As many of my readers know, Bella, the German shepherd hero in my Downward Dog Mystery series, is based on my own German shepherd, Tasha. Both are huge, often unruly (at least in Tasha’s younger days) and smarter than most people I know, myself included. They are also both reactive. A reactive dog isn’t aggressive—it’s frightened. It sometimes barks, lunges, and makes a scene, not because it’s mean, but because it wants to make the scary thing go away.
As Kate learned early in Murder Strikes a Pose, walking a reactive dog is far from easy, especially in a populated city like Seattle. So when the folks at Rover.com asked if I’d be willing to share some tips for a successful dog walk, I jumped at the chance, with one exception: A blog this important had to be written by an expert. So, for your enjoyment (and hopefully education!) below are Tasha’s Tips for a Successful Dog Walk. Take it away, Tasha!
Tasha’s Tips for a Successful Dog Walk
- Keep your pup on lead! Like most of my canine buddies, I love to run off leash. Even though I have an amazingly good recall, sometimes my brain shuts off. Like when I see bunnies. Or squirrels. Or balls bouncing into the street. When I’m in the middle of an attack of the zoomies, I could easily get hurt. So could someone else, like the driver of that car swerving to miss me. Where’s the fun in that?
- Ask before you let your dog approach another dog, even if your dog is friendly. Especially if your dog is “friendly.” You might not know this, but “friendly” in human-speak often translates to “rude and obnoxious” in dog land. I once had a “friendly” dog wrap its retractable leash around my leg. Then it ran away and yanked it. That HURT! When I was younger, stranger-dogs sometimes jumped on me and hurt my bad hip. Now that I’m older and more frail, I could easily be permanently hurt. I like my vet, but I really don’t want knee or back surgery.
- The same goes for you and your children. If the human walking a dog says the dog is nervous around strangers, don’t argue with them. Even if you think I will love you. Even if dogs always love you. You don’t know my history. Maybe a person who looked like you kicked me when I was a pup. Maybe kids pulled on my ears. Maybe I’m in pain and your touch hurts me.
- Don’t jerk your dog’s neck. Next to their humans, treats are a dog’s best friend, though I hear some dogs love toys even more. So why jerk your dog’s leash or grump at him? If you want your pup’s attention, talk to her in a happy voice or offer her a treat instead. Believe me, your dog will still respect you. I know you want to be alpha (whatever that means). Treating your dog with kindness won’t prevent that. You can easily be alpha without acting like a bully.
- Don’t stare in my eyes and show me your teeth. My human says that in human-speak, this is called eye contact and a smile, and it means that you’re friendly. But did you know that in dog-speak the same expression means “I’m a big jerk who’s threatening to bite you?” Instead, look to the side, crouch low to the ground, and let me approach you if I’m comfortable. Remember, always ask my human first!
- Ask before you feed me treats. I love treats! I’d eat anything you fed me. And then I might get really sick later. I have food allergies, and I’m not alone. Food sensitivities are common in dogs these days. Some foods make my skin break out in sores. Others give me diarrhea. That tiny piece of cheese you give me will make me sick for days afterwards.
So that’s about it! Six simple tips that will make your dog walks happy, safe, and fun for you, your pup, your dog walker, and for other dogs like me.
Thanks for reading! And if you’re interested in reading my human’s mysteries, check out the link below.