A few moons ago, when I brought Lucy, my first dog as an adult, home, I promptly enrolled her in all of the local dog club at the time’s obedience classes. In those classes I learned many things to do to insure that Lucy would not try to take over the household. One of those things was that she should walk at my side, and at the pace that I set. When Lucy was a puppy, she would sometimes sit down, or lay down on walks, but it was my understanding that was her trying to run the show and I needed to make her march right along side me.
I carried that same philosophy along with the other dogs in my life until I stumbled along an approach that leaned more heavily on positive reinforcement training shortly before I adopted Mija. Even then though, for a good bit my goal for walking was simply to train her to stick right by my side. I am not saying there is not value in training this, but I am glad it is no longer the only way I think about leash walks. Thankfully, I found others who were offering other thoughts on more relaxed, choice rich, walking techniques.
Today, almost all of my walks with Mija and Baby Castor Gator occur on long lines. In fact, although I keep meaning to work on “polite walking” or walk at my side with duration with Castor, we just haven’t done much of it, we have however, worked on Leslie McDevitt’s 1-2-3 walking since day one and that pattern functions as one of his most salient cues, so it makes it as easy as anything to get him by my side to move through space when that is needed.
Castor often wants to stop on walks to take a rest, to roll around in the grass, or just to check out the world, much like my Lucy always seemed to desire to do. I can remember thinking it was sweet, cute, and funny when she would do this, but I would not let it happen for long because I “knew” she needed to be at my side walking at my determined pace. When Castor wants to check out the world, as long as it is safe and we have the time for it, I let him do so. Sometimes, like today, I just sit down in the grass with him and watch him and the world. For me, it is so nice to learn to simply be with my dogs and enjoy the world with them rather than always being focused on pushing my hurried agenda along.