I can’t believe it has come to this: giving advice on how to walk your dog with a cellphone. But it’s starting to look like a zombie apocalypse out there!
Do I have a cellphone? Yes. Do I value the convenience it has given me? Yes. But do you know what I value more? My dogs and the time I spend with them, uninterrupted.
I also value the silence of nature while I am hiking with my dogs and when I mean silence I don’t mean an absence of noise, but an absence of noise pollution.
The chirping birds, the rustling leaves, the swish of tall grasses in the breeze are all the sounds of silence and are missed when your focus is on a little piece of plastic that beeps, buzzes and ring-dingalings.
With your head in the iCloud, you also miss your dog running after the deer and getting lost. You miss the approaching dog on leash and an owner who is trying hard to manage not only her dog but yours which is coming too close to her reactive dog.
You miss your dog seeking your attention and wanting to engage with you along the walk, you also miss your dog no longer caring that you are on the walk. You miss your bond deteriorating because you are more concerned about the incoming text message than the messages your dog is sending you.
But I get it, you need that cellphone with you. For whatever reason it means life to you.
So here are some tips to help you walk with your phone and your dog. It takes a bit of practise but I’m sure with due diligence you will be able to get the hang of it.
First, since you are more concerned about losing your phone than your dog, place your phone in a secure pocket with a zipper. That way you don’t have to worry about losing it because it is secure. This allows you to have two hands free to walk and manage your dog.
Next, leash your dog. You might find this troubling as it may interfere with your desire to hold your phone for comfort, but remain calm, you are on a walk with your dog, not your phone . . . remember?
Now, walk with your dog. When your dog stops to sniff something, stop and look around. Take note of the colour of the sky, the type of trees around you and maybe even the smell of the forest.
No need to take a photo, just put it in this place called a memory. Yes, the human brain has one but sadly it is underused thanks to cellphones.
It’s true that you won’t have a photo to share to Facebook but you have a memory that you can share with an actual living human in a real life social setting. You can use this memory to trigger the imagination of the human you are speaking with, which is another underutilized part of the human brain.
If a call or text comes in while walking your dog, do not anxiously rush to your phone’s request.
Instead, realize that the phone is not going anywhere, the message will still be there, so tend to your dog first by moving to the side of the trail so you don’t interfere with other trail users. Then ask Fido to sit or lie down at your side in a controlled manner. Now tend to your phone.
Once the conversation is over, put the phone back in your pocket and continue your walk with your dog.
If your phone seeks your attention again, simply repeat the above step to ensure your dog and other trail users remain safe.
Your phone will still love you even if you ignore it for a short time.
If you see wildlife along the walk, do not allow your dog to harass it and there is no need to get a selfie with it.
Remember, bears, cougars and coyotes can kill you and your dog. Keep a safe distance and respect all wildlife.
Learn patience by resisting the urge to photograph everything your dog does along the walk and trust that the perfect opportunity for the perfect shot will present itself, one that is worthy of sharing on social media.
Finally, remember that cellphones are going to be here long after you have left this world. Your dog however won’t be. His time with you is very short. Choose wisely.
Joan Klucha has been working with dogs for more than 15 years in obedience, tracking as well as behavioural rehabilitation. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.