The Dog Walk, Obedience, And Training: Leadership From Behind, Dogs Out In Front

Ah, the dog walk... Is it an exercise in obedience training? An existential meditation? Or merely a convenient way to exercise both man and beast?

Today, as most days, I managed all three.

It’s hot outside today. Well, hot for Berkeley. While I was out walking Dune earlier he lagged behind a bit more than usual, taking extra long to sniff and urine-mark I’m guessing because of the heat.

I found it a tad annoying. I pondered my irritation (the meditation part), and realized it was partly because I like to go at a good clip (the exercise part), but also because, you see, I prefer to exert my “leadership” on our walks from behind. I like my dogs to be out in front of me, where I can see them. It’s a much safer vantage point and doesn’t require me to multitask or treat each hike as though I were a performer at a theatre in the round.

While they’re out in front of me I know exactly where they are and what they’re doing. I can easily spot on-coming distractions or dangers and readily call them back to me frequently for just for a scratch, maybe a tasty morsel, and a release to to sniff and range again. We practice distance sits and downs (obedience), and occasionally do bits of fancy healing or agility front crosses too. (The training part.) This keeps me both interesting and in control. The great reward of the continued unbridled freedom of the dog walk proves to be a fabulously powerful one, and this way my dogs learn that playtime and training are not mutually exclusive. Blurring the line between training and fun is money in the bank for reliable responses (there’s that obedience thing again) and further establishes my leadership role, for those who choose to label it so.