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Walking With Dogs is a Conversation...A Dance

Gena M. asks, “Can you please give me some tips on leash walking more than one dog at a time? My two mutts gang up on me and traverse the path and act like they are completely deaf to my voice.”

Dear Gena,

I find that walking multiple dogs is really not much different than walking one dog – as long as you’re walking efficiently, and with a vision of calm, cool control guiding you. I weigh 105 lbs, and can walk three Mastiffs and a lab (Baloo, Maggie, Hooch and Fred) holding a handful of leashes in one hand! This is obviously not a matter of physical strength, as those four dogs weigh as much as three of me! Rather, it is the result of intent and technique! Without the right mindset or methods, walking even one tiny dog can be a huge struggle.

You mention your dogs not listening to you. I believe this is because when communicating with dogs, silence speaks far louder than words. Especially while you are moving together – as in a walking scenario – the “conversation” becomes much more about your body language, and the way your energy courses through the leash from you into them, and the feedback of their energy back into you, than it is about talking. Dogs don’t speak English. What they do supremely well, however, is communicate with humans on the common level called Animal. This is more a dance than an exchange of words. Abstract though it may be, try thinking about your walks this way. And let me know the change in perception translates into a change in both your and your dogs’ behavior, and thus in the whole dynamic.

While a positive, can-do state of mind is the greatest asset you bring to a walk, leashes – and how you hold them – are equally important. You mentioned that your dogs “traverse the walking path”. Dogs should never have enough leash-length to allow them to maneuver this way. Each dog should have only enough line to keep them right next to you, with your arms hanging at your side. I don’t know if you’re using those (god-awful) retractable leashes, but if so, think about it purely in terms of physics: The shorter the leash, the less area the dog is able to cover, and thus the more control you have. If your dogs are wandering around at the end of a 20-foot line, they will think of you as nothing more than a physical restriction to going even further, rather than as a guiding partner in a bonding activity you are all sharing in as a cohesive pack.

I understand people’s desire to see their dogs have fun and enjoy their walks. However, allowing them to stop and sniff and pee every thirty seconds, and pull you wherever their nose takes them, is actually doing them a disservice, not a favor. It robs them of the awesome feeling that courses through an animal’s veins in that visceral zone people refer to as the runner’s high. This same feeling can be achieved while walking, too, as long as it is your intent to get. And to get there, you must keep yourself and your dogs focused, and moving together like the harmoniously-functioning parts of a lean, mean machine.

While I am a huge proponent of dogs having fun, enjoying life and running free, there are times and places appropriate for free play and roaming. But in my opinion, a daily walk on a predetermined trail or city sidewalk is not the time nor place. I feel the walk is a time for communicating with your dog, providing structure, and enabling their (and your) primal migratory instinct. When dogs walk in the wild, they travel with purpose. Moving in search of food, careful to use only the amount of energy they will be able to replace with their kill, they cannot afford to behave frivolously or wander off on their own. While daily walks should be enjoyable and relaxing for both human and dog, they also provide an opportunity for evolving in real time. Becoming more efficient biological beings. Even becoming of one, shared, interspecies mind. The act of walking a dog is simple. But what can potentially be gained from mindfully walking with one’s dogs…is profound.

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