Several months ago, I was talking to my assistant trainer Quin, and she was noting that Cash’s anxiety seemed to be ramping up. After discussing it, and laughing that I’d tell my clients, “Stop running him on the bike, start doing working dog walks,” I decided it was time to buckle down and follow my own advice!
I still don’t know why Cash’s anxiety began to ramp up. I’m not sure what the trigger was, exactly. But I do know that I hadn’t been walking him regularly; you know how the builder’s door always squeaks? Well, the dog trainer’s dogs are often neglected! I’d been busy and taking them for fast bike rides, rather than the emotionally stabilizing walks.
Walks are funny; there are all sorts of theories on why they work. There’s one theory, that it triggers in them a pack mentality and lets them know that the humans are calling the shots and protecting the pack, so they can relax. (I subscribe to this theory.) There’s another theory, that it’s because it’s working the dog’s body and mind, giving them good calm time with their parent, and teaching them to listen and be calm. (I also believe this theory, but I believe the theories dovetail! Many others would disagree with me there.) And of course, there’s a million and one theories in between and to either side that give ever more reasons or combinations thereof.
It’s impossible to prove one over the other. We’d have to crack open our dogs’ brains and peer inside, see what they’re feeling and thinking. You can choose and theory and run with it, and in fact, I highly recommend doing so. Research theories, see what makes sense to you.
But whatever theory you believe as to why it works, that doesn’t change the fact that it worked!
I started walking Cash. Ten, fifteen minutes a day. Not long walks; these weren’t really walks to exercise him, but walks to get his emotions back in tune with me. Within a week the anxiety was completely gone, and that was the only change I made.
It’s good to remember to practice what you preach. Then my own dogs become the story!