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Negotiating the world of dog walking

Dogs simply love heading outside for a walk. This daily dog walking ritual between pet and owner serves as a bonding experience – one that researchers have discovered is more complex than people originally thought.

A recent study published in Social & Cultural Geography shows that dog walks actually involve constant negotiation about where to walk, how long to walk, and how the walk will take place. Dog owners often make these decisions based on their perception of their pet’s personality, likes, and dislikes.

Taking a dog for a walk involves more than simply heading out the door for a bit of exercise. Louis Platt, lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University and co-author of the study, says that dog walking is a shared experience between the dog and owner. Humans want to see their dogs have fun and wish to provide a safe, stress-free environment in which that can happen.

This is why dog owners tailor their walk schedule and journey to their dog’s individual needs. Many owners hit the great outdoors with their canine companions because they feel that it’s where their pets can let loose and demonstrate the “doggyness” that is so often denied to them while indoors.

Owners spoke of heading to their dog’s “favorite park” or areas where they felt the dog enjoyed frolicking. They also customize the length of their walks according to what they felt their dog would most enjoy. One study participant said that long daily walks were part of her dog’s “right” to a good life.

Caution and anxiety also play a role in dog owner’s decisions about where and how to walk. People with large or aggressive dogs tend to avoid paths where they might meet other dogs, lots of people, or small children. Letting their canines off leash was another activity where dog owners took special care. Many of them expressed concern at the idea of their dog wandering away. Owners who approve of off-leash dog walking feel that this is “the dog’s time” to be itself.

From when to leash up to where to head out, there’s definitely more to dog walking than lifting legs and wagging tails.

By Dawn Henderson, Staff Writer
Source: Louis Platt, Manchester Metropolitan University

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