Emma and I have taken up meditation.
In fact, as I type this — two hours since our “session” — I can still feel the peace washing over me. The method is so simple and easy that if I weren’t feeling so Zen-calm right now, I’d chastise myself for being a moron:
When I take Emma out for her morning walk, I let her sniff. Her nose takes the lead, and together we zigzag and circle our way through the neighborhood.
Getting Emma to walk on a leash with us has been an exhausting process. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we’ve made tremendous progress recently, but two problems still arise: 1) When Emma’s nose latches on to some intriguing smell, our sweet little girl leaves the building, and a whimpering, barking, pulling, nose-to-the-ground crazy chick takes over. 2) She freezes.
For the most part, these two things happen right around our home. (When we drive somewhere else to go for a walk, she is like a champion leash-walker.) Going out the front door makes her scared, so she freezes. And going out the back takes us close to the woods, where she turns into the Sniff Monster.
So taking Emma out on walks from our house has not historically been a relaxing activity.
After learning more about dog behavior this week through my Academy for Dog Trainers studies, I realized that I have never allowed Emma to follow her nose. I always knew that she was a scent hound and, thus, I should let Emma sniff along the way, but it was always on my route. Whenever Emma would start to stray from the path, I would say “Leave It,” so that she would come back over to me for a treat.
Plus, Emma gets so excited when she turns into Sniff Monster that Hubz and I thought it would make her even more excited and out of control if we let her nose call the shots.
But three days ago I decided to let Emma be Emma. Right out the door, she got to call the shots and dictate where we went. I would not say “leave it” or play the hand-touch game to get her to walk in a line with me. I was simply along for the ride with Emma, while her Nose led the way.
Emma immediately started walking down to the woods, and yes, the Sniff Monster showed up. We darted in and out and around and around like a pinball. We sniffed this bush and that tree and the bridge that Emma is usually scared to walk on (which she trotted over fearlessly), and so on. About 40 minutes later, she looked up to me to tell me she’d had her fill. We turned around and happily walked side-by-side back home.
Later that day when I wanted to go for a human-type walk (read: one that follows a straight line), Emma trotted next to me out the door and down the street.
Yesterday morning I unleashed the Nose again. I fully expected Emma to turn into Sniff Monster and go nuts in the woods again, but she didn’t. She quietly sniffed around for a few minutes and then made a u-turn to walk a new route — along the field behind my house.
This morning, she didn’t even head out back. Nose instead led us into the plant beds in the front and the side of our house. We’ve lived in this house for one year, and this morning was the first time I ever let Emma walk into those beds.
The whole time I thought that if I didn’t stop Emma from sniffing sniffing sniffing, she would become obsessed with sniffing and not pay attention to me. Like she’d stop being Emma and just become a feral dog.
I had it completely wrong. By letting Emma do what she was born and bred to do, we’re closer than ever.
Just imagine: It’s a gorgeous day. Seventy degrees and sunny with a soft breeze rustling through the leaves. The only sounds are birds singing, crickets, er, cricketing?, leaves rustling, and our six paws tromping through the grass. For twenty minutes or so, Emma explores a new area that she has never been allowed to sniff before. There is no tension on the leash, and I am not plying her with treats to “help” her overcome her fear of the neighborhood.
Emma just boldly goes where this beagle has never gone before.
I have enjoyed these walks so much, that I’m kinda itching to go back out again. Emma is sleeping with her Frog on the couch next to me, so she clearly isn’t up for a walk. I guess I’ll have to go eat some chocolate instead…
Do you ever give your dog’s nose full rein? (Ironic turn of phrase, no?) I’d love to hear about your adventures if so, and if not, would you be willing to give it a try?
Let sniffing dogz sniff!