Dear Dr. Spot,
I’m at my whit’s end, and here’s why: My owner is so impatient and soooo into her own exercise, that when we go for walks (she calls them “power walks”), there’s never even a moment for me to tarry and take in the glorious smells of nature. And speaking of nature calling, she’s trained me to pee and poop on command, which I must complete at the very beginning of our walks. Talk about stressful! How would you like to have to eliminate when someone told you to?
The rest of my walk is for the sole purpose of “getting her heart rate up”— dare I stop to take a sniff or two, I’m practically yanked off my paws as she barrels down the sidewalk. And she’s always looking at her wrist, then trying to go even faster. It’s clear this behavior isn’t just hurting me, she’s hurting herself and doesn’t even know it, don’t you think? Aren’t walks for enjoying yourself and stopping to smell the
dog pee flowers, as they say?
Do you have any advice to get her to slow down, Doc?
Ollie, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Your owner is clearly what is called a “Type A” personality, who always has to be doing several things at once…and unfortunately, doing none of them well. Humans call it “multi-tasking” when it’s really just “messy-tasking” where no one thing gets accomplished with excellence. And yes, I agree that she probably hurting herself as well as you, Ollie—what a shame she just can’t enjoy a leisurely stroll with her pup!
But she’s the owner you’re stuck with (for now), so let’s try a few strategies to make the all-important walks beneficial for you, too:
__If you were a bigger dog, I’d advise you to just plant your body…and watch her be yanked off her feet (large dogs take heed!). Instead, I’ll recommend you use the tool that most canines have at their disposal and that is barking.
When your owner starts pumping her arms for that power walk, you start barking, and I mean keep barking (the louder the better) until she slows down and looks back at you. The immediately stop barking. The idea is to reward her only for the behavior you desire, which is her slowing down and paying attention to you. And your timing is crucial, Ollie—the second she starts the power walk, you start barking, and the second she stops or slows down to your desired pace, you stop barking. Repeat this correction when she commands you to poop or pee, too.
Don’t worry, every human is trainable with timely, consistent and patient correction. I guarantee your Type A owner will be sniffing the flowers with you after just a few short training sessions!