Stripping Down With Your Dog
How many of you have ever left the house to take your dog for a walk or to dog training outdoors without your phone?
Not, many I would guess. I would like to suggest that you leave your phone behind and reap the great rewards of being “naked” on a dog walk.
A while back I forgot my cell phone at home after I was already out for a walk with my dog. I felt naked and anxious and the thought crossed my mind to run back home and get it. But then I paused and all of that anxiety washed away and my dog and I were communicating better than ever before. We had a much better dog training, bonding session, and connection because of it. It was after that walk that I knew my walks with my dog would never be the same. I would walk without my phone many times after this walk and it is almost as liberating as, well, really walking naked.
Yeah yeah, I know the doom and gloomers and naysayers will retort, but Russ what happens in case of an emergency? How am I going to take a video or selfies? How can I tweet to my thousands of followers that my dog just looked really adorable or post his pictures on Instagram? What if my friends call and want to know what I ate for breakfast? Well, you are with your best friend so why not try giving him your undivided attention?
Dog training and walking with your dog are the best way to bond and form a strong connection with your dog. A recent study in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior titled “Reciprocal attention of dogs and owners in urban contexts” written by Paolo Mongillo and colleagues from the University of Padova, studied off-leash vs on leashed dogs and their parents’ attention rates. The obvious may be derived from this study, that increased attention between parents and their dogs builds stronger relationships. Attention is a basic component of social relationships and dog training is something that is done with your dog, not to your dog.
It was not too long ago when walking with your dog was just that, walking with your dog. Before the internet age and smartphones, there was a time when people actually walked with, trained with, bonded with, and paid 100% attention to their dogs. Aww the days of yonder.
Let’s get back to basics and try leaving our phones at home when dog training or walking our dogs.
To be Naked or Not to be Naked – That is the Question
No one likes being ignored. How does it feel when you are out to eat at your favorite restaurant and your friend is busy texting, posting, typing, or talking on their phone? Well, I know it makes me feel unimportant, unappreciated, and that my company is not present. It certainly is not what I would call deep listening, communication, or bonding time. I like to practice deep listening with mindfulness and compassion. I can’t be fully present when I am distracted. I can’t and I would venture to guess not many of us can multitask well.
Neuroscientist Earl Miller states “People can’t multitask very well, and when people say they can, they’re deluding themselves,”… and goes on, “The brain is very good at deluding itself.”
So if we are not actually multitasking well what are we doing? Miller goes on to state, “Switching from task to task, you think you’re actually paying attention to everything around you at the same time. But you’re actually not,” “You cannot focus on one while doing the other. That’s because of what’s called interference between the two tasks,”
I do not like interference and I know my dog enjoys undivided attention just like I do when I am with a friend. So let’s run through some of the pros and cons of going for a walk naked (leaving your cell phone at home) when with our best friend/s.
PROS OF BEING NAKED:
- Cool air on your bum….well besides that. Being 100% focused and connected with your dog! How many small details can you pick up when focused completely on a subject (your dog) and your surroundings? Feeling the connection and watch it blossom.
- Much safer! Pick up on small things that would have otherwise been overlooked or ignored. Avoid stepping on poop with your dog. Don’t walk into a tree or trip on a curb. Notice if the pavement to hot for my dog’s paws or if he is panting excessively or his gate is off. The list is endless of potential problems you will avoid and beautiful moments of connection when your attention is focused and present.
Additionally, watching out for confused parents using shock collars, choke chains or pronged collars on their dogs, and avoid them. Do you see a reactive or aggressive dog coming towards you or maybe there is a dog barking fearfully at you, or your puppy is biting something or eating something dangerous. All of these instances can be safeguarded against by being present.
- Less worrying and stress! If we don’t have a phone with us we don’t fuss with or try to find it in our pocket or purse and accidentally drop the leash. Imagine trying to answer a call, send a text, respond to a message or to take a video just as your pup is about to step on a foxtail or as a squirrel runs by or a car backfires?
Just having the phone with me turns up the stress level even if ever so slightly. When I have my phone with me, I might think, do I have to answer this call? Should I look who it is? Where is my phone? All of this takes away from my number one dog/s! Leaving my phone at home helps my mind to relax and to stop worrying about what I “should be doing”, what work I have, where I “should be”…etc.
- Observation. Pick up on all of your dog’s subtle or blatant communication signals/body language.
- Appreciation of the little things. Appreciate nature fully, your dog, and fine-tune all of your senses. What smells are in the air? What textures are you feeling? What do you hear around you: birds chirping, kids playing, cars coming?
What do you see around you: flowers, grass, concrete, lake, kids, dog/s approaching? Is the wind blowing? If so, which direction, and what scents my dog is smelling? Is it hot, humid, cold, dry, may the road temperature be too hot for your pup’s paws? Does your dog look tired, thirsty, nervous, apprehensive, tepid, bold, eager, or energetic? Does your dog have a slight limp, or in a grumpy mood today, am I practicing puppy potty training, etc. all of these and tons more can be readily detected and more expediently picked up upon when you are in tune with life and giving your undivided attention to your relationships.
- Meditation and being your best self. Meditation does not have to be in a lotus sitting position listening to hymns. Present awareness comes in many forms such as a walk or exercise is very much a meditative exercise. Being in the moment and present will be safer for both you and your dog and will strengthen your connection and bond with one another.
- Heightened information and perception. This could also fall under observation and/or safety but is so important it warrants its own category. How many times have you approached a dog park only to see the humans gathered around talking, reading a book, on their phones, or otherwise completely “checked out”? It is an easy metric by which to tell whether or not to enter a dog park.
I do not recommend going to a fenced-in dog park for a plethora of reasons including but not limited to unhealthy conditions: nutritionally, medically, behaviorally and out-to-lunch parents, irresponsible guardians, etc. However, one of the easiest red flags to notice and avoid is a pet parent who is checked-out, on their phone clueless to where their dog is or what they’re doing. Do your dog and yourself a favor and skip the dog park and enjoy a jog, walk or run together. For an off-leash experience, invest in a long lead. But do everyone a favor and do not use a retractable leash.
- Lighter. Have less weight/stuff in your pockets. Not feeling like you have a brick in your pocket and work on living a minimalist lifestyle. Clear your life and mind of clutter.
- Reproduction. Want to have babies someday? Not only is getting naked a precursor to reproduce but Cell Phone Use is also Linked to Male Infertility.
- Save money! You won’t have to worry about destroying your phone if you get caught in a rain shower, dropping it while taking a selfie, or losing it while jogging or playing with your dog.
Your dog has no one else but you and wants to have a loving bond and relationship just like all gregarious social animals. Your dog asks for little in return, it is our responsibility as pet parents of our best friend to give them the undivided attention they deserve on walks.
Just as with my best friends, clients, and relationships, I don’t want my time with my dogs to be shallow. Conversely, I want to strengthen and deepen our relationship and understanding by providing 100% undivided attention. Anything less and my joy and fulfillment will suffer (along with my relationships).
CONS OF BEING NAKED:
- ICE. Great to have in case of an emergency. But to offer a counter to this “con” in all my years working and living with dogs there is not one “emergency” where having a cell phone on a walk or while training with my dog would have saved my life or others.
- Miss a picture or video.
I know you may feel naked without your phone but doesn’t being naked feel good? Really good! I vote for more naked walks and fewer humans glued to their phones. What do you think?
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