We only pay attention to a small part of what’s in front of us. For some of us, it’s a very small part.
We focus on what’s important to us and filter out what’s not.
So what are you focusing on when you walk your dog? And what do you filter out?
Things Dogs Find Scary
I’ve spent years of my life scanning the streets ahead and behind for things that would freak my dogs out—mostly other dogs.
Over the nearly two decades I lived with reactive Agatha, Christie, and Shadow I became a champion at spotting dogs in the area.
- From blocks away I could tell a dog from a child or even a shopping bag.
- I heard tags jingling from a collar despite nearby sirens, trolleys, and blaring music.
- Even when the dog was silent and hidden around the corner, my spider senses began to tingle as I instinctively crossed the street.
I saved my dogs and myself from noisy and uncomfortable encounters. But I missed a lot on our walks.
I remember walking with someone outraged by people who didn’t clean up after their dogs.
She could spot dog poop at twenty paces in high grass.
It was her hobby: poop spotting followed by sputtering, righteous indignation.
But with her eyes always scanning the path for poop, she never noticed anything else.
New Dog Friends
Now that I’m living with a dog who isn’t upset by other dogs, I look for them joyfully.
I still watch carefully for dog body language. Not because Honey will react badly. But because I don’t want to bring her too close to a dog who doesn’t feel comfortable with dogs he doesn’t know.
Now I’m able to notice how well our new neighbor is training her corgis not to bark insanely every time we walk by. I can admire the frisbee-playing border collies who has eyes for nothing but his favorite toy. And I can see the frisky dog down the way who is hoping for an invitation to play with Honey.
Look for Something New with Your Dog
Spring has finally come to the north. It gives me a big incentive to focus on more when I’m walking Honey.
Maybe I can open up my filters a bit to notice more things: cats, flowers, birds, people. Or maybe I’ll see more if I pay attention to what catches Honey’s eye (or nose) on a walk.
Just what (or who) is hiding in the holly bushes two doors down? Why does Honey decide to walk this way and not that way? And how does she always know when the crossing guard with treats in his pocket is on duty without having a watch?
Let Something New In
Even if your dog is fearful or reactive, your brain is powerful enough to see something new on a walk. Maybe you can find something new to look for while keeping your dog safe.
And if you have a happy-go-lucky pup, what’s holding you back? There’s a whole world just waiting for us to see it.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go look at the world. With my dog.
Your Turn: What are you most likely to be looking for when you’re walking your dog?