Today, I asked my old man, Buster to take me for a walk and it was wonderful.
Early in my dog-owning life, a trainer told me that I had to be the "pack leader" and show dominance at all times (barf). This instilled in me an anxiety about what my dogs are doing on walks and a tendency to embody that anxiety through hand tension, constant chatter, and micromanagement.
These behaviors increase everyone's frustration, set back our training and make walks less enjoyable all around. They aren't really the hallmarks of leadership either. Great leaders listen, empower and protect.
To deconstruct this constellation of behaviors, I let my dogs lead our walks. They can stop and sniff whenever they want, and they decide our direction. The goals are simple:
Enrichment and relaxation
Provide as many opportunities for the dog to make choices as possible
Build awareness around how my body posture and energy is influencing our walk
To be clear, it isn't a free for all; the leash needs to be loose (mostly) and they can't run into traffic/off of cliffs or run up on other dogs/humans/wildlife. But they do get to choose where we go, what we do, and how we do it.
Today, Buster chose to go to the Marina and smell the water, watch the birds and roll in the freshly wet grass. Watching him make decisions and show me his preferences was so enriching for me because I know him a little bit better now.