Jill Kessler Miller, CPDT
We all read about mindfulness--minding your words, your food, your actions, but what about when your with your dog? Do you go out for a walk or to gathering such as coffee or dinner with a friend and then immediately get on your phone, put in your earbuds, look off and not pay attention? And when your social mate reads or ignores you, then tug at them and get mad? Well, when you put in your earbuds or look at your phone while walking your dog, you’re essentially doing the same rude behavior. Your dog is engaging you, even on a walk. They are reading the local news by sniffing, translating their environment with all their senses, and giving back information as well. Listen to their breathing (relaxed open mouth, even breaths, labored breathing, short and anxious); watch their gait (is it bouncy? lethargic? gimpy?); watch their body (is it anxious? relaxed? tense? elastic?); How do they approach novel stimuli (with curiosity? Hesitancy? defensive? creeping up?). All of this information is telling you about the state of your dog, both physically and emotionally. If you’re ignoring your dog, then why shouldn't he/she ignore you? Pulling, charging out in front out of control, leisurely sniffing without concern for your whereabouts, not checking in--all these actions may annoy you but what are YOU doing in exchange to engage your dog? Nothing but listening to music, texting and being aggravated that your dog is blowing you off? Why do you expect mutual respect when your actions are just as rude? So here’s my suggestion: Leave external entertainment at home. Leash up and go out. Look around, wave at a neighbor, watch the birds in the sky, look out for potential dangers such as off-leash dogs or children on scooters, listen to your dog, watch your dog, talk to your dog. Be with your dog in the moment. Remember this might be his one time a day that he gets to be out and to interact with the world and is very important to him. Don’t cut it short because of your unwillingness. Be present, be engaged, be mindful.