Zen on a Leash

When I walk dogs, I get into a zone where it can be hard to carry on a conversation in English. Not because I’m out of breath, it can literally be difficult for me to form sentences.

I’m hyper-focused on the physical conversation I’m having with the dog via the leash, while simultaneously managing our immediate environment, to the extent that’s possible. Speaking seems to interrupt the flow between the dog and myself, and appears to disconnect the dog from the lesson.

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Bonding Walk

I’ve noticed many reactive dogs are more likely to react to the presence of a “trigger” (other dogs, skateboards, joggers, etc.), when I say something to approaching humans or dogs. When I smile and nod without comment, I experience almost no reactions, and the intensity of the reactions that happen is usually diminished.

This is why I encourage people to NOT use their cell phone, or listen to music, etc., during a walk with their dog. If your attention is focused on something other than the leash and the dog attached to it, you’re communicating that you’re not paying attention.

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Reactive Dog on Leash

With a reactive dog, or one that’s overstimulated at the sight of birds, squirrels, roaming cats, etc., if you’re not “listening” to the dog via the leash, the dog has no incentive to listen to you. The best you can hope for in that situation is to hold on for dear life, and keep moving.

No learning takes place, once a dog has gone ballistic, and the precious seconds lost between the dog’s reaction and your ability to tune-in kill any hope of modifying immediate behavior.

Walking a dog is a bonding experience when we make the effort to be present.

Dogs get physical exercise and the opportunity to relieve themselves, but the primary conversation dogs have on a walk happens through the leash, whether we’re conscious of this or not. 

With every step, the human holding the leash is informing the dog as to what is or isn’t expected or desired. Take advantage of that by being focused on your dog and your immediate surroundings.

The greatest lesson dogs can teach us is to live in the moment, whenever possible.

Dee Green has been a professional dog trainer and canine behavior consultant for more than 20 years. She specializes in puppies up to 18 months, and fearful, anxious and reactive dogs of all ages.

©️Dee Green, 2023

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