P.epper meets Mr. Binks for the first time and sniffs the tiny dog as a greeting. As always, I look away. But Mr Binks’ owner, canine behaviorist Anna Webb, says, “Ah, that’s nice, introduce yourself.”
Pepper, my miniature schnauzer, trots ahead along the sidewalk, followed by me, who leads the way, and then Mr. Binks and the glamorous Anna. The two walk side by side.
“Pepper shouldn’t go ahead,” says Anna. She immediately laughs to soften her severity and adds, “She is not the queen!”
Unbeknownst to Pepper, Anna examines the two of us on today’s walk on Hampstead Heath in north London to see how well we get along, much like a family psychotherapist playing with a child and their parents. Anna will also give me tips on how to increase both peppers and my wellbeing by making our daily walks an interactive, high quality experience for both of us.
According to Anna, host of the weekly podcast A Dog’s Life, the owner and pooch should be in constant communication during a dog walk: the dog is praised by its owner, returns when called (recall) and is rewarded with verbal cues or something to eat . People are rewarded with camaraderie, devotion and increased well-being. “It is a chance for you to be together, to take time out together and to enjoy nature,” says Anna.
Ignoring the needs of our dogs, on the other hand, does not help anyone. When Anna spots someone on her cell phone and ignores her canine buddy, her stress levels skyrocket. “You wouldn’t expect your child to go to the park in silence,” says Anna, “no talk about the area and what happens on the way, would you?”
I choose to be my best, most interactive self after hearing this, but Pepper immediately raises her leg in front of The Mutt Hut, a grooming salon near Heath, where she has her eyebrows trimmed and her anal glands treated (dog ownership is not everything.) photo shoots and glamor). Not sure how to go along with it, sending her good vibes instead. Then, the moment she sets off, I make sure I keep up with her, albeit aided by a stealthy pull on her leash. But I was discovered by Anna.
“The guide should be tight, but not too tight,” she says. “A dog charging ahead doesn’t know where it’s going. The dog takes responsibility for the walk. Pulling forward, panting like a train, the dog is stressed. “
A dog charging ahead doesn’t know where it’s going
Running on Mr. Binks’ heels is there. It means your mutt is trained, can be called back if necessary, and knows its place in the pack. At least I have form in that: Pepper often walks between me and my husband when we do our passeggiata, her pointed ears and her fondness for carrying a stick the width of four Great Danes arouse envy and awe.
Next, Pepper stops to sniff a lamppost freshly sprayed with urine. I have all this behind me. “Nice sniffing, Pepper!” I shout and try to prove Anna’s claim that you can teach old dogs, that is me, new tricks. I usually stay silent when Pepper indulges in her Proustian tic. But when I’m in a hurry, I bark “Not now, Pepper” and pull on her leash.
It turns out I got this worship business wrong. They only praise a dog for sniffing when it does so on command. “This acts as a focus tool that you can use to get your dog out of the way or evade another dog,” says Anna. “It is an opportunity to take part in the running experience with your dog and consciously activate its massive sense of smell.”
Dogs have up to 300 million olfactory receptors, map their surroundings by sniffing and communicate with each other via the chemical signals in their body odors. Anna says that one dog can tell the age, rank, health, and gender of another dog from a breath or trace of urine.
“If they’re sniffing all the time and you’re in a hurry, you can combine other tools like the verbal ‘look at me’ or distract them with a toy to play a quick game. The dog is then focused on you as a joker. “
When a runaway toddler slides down the path at murderous speed, Anna uses a different tool. She immediately crouches down, holds her hand sideways as if to cut something, then extends it to the shin-high Mr. Binks and then back to herself. “‘Touch! Touch!” she exclaims, the collision is imminent. Just in time, Mr. Binks trudges out of the toddler’s way and comes straight to Anna. She gives Mr. Binks the thumbs up and rewards the English superhero toy terrier with a treat.
Anna explains her methods: “Combine the command with a happy face and a meal reward and you practice operant conditioning. It is a step further from a Pavlovian answer. The dog does something of his own choosing and is rewarded; This principle is then carried over to everything they do, such as walking on their heels. “
I’m happy to report that Pepper quickly noticed when Anna introduced her to the touch command. Treatment helps. She has never eaten game.
They know if I have a downer and cheer me up with a look or a wagging tail
In 2008, Anna helped found the Medical Detection Dogs charity, which trains dogs to detect changes in smell in people with type 1 diabetes. It now successfully trains you to recognize Covid-19. Dogs live from such cognitive stimulation, even if it takes the form of a monotonous retrieving game or the hunt for hidden goodies. But, Anna warns, all dogs must be trained “for the great landscape of life before us”.
When Prudence, her miniature bull terrier, recently came across some oxen in a field, Anna used the touch command. The duo made a quick escape. Untrained dogs can run amok. According to the National Farmers’ Union, the cost of farm animals attacked by dogs has increased 10% over the past year. Of the 80% of dogs that went off the leash, 64% do not come back when called, according to their survey. “The problem is with first-time owners who haven’t trained their dogs during the lockdown,” says Anna. “They think they’ll come out trained somehow.”
As Tintin and Snowy and Wallace and Gromit remind us, humans and dogs can enjoy a symbiotic relationship, as well as adventure and daring. Anna has no doubts about a dog’s ability to empathize. During the “harrowing experience” of caring for her late mother while suffering from dementia, Mr. Binks and Prudence rallied. “You always know when I have a little downer. You will cheer me up with an attentive look or wagging your tail. Prudence is particularly good at this and becomes very playful and distracting, makes mischief, makes me smile even when I don’t want to, keeps me present and minimizes wallowing. But it’s her loyalty and the fact that I have her in the first place that I find so comforting that I’m grateful to never be alone. You offer me unconditional love, and I find that very humble. “
Last month, the government formally recognized dogs as sentient beings under the Sentience Act. “They are complex, emotionally intelligent beings,” says Anna, which is why an interactive relationship with them is essential. To do this, she gets Pepper to walk down a tree trunk and jump over it. Pepper, I dare to say, is a natural product. She shows off jumping over Mr. Binks. It’s like the Tokyo Olympics and I’m exhausted.
What on earth does Anna get from all these efforts? “Mr. Binks and I worked as a team, he trusted me and challenged himself. It’s about spending time with your dog. They have a short life and leave us heartbroken, and I know that I want to know that I did my best and have memories to prove it. ”
That Rules of dog etiquette
1 Exercise a full recall of distractions like jogging
2 Reward them with tasty, healthy treats
3 Vary your hikes depending on the season
4th Train the perfect walk to the heel
5 Invest in a 5m line
1 Use a retractable cord
2 Let your dog pull in front
3 Let your dog run on strange dogs or people
4th Leave your dog on a leash without a call back
5 Allow your dog to hunt squirrels or alarm livestock