Take the dog’s point of view. This is what Professor Marc Bekoff suggests to dog owners to make walks more enjoyable. The latter are moments that belong first to the animal, underlines the specialist.
Dogs can’t do without their daily walks, even twice a day or maybe even more for some. They need it in several ways; going to the “toilets”, of course, but also and above all letting off steam, getting active, playing, meeting people and stimulating their senses.
Many masters forget this or are in too much of a hurry. The outings are shortened, sometimes being limited to going around the block and to simple pee breaks, which generates many frustrations for the animal. These walks must be refocused on the dog, reminds Marc Bekoff in an article published in Psychology Today May 29, 2022.
Professor emeritus, specialist in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, he is also the co-founder, with Jane Goodallof the group Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). He thus explores alternative visions of animal understanding, especially canine.
Recently, he had a deep thought about the different ways owners walk their dogs. He said to himself that it was perhaps time to consider these outings differently, to refocus them on the canine, precisely, and to adopt his point of view during these walks.
Stand on the other side of the leash
If the teacher Bekoff is inspired, among other things, by the work of Jessica Pierce, which recommends giving more leeway to dogs in various aspects of his life, a poster posted on the net and tinged with humor caught his attention. This lists 7 principles to be applied during walks and for which the roles are reversed. The master finds himself at the other end of the leash:
1. Allow your human to attach to you by leash. This prevents him from asking questions or running away.
2. Your human will probably need breaks. Be considerate, stop frequently and sniff.
3. Bark frequently. Humans only have a short attention span.
4. When you relieve yourself, walk away. If you have properly educated your human, he will pick up. It will give him exercise.
5. Occasionally drag your human as fast as you can. This is called interval training.
6. Don’t let your human shorten the walk. He is lazy. Sit down to protest if you have to.
7. Once back home, allow your human to remove his leash, then lick his face several times. It’s a form of positive reinforcement for a job well done.
Once again, these “rules” are to be taken literally, but they have the merit, according to Marc Bekoffto put the dog’s needs, feelings and well-being first.
The professor also carried out a small survey, observing and studying the attitude of 100 people while they walked their dogs in the streets of Boulder (Colorado). He found that 78 of them were in total control of their animal, pulling firmly on the leash or reorienting its muzzle, telling them to stop doing this or that. They didn’t let him sniff or search for the origin of a sound that aroused his interest.
10 handlers were more passive, letting their dog do whatever it wanted from time to time. And the other 12 gave much more freedom to their 4-legged friend, giving him the opportunity and the time to smell the grass, sit down and explore his environment.
“Let them lead the way”
Marc Bekoff was able to talk to 20 of these people and presented them with the 7 principles mentioned above, encouraging them to imagine themselves at the other end of the leash. All of them told him that it made them think a little more about how to walk their dog in the future and about his well-being.
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For the teacher, it is essential to keep in mind that walks and games are made for the dog. These are HIS moments, he insists. The role of the master is to ensure that these outings are really fun, rewarding and exciting for the animal.
” Let them lead the way, choose where to go (putting safety first) and how fast they want to walk (no faster than you can comfortably walk or run) », advises Marc Bekoff. This also makes it possible to better understand and study the animal’s gait, and thus detect any changes that may alert to the presence of musculoskeletal or neurological disorders. It is also about “know more about his dog as an individual […]about what he wants and needs when he’s supposed to have fun “, he adds.