Dogs are pack animals—and when they get together in the wild they must synchronize with each other in order to hunt and survive. Without this synchronization, the dogs would not be able to function as the very core of their being drives them to seek connection out at all times. The domesticated dog has adapted this synchronization into his life in the human world and (when given a chance) will also seek to facilitate this deep bond. When a human and dog achieve this collective bond, the resulting feeling can only be described as bliss.
The following is my list of the top ten ways that you can facilitate this synchronization with your dog on a hike through the woods.
- Speak with your dog. Yep-you are probably going to feel like a dork, but this really is one of the most effective ways to communicate and connect. You can speak out loud or you can hold a private conversation with him in your head. Let him know how much longer the hike will be, what is up ahead “the lake is up ahead-want to take a swim?” etc. When you take control of the plan, your dog can just relax into the walk and the two of you can start synchronizing.
- Remain calm. Your dog can feel your energy even when you are no where near each other. Tension or worry puts a dog on high alert. High alert energy distracts from the connection between the two of you.
- Establish long distance vocabulary. Teach your dog a hand command so that he can “see” the command from across a field and a whistle command so that he can hear your command. Combine this with tip #8 to facilitate the strongest connection.
- Walk like a supermodel. Walking with your chest out and head held high with all the confidence in the world will help you to claim and maintain that leadership position with your dog by keeping your energy big, strong and secure.
- Adhere to an unspoken agreement with passersby. Out of respect for others also hiking, call your dog to you when you encounter another person or animal. When you demonstrate the solid connection you and your dog have in this way, it will help the other person to remain calm as well, keeping the energy balanced between everyone. Do this in a calm manner—no need to freak out if it doesn’t work perfectly.
- Activate your water. Carry water for both you and your dog. Even on a short half-hour hike your dog is most likely going to be doing a lot more running than you are. Swirl the water three times clockwise, three times counter-clockwise and then three times clockwise again to activate it. You’ll find you need less water to quench your thirst and the water tastes better.
- Be in the Now. Yes, one of the great things about hiking with your dog is the physical exertion of the hike (which is good for both of you!)–but dogs are constantly reminding us to live in the moment. Take ten minutes to sit with your dog on the river bank and watch the birds. This increases the connection between you and your dog and allows you both to just “be.”
- Use visual aids. Dogs, as well as all animals, communicate through visuals. Hold the image in your mind of how you want this hike with your dog to go. Even though it may feel goofy, dogs actually “pick up” those images from us. It then gives them a great model for their behavior and a great goal for the both of you.
- Mind your preoccupation. With a good connection between you and your dog, you will pick up signs of physical distress more easily. The most obvious physical signs are slowing down, lying down and whining however, there are many more subtle messages of distress that you’ll be able to see once you and your dog have synchronized. For example, a dog who is never aggressive, tries to attack a squirrel. This is a message from your dog that something is “off” at this time. Take a moment to evaluate (are you walking faster than usual? Are you not walking “in the moment”—too preoccupied with something, are you not holding your energy in a solid yet flowing way?). Make adjustments from there.
- Shut up more often. Dogs thrive through energetic connections. Constant talking with your dog or with your human hiking companions can often take away from this bond. Allow space for quiet while hiking. Good conversation can be stimulating too—but don’t forget that hiking is about connection with the Earth, with your fellow humans and with your dog.
Remember: a blissful connection is all about managing your energy! And getting upset because things just aren’t going as you planned… well, that’s just not blissful! It’s all about flow—and letting things occur as they are without getting upset. Find that synchronistic connection between you and your dog and you’ll step right into that flow.