Hannah, my German shepherd-something-something-something mix, and I love our walks. I let her choose which direction she wants to head in, and we ramble off in search of new sights and smells.
No matter which path strikes Hannah’s fancy, we always seem to see other dogs out for their evening strolls whose guardians act like it’s a race to the end of the block. When the dogs try to stop and sniff something, send some “pee-mail,” or greet Hannah, their guardians sometimes yank them away and drag them down the street. You can practically see the dog’s nose twitching, trying desperately to catch whatever interesting smells he or she can as their human rushes along like a marathoner.
I’ve developed a little trick to use when Hannah starts to approach a dog or when another dog wants to stop and sniff near us: I say to her, loud enough for the other guardian to hear, “OK, just say ‘Hi’ for a minute,” and that’s usually sufficient to spare the other dog a bad case of leash-lash. My boss, who is equally irked by leash-lashers, takes a more direct approach. She matter-of-factly says, “Can our dogs meet for a minute?” or “Why don’t we just let them sniff?”
When a friend of mine is out and sees anyone with a dog—although she doesn’t have one—she always stops and says, “Oh, what a beautiful, smart face!” or “They love to be outdoors, don’t they?” to get people to appreciate their dogs and to remember how much walks matter to them. When provoked, that friend can bite, too! Seeing someone dragging a dog along or keeping a leash too tight, she will say to the guardian, “Boy, that dog isn’t allowed much fun on his walk, is he!”
Whatever approach works, I think we owe it to dogs to try to stop their guardians from yanking them away from whatever they’re interested in, denying them the social interaction and ability to explore surroundings that they need and crave and possibly even injuring them. When you consider that a walk is the highlight of the day for most dogs, don’t they deserve to enjoy it?