Please Stop Asking “Whose Walking Who?”
Not only do I allow my dog to walk in front of me – I even let her walk through doors before me. I know what you’re thinking; “but letting a dog walk ahead of you means they’re in control.” Does it really? In control of what? My home, my thoughts, all of my hopes & dreams?
Nearly every time I’m out walking Laika someone has to ask “whose walking who?” What makes it worse is that it’s usually someone yelling out their car window which is always a bit startling to say the least. And guess what? It’s getting old. I’ve heard it before, and most likely you’re the 7th person I’ve heard it from today.
Every time someone asks me “whose walking who?” I want to scream. It’s like telling the cashier at the gas station “you’ve got the good job, you get to take all the money,” it’s far from true – and trust me, she’s heard that little comment thousands of times before.
When I’m walking with Laika it doesn’t matter that she’s not pulling – it’s just the visual of a dog walking in front of the owner that makes people ask “whose walking who?”
There’s a popular belief that allowing a dog to walk ahead of you, whether it’s on walks or through doorways, puts them in control.
Far too many times dog owners have been given advice to “show the dog who’s boss” and “be the alpha.” The unfortunate side effect of this thinking is that it creates an adversarial relationship between the owner and their dog with the belief that the dog is somehow trying to control the home and the owner’s life. Such misinformation damages the owner-dog relationship, and may lead to fear, anxiety and /or aggressive behaviors from the dog. – The Association of Professional Dog Trainers
And then there’s the dog whisperer who says that in order to master the walk you need to be in front. He says that letting your dog walk ahead means you’re giving up control, and you’re no longer going to be seen as the pack leader.
Well guess what? I don’t buy into that – and when I’m out walking my dog I’m doing just that – walking my dog. Letting her stop to sniff doesn’t mean I’m giving up control, it just means that I’m letting her sniff. Why do we still believe that everything needs to be a battle over dominance and control?
Instructing owners to eat before their dog or go through doors first will not influence the dog’s overall perception of the relationship – merely teach them what to expect in these specific situations. – Using ‘Dominance’ To Explain Dog Behavior Is Old Hat
Yes I let her sniff, and yes I let her walk ahead. If she’s not pulling why does it matter? My dog has good leash manners and that’s what matters to me. And no, those manners didn’t come easy, but we achieved them without resorting to punishment.
So please next time you want to yell out the car window “whose walking who?” just remember that you’re little comment is far from cute or original; it’s been heard thousands of times before. Didn’t your mother ever teach you that yelling at strangers is rude?
The only thing your comment tells me is that you believe in dominance training. While I’m out having a nice relaxing walk with my dog, letting her stop to smell the roses, you can go back to leash popping & trying to dominate yours.
Which dog do you think benefits more from their walk?
2 brown dawgs blog says
But don’t you think it depends on the dog?
We have tried it both ways and I can tell you with Chessies they better perceive you as the strong leader or they will in fact take over (we almost made that big mistake with Freighter). So yes we do make them wait at doors and go out after us or at least we give permission for them to go out. It helps them understand boundaries and it makes a huge difference for off lead work. I also do not have to worry about them busting out the door and being hurt.
As far as walking, I make them walk at heel and that is because if they are at the end of a lead then I cannot control them if they decide the squirrel looks like something worth chasing. I suspect when you hear of dogs bolting and being lost it is probably because the person walking was not in control. At least I see lost dogs fitting that description on my FB feed all too often. Had the dog understood the correct walking position, it would be less likely to try to bolt because it would understand that it is not an option.
But if someone is having a nice walk and letting their dog sniff and enjoy and are comfortable walking them when the dog is at the end of the lead, I think that is great. To be honest I probably would not even notice unless the dog was heading for my space.
I had someone say that to me when Haley was pretty young and pulling me quite a bit on a walk but only that one time. I wonder if so many people have bought into the dog whisperer method that a dog should always be beside or behind you that now they feel the need to shout it from their moving car. Geez!
Haley walks in front of me 80 percent of the time and I don’t care as long as she’s not pulling on the leash. I stop and let her smell things quite often too because that’s what’s enjoyable about a walk for her. Not letting a dog stop and smell things occasionally is like us going for a scenic drive with blinders on.
Blueberry's human says
Ha – this is so true! Blueberry usually leads the charge when we are hiking – which is fine with me. She often knows the trail better than I do and when she isn’t sure which way to go, she will look to me for direction – doesn’t seem to me like she’s trying to take control at all. And she doesn’t bolt through the front door despite me allowing her to go through doors first or lead the way on leash. I also feed her before I eat my meals. So far I haven’t noticed any blueprints of her trying to take over the world. 😉
Chelsea Price says
LOL, I think people think they are being clever. I never hear it with my dog because Riley’s older and pretty slow, but I hear it all the time when I walk big dogs at shelters. I agree with you – I do NOT buy into the Cesar Milan thing of “pack leader”. Cesar would be absolutely appalled at what I let my dog get away with, but I think of my dog as a family member, not a member of my “pack.” Maybe this is ignorance on my part, and maybe 2 Brown Dawgs is right that it depends on the dog, I don’t know. Just my two cents.
My dogs walk in front of me, beside me, behind me. It’s their walk too and as long as they aren’t pulling me, I don’t care where they walk. When they want to stop and sniff, they stop and sniff and I stop and wait for them. If I feel they are taking too long, or I’m feeling a bit rushed, I might call them over and treat them and most of the time, they come immediately to me. I’d much rather have that type of a bond than a dog who ignores me.
Lauren Miller says
I can’t stand it when people do that to me! I let mine walk ahead of me, too as long as the leashes are loose. I really wish people would think before they speak.
Leah Erb, Let's Go Dog says
I get that “Who” comment quite a bit as well. I used to try the ‘pack leader’ method and now thank my lucky stars I started reading dog blogs with a different point of view!! Once I started listening to my own dogs, walks became a real pleasure instead of a constant struggle. There are times when Zack is relieved when I ask him to walk next to me while Zoe prefers to pretend she’s at the front of a dog sleigh most of the time.
Weirdly, it’s been a while since anyone said this utterly stupid phrase to me and Nala–thank goodness. Maybe they don’t want to piss off someone who can get a dog 3/4 her size to walk politely on leash. 😀 I did come up with a polite come back for it, though, back when I heard it all too often–“We’re walking together!” It sounds much nicer than shouting a diatribe back at them that, well, closely resembles this one. 🙂
Nala does wait at doors–in fact, she sees me putting a hand on a handle as a cue to sit, and she waits and makes eye contact with me until she’s released. But that’s not about power or hierarchy or anything like that–it’s just a good exercise for impulse control, and it lets me make sure there’s nothing out there that might hurt her or vice versa. And more often than not, she turns and checks in again as she reaches the edge of the porch–and this from a dog who used to bolt out the back door! It’s not about hierarchy; it’s about reinforcement history.
James Garner says
Awesome come back!
I thought of a few but seems harsh like “not you.”
But I also thought of, “we’re bonding, not walking.”
Oh we hate that too, but we always get “boy you have your hands full” and it makes Mom nuts. Yes, we too are allowed out front, far to the side, all over the place unless we are in a crowded area or there are other people on the path near us. We love it, Mom loves it, and we are all totally at ease. So people, clam up! Mom finds walking in a heal all the time a total bore for all of us, so we don’t do it unless it is necessary.
Lindsay Stordahl says
I get that one too when I’m walking multiple dogs. “You got your hands full.” So not clever. So unoriginal.
There are no absolutes, I think. I don’t buy the theory that it makes me boss… nor the theory that walking ahead is absolutely best. For me, I like a dog to have manners and listen well on walks, so, I do have dog “wait” at door, on stairs, and walk at my side to sit when I stop at street corners, and sit/wait while I pick up poop. And they get the ok to sniff and go ahead after they’ve relieved themselves at specific locations at curb–then we walk and dog explores and always returns to my side on his own. I like rhe dogs I walk to watch me for dirextion. To me, it depends on the dog and the environment. And the equipment. If wearing a training halter on face or no pull chest harness, dog should be at hrel or slighly behind to use equipment without hurting the dog. In a crowded setting, letting the dog walk ahead is inconsiderate of other and in NYC downright dangerous. My pet peeve with dogs walking ahead has to do with retractable leads and dogs coming up at dog I’m walking from behind, sneak approach.
Enjoy your walks!
My reply to people who ask who is walking who is “We take turns”
Peter Swift says
Your so wrong, it took me more than a year to train my dogs to not pull. Any dog I come into contact with on a lead pulling causes a problem and will always bark because it thinks its the leader of the their pack.
Probably depends on the dog but its ALWAYS better to train them to not pull… I will say “whose walking who” whilst my dogs calmy walk behind me, I take it your one of those people who let their dog pull you around a corner and nearly cause a fight.
James Garner says
Okay, so you’re saying “who’s walking who.”
But are you actually helping the owner while you say it?
Can you be more helpful?
Is it too hard for you to be more caring?
I suppose you have the freedom to say it but the other party has to the freedom to retort whatever they want right back at you. And you may not like what you hear.
Peter Swift says
I think it depends on the dog.
Personally I have a Greyhound x Podenco and A German Shepherd x Greyhound.
The GS x G pulled me down the street for the first 8 months but after a year of stopping whenever he pulls he now understands not to and also to walk just by my side. If they pull I stop and walk around in a circle, it really works! Letting them pull actually puts them in a stressed eratic mood.
If I let them lead I will have most dogs barking at us and it just becomes a massive mess.
The funniest thing is when someone comes along with there dog leading the way then barking at us my dogs react and they look at me like the bad guy, this is why some people will shout “Who is walking who” because it causes problems!!!!
Wake up peeps! unless you have a tiny little dog then it doesnt matter!
I live in Barcelona, wayyy over populated and I come into contact with every breed imaginable on a daily basis.
You would be amazed at how stupid some people are with their dog, it really worrys me.
Shouting that comment is bad I agree but seriously its important that they dont pull or lead the way.
Thanks for reading
Jen Gabbard says
Well yes it depends on the dog, and in this post I was specifically referring to my dog.
She did pull really bad when she was younger, but once she was able to walk nicely I noticed she didn’t walk behind me or right at my side all the time; she’d walk a few steps ahead. She doesn’t pull, but she will get a little bit ahead of me and stop when it gets close to the end of her lead. Because we mostly walk down side roads I don’t mind it at all. As long as she’s not pulling me I’m fine with it.
Now doing that on the sidewalk or busy street would be a different story.
James Garner says
Instead of shouting that phrase “who’s walking who” just be direct if you care so much.
Making that comment sounds like you’re making fun of whoever you’re directing that to.
Be more encouraging and helpful if you really want to relay your words.
Do you really think spouting “who’s walking who” will make this world a better place for everyone?
You agree the comment is bad. But why use a bad comment to show importance. See how this doesn’t make sense?
My golden was a puller, and bad. A number of months of every morning 1.5 mile walks, on a schedule, and she doesn’t pull. I let her walk in front, leashed or not, and she still stops and waits at any corner or the site of people or other dogs. They like to be praised, when she looks away from the many rabbits and squirrels every morning, when I can read her “I want them” look she gets the love. It’s your walk as much as your dog’s, do it how you both enjoy it.