town, U.S.A

I’ve been thinking alot about community lately in relation to successful aging.

Both were important criteria to consider when I downsized to a new home last fall.

As luck would have it, I’ve found the right spot just for me.

It seems I’m now living in my own version of Dog Town, U.S.A, which may in fact be the perfect place for many of us according to a study I was telling my pup Rex about this morning.

Rex and I were both up early and decided to walk around the lake just as the sun rose.

And so did plenty of other canines and coffee carrying dog owners.

Sure, there were some solo joggers around.

And also those text reading tech types who kept tripping on tree roots that trimmed the dirt paths.

But they were missing the real action before them.

I’m talking about the dog owners smiling, then saying hello to each other.

And often stopping to chat while their pups get to know each other as well.

We were the ones who were noticing the sweet scent of the apple blossoms overhead.

And the shining red and yellow tulips turning even more brilliant in the rising sun.

Though a bit shy, I even found myself starting conversations with seniors pushing sturdy strollers occupied with spaniels and shih tsus.

I’d incorrectly assumed sleeping grandchildren were inside instead of senior pups who weren’t up to the three mile trek.

I quickly took notes on the brand names for my lame corgi Maddie who was resting back at home.

After our walk Rex and I moved to our favorite morning coffee spot up the hill where he’s a welcome guest like the rest of the canine’s.

Rex’s nose then led me across the street to the butcher shop where a saxophonist was playing in the window.

But I know Rex and the dogs who followed were really hoping for some juicy scraps instead of jazz.

For his dessert, Rex and I shared a berry scone over a shiny bowl of water outside the bakery.

Several more canines and a couple soon joined us for conversation.

A relaxed looking Rex then reached for my lap.

Smiling in the sunshine, I thought to myself there’s nothing like community.

I’m thinking Rex in his own way thought the same.