Everyone familiar with dogs knows that they’re creatures of habit. They know when it’s time to be fed, they know when it’s bedtime, and they know every turn on their daily walk. If you try to stray from this routine, they will happily remind you of your mistake. When it comes to feeding time and bedtime A.J. is no exception. But walking, well, let’s just say A.J. has a mind of his own.
We had a couple of standard routes that we would take on our walks. Greg would take a different route than I would, and A.J. quickly learned which direction to turn out the front door depending on who was holding the leash. He learned every turn on each route and knew exactly where he was going. Then one day, a couple of miles into his walk, he turned the wrong way.
The three of us were walking together, and when we got to a certain corner instead on continuing straight ahead as always, A.J. stopped, turned to his right, and looked down the side street. Then he looked at us, and looked back down the side street. Thinking maybe there was an interesting smell or something else in that direction we couldn’t detect, we decided “why not?” and followed A.J. off to the right.
We let A.J. lead the way as we walked about a block, then turned left in the direction we’d originally been headed. We walked a couple more blocks and reached a dead end. We turned left again and headed back to the street we’d started on. When we got there we turned right and continued on our usual route the rest of the way home. A.J. never did stop to explore anything out of the ordinary.
We never figured out why he went that way, but now whenever we reach that corner he asks to turn. If we don’t turn, he’ll ask again at the next corner. I think it’s just his way of extending the walk.
Recently on a very gloomy, rainy Sunday we took A.J. for his morning walk. When we got home I went through the long and tedious chore of cleaning what mud I could off of him and drying him off. In the afternoon, A.J. was restless and ready for another walk; I wasn’t. A.J. was almost out of treats and most of his toys were in tatters, so I decided that in place of his walk we’d make a trip to the pet store.
The three of us got in the car and drove a short mile to the local pet store. We started walking around the store looking at the different treats when one of the salespeople came to talk to us. He offered A.J. a treat and gave him all sorts of attention. Shortly after he went away to greet someone else, another salesperson came to us. She did the same thing, showering A.J. with treats and attention. (Here’s a call-out to the wonderful people at Healthy Pets Northwest!) A.J. enjoyed himself, we went home with treats and toys, and everyone was happy.
The next day I went to work and Greg took A.J. for his morning walk. They wound their way through our neighborhood streets on their usual route, when A.J. decided to make an unexpected turn. Greg let him lead the way, hanging onto the leash and following behind. A.J. led him through a parking lot, across a street, through another parking lot, and stopped. They were right in front of the pet store.
A.J. will now frequently stop at corners and ask to go a different direction. If we don’t go his way he gives us a few pleading glances before continuing along, but he’s always very happy when we agree to turn where he wants. Sometimes he’s just exploring the neighborhood. Sometimes he’s trying to go to the pet store. Most often he’s taking us directly to the off-leash dog park.