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Can I take my dog on a nature walk?

puppy looking wistful

Testing the theory: Taking your dog on a nature walk

I wanted to see if the family dog could be a part of nature study without being too distracting. So I tested the idea of the “Very short walk” around the neighborhood with the dog.

All in all, it worked moderately well. Here are my observations and tips.

Know your purpose

Are you walking the dog or are you enjoying time spent together as you observe the natural world?

The purpose may not be to get the dog walked (this is an allusion to what the dog thinks is his purpose, which in my case means that the dog wants to mark every spot in the neighborhood to tell the other dogs who he is.)

I tried to convince my dog that our purpose was to enjoy nature and observe stuff.

I don’t think I persuaded him away from his primary purpose. But he did seem to observe and appreciate nature.

Here’s what I observed

I put this in my nature journal:

  • Overcast day
  • One unidentified bird
  • One bunny
  • One fox squirrel
  • 2 people
  • Lots of Cars

Here’s what the dog observed

  • The squirrel

The squirrel was by far his favorite thing on the nature walk. He would have brought it home given the chance.

I objected.

I discussed what kind of squirrel it was with him and gave him a little lecture on the differences in the 3 native squirrel species found in the United States.

And then I quietly suggested to my dog that he stop jumping on the neighbor’s fence because the squirrel had scampered happily away.

Why is this different from a regular dog walk?

Well, for one thing, I recorded it in my nature journal when I got back.

My real purpose however was to see what kinds of things I could find on the ground. I thought the dog would enjoy a quick tour around the neighborhood. Even the dog gets antsy and needs a break from his normal work day.

So, I was purposely looking for items that were dropped to the ground that I could bring home to add to an indoor nature journal collection. These would be items that we didn’t have time to draw on the walk itself, but wanted to save for later or for a rainy day.

What I found

Even with the dog, it was possible to search for nature treasures. I found these portable objects:

  • A purple petal from a flower – maybe a columbine of some kind – I did ask my companion what kind of flower he thought it was, but he had no comment.
  • 2 pine cones (though one was a spruce cone. I don’t think anyone calls them that. It looked different and was under a blue spruce instead of under the pine tree)
  • an oak leaf cluster
  • a gray & white rock

My dog continued to insist that we should take the squirrel home for additional discovery. Or at least the bunny.

When I got home

I snapped a picture of my treasures and later drew them in my nature journal. I’m including the journal page so you can see how to do this. The pictures are drawn pretty quickly and I write notes all over the page. I seemed to have forgotten to draw the rock.

When nature journaling, try to record your observations. You aren’t making a masterpiece.

In my case, I wanted to record “things found on the ground” during the nature walk with my dog.

Success

YES, I think you can bring your dog on a nature walk if you can spend more time observing the nature around you rather than the nature at the end of your leash.

Finally, one interesting observation: Your dog probably observes tons more than you do. A dog’s sense of smell and hearing (usually) surpass a human’s. Sometimes, by observing your dog, you can observe more also.

  • Notice when his ears change direction – what is he looking at? What did he hear?
  • Keep in mind your dog’s breed – for instance, my dog is a herding dog and is usually interested in movement like cars, squirrels and bunnies, but a golden retriever usually is interested in people.
  • I can often find the bunny just after my dog has noticed it because he freezes and is completely alert in a particular direction.

So take your dog out on your next nature walk. Just don’t expect him to journal about it when you get home.

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