Being a Best Friend to Your Dog
Walking: Letting Them Stop & Smell The Roses
“Dogs are the leaders of the planet. If you see two life forms, one of them’s making a poop, the other one’s carrying it for him, who would you assume is in charge.”
― Jerry Seinfeld
She’s an old girl now.
She sleeps 22 hours out of 24 (or, is it more like 23 hours)?
The other hour or two she keeps one eye open for any slight movement that might indicate she is about to be taken on a walk, or be fed.
As I tend to walk in a two hour period in the morning, she is alert to my every movement. She may appear to be snoozing. Under the blankets. With only her nose poking out. But she is listening intently.
The minute her lead is picked up, she is up.
Even though we go every day and often twice a day, her excitement is off the Richter scale.
She hyperventilates, races up and down, jumps up and down, spins round and round.
Her tail wags so hard it hits everything it comes into contact with and looks like it’s about to lift off like a helicopter. She barks and whines in delight. If she could talk, she would be ecstatic right now.
But she is letting us know how she feels. Without a doubt. She is joyous in the extreme. Off the scale. Out of this world. The happiest dog in the world in those few minutes as we are about to leave. And she shows it.
“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”
― Josh Billings
I walk two routes. She has walked them hundreds of times with me. Each time we go; every tree, every bush, every inch of the footpath, is sniffed and approached as if she has never seen it before.
She strains on her lead to approach each fence, each gate, every yard with a dog ensconced behind the fence. She can hardly bear the wait. Her eagerness, excitement, and delight at being out are contagious and visible.
“She is taking you for a walk”
“She looks happy to be out and about”
“What a happy little dog”
All I have to do is take her for a walk each day and I am treated as if I am a God.
“In order to keep a true perspective of one’s importance, everyone should have a dog that will worship him and a cat that will ignore him.” — Derek Bruce
She laps up all the comments and pats and gladly stops to be stroked and petted for a couple of seconds; and then with nose sniffing, and bright little black eyes scanning the horizon for where we are about to go, we are off again.
We stop repeatedly and often. For her to sniff, pee and cock her leg. Yes, she is female, and she squats and alternates cocking a back leg. She goes through the motions of peeing even when there is no pee left to cover the latest scent she wishes to mark. She is happy.
“Some days you’re the dog; some days you’re the hydrant.” — unknown
Peeing and sniffing. Intently sniffing. The noise sounds like wind going through bellows at times.
Apparently sniffing scents is the dog equivalent to human conversation.
They are picking up so much information. It is mentally stimulating for them and helps tire them out.
A walk for them is so much more than just physical exercise.
Dogs engage with their environment totally when they are out for a walk. They are completely engrossed in their environment.
Just recently as we walked along the seaside path near our home Lily started growling under her breath, her ears forward, hyper-alert and slowing down.
What was the danger?
A neighbor had planted a new bush on their grass verge and Lily had recognized it as not belonging or being there previously. How lovely of her for warning me of the potential danger of being jumped on by a new bush!
Unlike the fact that our enjoyment of the walk is based mainly on our visual perception, our dogs’ enjoyment is based on what they can smell and sniff.
Depriving a dog of sniffing on a walk would be like blindfolding ourselves and having someone lead us around. The experience would be so much less enjoyable.
“In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn’t merely try to train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog.” — Edward Hoagland
A dogs world is primarily olfactory. a richly odoriferous one. They learn about everything in the world by sniffing.
How perceptive to smell is a dogs nose?
They possess up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, whereas us humans have about six million receptors. The part of a dog’s brain devoted to analyzing smells is, proportionally speaking, 40 times greater than ours.
To put that into perspective, if we can recognize one teaspoon of sugar by the smell in a cup of coffee, a dog can recognize one teaspoon of sugar in two Olympic sized pools of water!
What does our dog learn from sniffing other dogs urine?
A dog can determine the gender of the other dog, whether they’re spayed or neutered, if it is a female in heat, the health of the other dog, its virility, its diet, how stressed the dog may be as well as their social status.
“I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult.” — Rita Rudner
Dogs can also detect changes in human hormones and so can tell whether someone is pregnant, their emotional state, and whether someone is friendly or a threat.
They have the ability to be trained to detect changes in blood sugar levels, epileptic fits, allergic reactions, and narcolepsy.
Dogs can be trained to search for dead bodies, to track for missing people, drug-detecting, as well as detecting hormone changes in animals to assist farmers with when to artificially inseminate.
In regards to anything which is related to smell, dogs can be trained to detect it.
The mental stimulation of being able to explore, stop, start, sniff, pee, and push around with their nose in the grass and in the air, is just what a dog needs to have a delightful walk.
So, slow down and smell the roses.
Take your time, there is no rush.
As you stop for your dog, look around, notice the insects in the air, the breeze, the litter lying in the grass (pick it up) and have a few moments of conversation with whoever is walking by and stops to say hello to your ‘cute little dog.’
Hey, a dog is a great conversation starter.
Your dog’s joy in the experience is contagious.
We repeatedly do some things every day, and it’s so easy to lose our joy in the experience as it becomes routine.
“I don’t think twice about picking up my dog’s poop, but if another dog’s poop is next to it, I think, ‘Eww, dog poop!” — Jonah Goldberg
But not a dog. With a walk. Each walk is like the first time.
And then I get home.
Lily has a drink. Curls up. And sleeps the sleep of the living dead.
Out of it.
Until next time.
Dogs change lives. Half Buddha, half Bozo, they keep us tethered to the earth, and teach us to fly. Our dogs are our sanity keepers. Pam Houston