Pets|Dogs|Walking|Mindfulness|Relationship

Could Mindful Dog Walking Become A “Thing”?

Are you really with your dog when you go for a walk? Or is your mind busy elsewhere?

Bonnie Kreitler

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Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

Dog walkers love our road.

It’s wide, about a quiet mile between two of its intersections, and the roadsides are wooded and wild, not manicured and mown. Dogs can exercise their muscles while blissfully stimulating the millions of scent receptors in their noses.

Its broad span also means there’s ample space between any passing dogs. That suits both me and Jenni, who became cautious about meeting and greeting unfamiliar canines after being attacked by another dog.

As Jenni and I walk the road, I notice other people’s walking styles. It’s interesting to watch how they choose to interact with their dogs — or not — as they move on down the road.

One Way to Walk a Dog

Jenni is a mixed breed rescue who was born on the streets. And born to hunt! Active, scent-driven, and sight-driven, Jenni is always on the alert for furry, squeaky things that run. She loves to RUN in her huge fenced yard but is too ADHD to be off her leash outside it.

So, we compromise. We walk using a very long leash (a 25-foot, inch-wide, canvas longe line for exercising a horse around you on a circle). I layer it in one hand, letting it run out as we walk along, allowing Jenni to read the roadsides with her nose as we walk along.

If Jenni goes too far out, I vibrate the line with my fingers. It reminds her to pay attention to me as well as whatever she’s trailing. If she needs to do her business or has found a particularly compelling aroma, I stop and wait.

Sometimes I lead our little dance, sometimes she does.

I get her company as a walking buddy. She gets to enjoy the sensory stimulation she craves. We both gt time outdoors and some exercise. She has a measure of freedom to roam. But I can contain her enthusiasm if a squirrel or chipmunk taunts her.

We sync. We stay mindful of one another. We dance to our own tune.

“Where Dance Is Physical Prayer”

The headline above on a recent New York Times article about Irish choreographer Oona Doherty got my attention. Because “physical prayer” elegantly describes how I feel when Jenni and I are walking.

I’ve observed the other people and their dogs on our rambling, I’ve identified several common walking styles:

· The Pullers. It’s hard to tell who’s pulling whom with this duo. Is the human pulling the dog back, or is the dog pulling the human forward? Either way, the leash is tightly tensioned between them.

· The Joggers. The dog keeps pace alongside the human, tongue hanging out as they keep movin’ on down the road at a good clip.

· The Heelers. The dog walks alongside its human, leash hanging in a soft loop, obediently matching the human’s direction and pace.

· The Jabberers. Leash in one hand, cell phone in the other.

· The Pluggers. A variant of joggers, heelers, and jabberers with buds stuffed in their ears.

· The Friend Thief. A second human whose jabbering steals attention from the dog in the equation.

What’s your walking style? Ever wondered what your dog’s preference style might be?

Move That Qi

We need exercise. Use it or lose it. Rest or rust. But I’ve never felt renewed by exercising in a wide-open gym thumping to music and smelling of sweat and adrenaline.

Then I discovered qigong, an ancient Chinese exercise form. It uses forms that stretch and strengthen through flowing movements and focusing breathing. Moving meditation. No need to impress others with the number of burpees I can do or twisty poses I can master. Just keep moving along in rhythm with my breathing.

Qigong feels like dancing to me. Long White Cloud Qigong notes on its website that Neolithic paintings on pottery hint at qigong’s roots in shamanic dancing. It changed my thinking about what movement needs to be to qualify as exercise.

It also made me mindful about how I walked Jenni.

I stopped trying to meet the perfect obedience standards about how dogs are supposed to walk with their humans. I decided we needed to find our own rhythm. I decided to use her intense desire to track scents as part of our neighborhood tour.

I learned that dogs capture scents on both their inhale and exhale so sniffing is great exercise for them.

Who knew? If she needs to stop and linger, that’s OK, too.

Jenni’s basic training is solid. She knows how to heel. She knows how to get behind me if a sketchy dog pulls toward us or someone is knocking at the door. We’re not obedience competition perfect, but we’re good enough.

But when we’re out walking, why not chill? Enjoy the sun, the breeze, our breathing. Stop and smell the roses (or whatever’s down there). We do our own little dance down the road. I enjoy watching her enjoy just being a dog. That’s how we roll.

Jenni and I have found a walking style that works for both of us. I encourage dog people to explore mindful walking as a “thing” that can build a great relationship with their dogs, too.

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Bonnie Kreitler

Author, journalist, animal addict, observer, and explorer creating connections between our critter relationships and life lessons at ramblingdog.com