A Lesson in Leadership

Cultivate individuality then nourish the bonds

Respect Dogs as Individuals

10,000+ hours as a professional dog walker taught me that every dog stands out in some way from their group. A dog can be particularly cunning or very charming or have a surprisingly well-developed sense of humour. 

Individual characteristics shape the group’s dynamic. When you observe dogs (as a dog walker must), you can lean into their strengths and nourish the bonds between them. And when you do that, the results are unforgettable.

Then Nourish their Bonds

Bella was the only Italian waterdog (a Lagotto Romagnolo ) I ever walked. She was complex: serious, highly sensitive to incoming storms and I swear she saw ghosts. Something would dance at the edge of her eye and she’d pause, let out a few muffled woofs then dash up the steep ravine to bark wildly at her target. Bella’s attention was impenetrable in that mode and I’d have to climb the cliff to retrieve her. Because Bella was always on the outer edges of the trail, she was also on the social edges of our 6-dog crew.

Then Jazzy joined our walks.

This stocky black lab loved the challenge of becoming Bella’s friend. Maybe as “the new kid” Jazzy saw Bella as an untapped social opportunity. She’d leap towards Bella, stopping just slightly shy of body slamming into her. Bella did nothing more than teeter-totter her gaze between Jazzy and the distant hills. She may have even been a little annoyed — sometimes she’d throw a sideways bark at Jazzy.

But Jazzy gently pushed on. After a few weeks, Bella’s focus broke and her inner whimsy was unleashed! Her coldness melted into play bows, high-speed tag and love bites. It was a Bella I’d never seen in the year she’d walked with me. It was so rewarding to see her make a friend, and Jazzy’s commitment to pursuing a niche in her new social group was astounding. Never underestimate dogs.

Designed for Connection

What a memorable lesson. I may have been my pack’s “Leader” in navigating the obstacles of the human world, but each member of the crew had an equal stake in shaping the nature of our group. Dogs have a great capacity to observe and act upon those around them, and it’s their individuality that makes their insights, actions and impact uniquely theirs.

My experience of being one part of the group dynamic inspires how I design dog walking equipment for TinyHorse. Dog walkers need tools that cater to the individual but also consider the group. You can lean into every opportunity to connect with and cultivate the dogs in your care using TinyHorse gear!

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