I learn a lot about life from walking my dog. We moved into an apartment just over a year ago, and she hasn’t had the same type of access to a backyard the way she used to. I know she misses it.
When we would take our walks, initially she was fine. Soon she realized that going out wasn’t going to be quite the long adventure she hoped for. She began tugging on the leash. As time went on, she became more adamant about being outside. She would spread her forelegs and brace herself in an attempt to not go in. She would do that if she even thought we were heading back toward the house.
Tory is an older dog. She’s been with us since she was 5 months old, and she’s 12 now. She’s in pretty good shape for a dog her age, except for some breathing issues.
I realized that she longed to be outside. She has a real need to do a certain amount of sniffing. There are quite a few dogs in our neighborhood, so sniffing is something she demands when she’s outside. She would sniff all day if she could. I, on the other hand, don’t want to walk at a snails pace all day long.
At first I was impatient. Then I realized that when you love someone you want them to be happy. I do love her. So I implemented a plan.
I started to walk her in the same route every day. I let her sniff as much as she wanted. I do get impatient. I want to yank her along the route. I don’t do that. Instead I practice being patient and loving.
When she tries to pull the leash in directions that aren’t on the route, I don’t give in. I also don’t let her yank me off the pavement. We aren’t going on traipses through the grass. But on our established route, she can sniff as much as she wants. I always say “no, we’re going this way.”
I started to realize she recognizes the phrase “we’re going this way.” She began to believe that we were, in fact, going this way no matter what she did to try to lead us in other directions. I walk her in about a quarter of a mile, 3 times a day. It’s enough sniffing.
Once I had thoroughly established our route, she stopped pulling. She will stop suddenly to sniff on our route, but all I have to do is say “we’re going this way,” and she comes without complaint.
The power of habit. I’ve long recognized that having habits is a useful tool. As I’ve implemented this tool in my life, things go along more pleasantly and more predictably. It takes time and effort to develop this tool, but it’s been well worth the effort.