The Puppiness Project – Learn How to Walk

Gretchen Rubin wrote in The Happiness Project about the year she spent “test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happy.” The Puppiness Project is my attempt to learn the same from Honey, my Golden Retriever.
Man and Golden Retriever Walking on Leash

There's all kinds of great smells down here. Don't you want to try it?

I used to be one of “those people.” You know, the ones who think the purpose of walking a dog is to make it around a prescribed loop and come home. I’d pick the same route every time and stamp my feet a little when a sniffing session went on too long. You know what I mean. I had no idea that walking the dog was all about walking the dog. Luckily, I had Shadow to teach me otherwise.

When her nose took over, her brain shut down. Shadow was only able to focus on the smells she so fully experienced. And one day the light came on for me when I realized, “Hey, we’re not out here for me. We’re out here for her.”

The clouds parted. The angels sang. And I became a much better dog walker.

Honey gets pretty good walks.  She often chooses the route and how long we stay out. I intersperse games on our walks like chase the squirrel (a very bad idea on my part) and hide and seek (much more successful). I will wait all day if she has to investigate an amazing smell. And we often leave the sidewalks to explore the wilder edges of my city.

Still, I only experience a fraction of what Honey does on her walk. Honey is truly present in every moment–she’s mindful. I’m still halfway home at any given moment. So I’m trying to experience our walks more like Honey does.

Woman and Golden Retriever

Y'know, if you'd get down lower on your walks, you wouldn't miss so many interesting smells. Now breathe deep....

My sniffer will never gather the clues Honey’s does but I can use my eyes to see what’s drawn her to a spot. And even my severely limited nose would probably gather a lot more information if I got closer to what I was trying to smell (I’ll have to think about that one a bit; I have a feeling I could end up with a face full of d*g knows what if I try it).

Maybe I’ll even frolic more–you know, stomp into the deep snow on purpose. Skip in the middle of the block just because it feels good. And smile a big goofy grin every time someone walks by.

That’s what Honey would do.

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  1. What a lovely post and what a great blog! I’m glad I discovered it!
    You are so right about “walkies” being your dog’s time to explore and have fun in a (relatively) free way. I try to always be aware of this when I take George, our whippet, for his daily walks. Maybe because he is from a hunting breed, he is a super-sniffer so our walks tend to be quite long. This can sometimes cause a bit of stress, I must admit, since I can’t always spend hours mooching around. I do, however, try to remember that he needs the stimulation of new smells and the exercise of exploring the world, so I bear with him. Worst case scenario, I try to distract him with a game of chase or frisbee and gently tease him towards home :)

    There is a woman in our area who owns 2 huskeys. Keeping not one, but two sleigh dogs in a city area in the UK is bound to be a challenge from the start, given the immense level of exercise and stimulation that these dogs require. What these particular two dogs get is a 10 minute walk along the back of our local dog field (not even around the entire perimeter), during which one is on the lead and the other is off-lead. I bet you won’t be surprised to hear that the one who is off-lead is completely out of control and very aggressive towards other dogs.

    Anyway, Honey is gorgeous, and a very lucky girl. I’m looking forward to your future posts. If you want to see what my little whippet is up to, you can check out his new blog:


    • Thanks, Didi. I just read your comment more carefully and realized my guess on your blog about your setting was all wrong. But I suspect your climate is quite similar to the Pacific NW which was my guess.

      I’ll enjoy seeing you around dog blog world. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. I agree with Honey, you should definitely skip if you feel like it. Lately I have discovered the joy of splashing in puddles again. It’s crazy how liberating it feels.

    I admire your patience. While I try to give Shiva as much time as she needs to sniff that blade of grass, sometimes it’s really, really cold and standing in one spot is not so much fun for the human. But I will try to be better.

    • Splashing is great. Good boots are key, though. I don’t think I’ll ever be enlightened enough to think that walking 2 miles in wet socks is pleasant.

      I used to make the mistake of not being properly dressed for a walk. Now I don’t hesitate to wear long johns and multiple pairs of socks before setting out. Oh, and I’ll run a few blocks in between sniffies to warm me up a bit. It’s still hard, though. I feel your pain.

  3. I love getting lost walks and letting the dogs choose where they want to go too. Unfortunately, sometimes life in the form of undone laundry and vacuuming calls me home too soon. Singing and talking to the dog while you walk is pretty cool as well. Keeps the funnies away!

    • I like talking to Honey when we walk too. But I love her too much to expose her to my singing. I’d probably get locked up for animal cruelty.

  4. I would be interesting to have the smell capabilities of the nose of the dog. But we would have to lose the human disgust factor.

  5. Great post!!!!! And very true about how walks are for the dogs!!!!

  6. So very true! I love the thought that went into this one. I am going to confess that I’m a much better dog walker when the weather is nicer. In Winter, I’m a lot more utalitarian than in the warmer months. Although, I love the excuse to dawdle along in the warmer monthes and experience life outside!

  7. Yes, I’ve had that light bulb go off too. I love walking through the quiet woods and watching the dogs body language to tell me what has or is going on. I love exploring through their eyes and world.

    I do like to keep the walk moving though and Brut can sniff one spot for hours. I starting counting to 3 when I feel he’s had enough time and we move on. Otherwise we wouldn’t get out of the drive way!!

  8. Another lovely post. I need to subscribe so I don’t miss good ones like yours.
    It’s funny, but I think it’s easy to forget we are out on a walk for the dogs and not for us. I walks dogs every day in my job and I always try to switch it up a bit for my doggie clients so they can explore a new area with new smells. I do the same for my dogs, sometimes taking them to their regular dog park and sometimes taking them to a new one and other times walking in different neighborhoods. To be honest, the variety is as much for my clients as it is for me, it keeps my job interesting and fun. You wouldn’t believe the things I get to see just because I let the dog lead the way!