I discovered something about my dog last weekend. At least I think I did. I’ve always suspected he thinks he’s walking me when we go for our spins around the park. He has good reason to believe this. I take the approach that as a dog with no yard, his walks should simulate the experience of wandering around the yard amusing himself.
Instead of expecting him to heel, I let him pick where he wants to wander within reason. If he meanders off the sidewalk and into the grass because he’s suddenly caught a really good scent, I follow.
If I get impatient, I whistle to him and say, “Let’s go this way,” in my high, happy puppy voice and move my body in a way that suggests play. I hope no one has ever caught this on video. Usually, he will come with me.
Interestingly, he rarely pulls on the lead. When we’re in motion, we walk together like he’s been expertly trained. The lead hangs so loose, I have to loop it to keep it from dragging and tripping one of us. He walks at my side content until the next great scent piques his interest.
So, while on the one hand, he could have the impression that he is walking me, on the other hand, he stays with me nicely much of the time. It’s a win-win and I’ve never really worried much about it–he and I seem equally content in our style of walking together.
When we went for our little hikes in the Prentice Cooper State Forest this past weekend, we let Tisen off his leash when we were on trails where we were unlikely to run into anyone and far from ATVs. Because Tisen is the kind of dog that wants to have his people in sight all the time, we don’t have to worry about him running off (unlike an Akita we once fostered who seemed to think he needed to run 10 miles a day and that being let of the leash was an invitation to go do so).
Tisen sometimes gets lost in a scent. He forgets where he is, who he’s with, and goes blind as all of his brain becomes occupied with deciphering what message was left for him. When we hike, we just keep going, figuring he’ll catch up after a bit. If he doesn’t show up before we get very far, we call him. Then, he usually panics and comes galloping back to us like he’s just had the daylights scared out of him.
This isn’t new behavior. But, for the first time it dawned on me that he’s shocked to realize we can get away. He forgets we’re not on a leash. He expects to look up and find us standing next to him, waiting for him to finish. I feel certain his panic is proof that he really does think he’s walking us.