Podium shot: Charlie, Lucy, and Linus on the plow-created snow Mountain next to our driveway
Fayston, Vermont. It has been so cold that the snow left behind by storm Harper complains with squeaks and grumbles under my boots. Just suiting up for a short dog walk down the driveway is an epic adventure. The bundling up and unbundling take as long as the walk.
Linus won’t go outside. He stands on the threshold like an old man caught up in a memory, unsure of the present. I coax him outside with the promise of a cookie.
Charlie rushes out excitedly. But after about a minute, he freezes with one leg in the air as if tagged by an invisible “It.” Slowly, the raised leg lowers and is carefully placed on the ground. A different leg is haltingly held aloft. The deliberate leg exchange is repeated, resembling a dog version of Tai chi.
Lucy runs ahead, clearing the driveway’s giant snow bank in a graceful leap and landing a perfect bellyflop in a pillow of powder. She pops up snow-covered with her goofy golden grin and begs me to throw a snowball. I oblige. Many times.
Satisfied that Linus has relieved himself, we return to the house for cookies, and for me, a cup of hot tea.
Linus says “Nope.”
Charlie doesn’t appear thrilled.
Lucy always manages to find a big stick.
No friends on a powder day.
Charlie in doggles.
Lucy, Queen of Powderhounds
Each of my dogs has a distinct personality, even when confined to a leash
Fayston, Vermont. Despite the fact that spring seems slow in coming this year, my dogs and I are enjoying more time outside now that the snow is (mostly) melted. I am looking forward to walking on the hiking trails and public paths once those ways are dry enough for foot traffic. Meanwhile, we are meandering out on the roads, and I have noticed that each of my dogs exhibits at least one “walk profile” type when on a leash. Others have told me about their dogs’ distinct behavior while leash walking.
Recently, I devised a set of “walk profiles” to categorize dog behavior while on a leash. The profiles are not exclusive to each other – dogs may show characteristics from more than one profile. Dogs may also morph from one category into another completely. Training is the biggest variable, but weather may also have a role in which behavior is exhibited. Equipment such as a special harness or lead also plays a part in behavior.
What type of “walker” is your dog?
- The Investigator. This dog loves to sniff EVERYTHING, even if the walk is on the same route taken earlier in the day. All of the day’s news is contained in the grass, but it takes time to weed out the gossip from the important stuff. This dog is thorough and curious as well as social. Perhaps even a little stubborn… Motivating to move along can be a challenge.
- The Fire Chief. Works a little faster than the Investigator, but is sure to put out each inflammatory remark with his own stream. The Fire Chief boasts an amazing reservoir to ensure coverage.
- The Motion Detector. Chases blowing leaves, butterflies, birds, and moving squirrels, the Motion Detector is energetic and enthusiastic. The Motion Detector needs frequent “SIT” time-outs to collect herself while on a leash. Can be difficult to handle in a wind gust.
- The Collector. Souvenirs of every walk line the driveway: sticks, dropped rotten apples, and even big branches are picked up and carried by the Collector during the walk and dropped once back at home. Sometimes these items are held in the mouth while in Motion Detector mode (see above). A collected item often serves as a pacifier. The Collector is known to carry multiple items at the same time. Caution: Large collected items can become a club – “drop it” is a good command to avoid being hit behind the knees with a large stick.
- The Tugboat. Harnessing the power of this type of walker is necessary, and with training, the Tugboat can become a well-mannered Pleasure Cruiser. The Tugboat is out in front, excited at being outside and stimulated by all he sees. His specialty is pulling arms: Avoid injury by using a no-pull harness/lead and engaging the tugboat in training to stop his pulling.
- The Hunter. Similar to the Motion Detector, but instead of chasing movement, the Hunter is scenting rodents. Squirrels, chipmunks, and gophers better beware if the Hunter is off-leash. The Hunter type is often paired with the Tugboat type, so a harness and training help keep hunting season closed during leash walks.
- The Pleasure Cruiser. With training and frequent positive reinforcement, this is the height of evolved dog walk behavior. The Cruiser is focused on his or her handler, does not pull or lurch or jump, and makes exploring the neighborhood a joy of companionship. Each of my dogs has flirted with this walk type, but none has committed fully to it. Yet. Our pursuit of Cruiser-ability is on-going.
What type of walker is your dog? Do you have any other types in your house? Please leave a comment!