What if you could increase your dog’s sense of well-being just by slowing down your walking pace?
Canines primarily seek to learn about their environment through their sense of smell. By sniffing that pile of leaves, then that patch of grass, then that tree trunk, they are able to understand the world around them. We primates on the other hand, rely heavily on our vision to make sense of our surroundings. As a result, the way we each prefer to walk down the street can look very different.
While we walk forward and visually observe our world, our dogs have their heads to the ground and smell their world. At the park, I sometimes notice this primate-canine disconnect play out. A dog being walked on a leash goes to sniff something interesting so she can better see the world around her, and right in the middle of the sniff, she is yanked forward by the leash.
If dogs see the world with their noses, by pulling them away from the smells, we are essentially blinding them for that moment. It is comparable to someone putting a blindfold over your eyes every time you try to take a closer look at something. Sounds a bit uncomfortable right?
With this beautiful spring weather, why not challenge yourself to stop and smell the roses a little more often? Try walking for five minutes while letting your dog sniff to her heart’s content. Take that time to watch your dog and appreciate how much information she is learning and thinking about as she sniffs. You might not get very far, and that is okay. Taking your dog for a sniff is about the journey, not the destination.
It is always best to teach your dog good leash-walking etiquette and use positive reinforcement to help her internalize good behaviors. You can show her that it is acceptable to stop and smell the bushes, but not okay to stop and sniff in the middle of the street. And of course, if your dog tries to approach and sniff something dangerous, pulling them to safety is necessary.
We can all agree that it is best to let your dog sniff, but what if your dog is the one doing the pulling? Often called a no-pull or easy-walk harness, a front-clip harness is the ideal solution for most dogs that get overexcited and pull on the leash. This type of harness is designed to prevent pulling, not by hurting your dog, but by putting your dog slightly off balance whenever she pulls. On top of that, your dog cannot slip out of the harness and run away as can happen with traditional collars.
You can find front-clip harnesses available for sale at the SPCA Albrecht Center in a variety of sizes. Ask our staff to assist you in finding the correct size and to teach you how to put on the harness properly. We want you and your dog to have the best experience walking and sniffing together.
The dog walk is a shared experience that should be enjoyable for both human and dog, and who knows, maybe you’ll stop to smell a flower that you previously walked right on by.
Jessica Gladkowski is the Director of Community Relations at the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare. Jessica received her Bachelor of Arts in Japanese from The University of Vermont in 2013, and over the next several years she traveled to Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines where she taught English and immersed herself in different cultures. Jessica is inspired to combine her passion for helping animals, teaching, and serving a diverse community through a career in animal welfare. Jessica lives in Aiken with her husband David and their rescue dogs Django and Ollie.