Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Walking the Dogs

In her book, The Loved Dog, Tamar Geller suggests dogs have seven basic needs. According to her, they include a sense of security, companionship, understanding of the hierarchy, surprises and excitement, food and exercise, mental stimulation, and love and connection.

When I take Emma, Griz, and often Brodie, my daughter’s dog, out for a run or a walk, I have a hunch the outing may meet many of their basic needs; and perhaps that’s why, when I tie up my running shoes, they make such a ruckus.

Emma barks in her bossy, alpha voice; Brodie yips at a high rate of speed while entertaining the idea of actually shepherding me out the door faster than I can go; and Griz, given the opportunity amidst the chaos, will nip at my heels once we round the corner of the garage.

On our way to the pond today, we followed a trail on the north side of the house through a small aspen grove and on out to the county road. In the early few yards of our adventure, Emma always sets the stage with an aggressive style of leadership: growling, attacking, and racing down the road. Brodie attempts to manage the jousting and Griz knows well enough to hang at the back of the pack until she settles down and the journey is underway. I realize I’m already observing their need for and understanding of the hierarchy.

As we entered the trail off the county road I sensed the dogs relax as they joined in comfortable companionship and the security of a beloved routine. Trampling down the trail they turned their attention to exploring recent wildlife activity stopping suddenly to sniff and track new scents. In each discovery I see their need for surprise, excitement, and mental stimulation being satisfied.

Carrying on to the pond we passed through sage brush and oak brush, quite thick at times. Emma ducked under, Brodie and Griz hopped or leaped over depending upon how high the brush. Once there, they welcomed the cool swim in the stock pond. The mom in me cringed at the moss and mud and then Griz sailed by chest deep, swirled around and headed back the other way. I saw bliss in all the dogs and as with my children, I thought to myself, “I’ll just wash them off when we get home.” The dogs obviously reveled in the stimulation, exercise, and camaraderie.

I, too, reveled in the outing, feeling reluctant to turn around and head home. We all, the happy pack, were apparently satisfied with our day when some, if not all, our needs were met and we looked forward to a nice meal once evening drew near.

I believe Geller must have it right.

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