Dogs provide a great reason to explore your home turf, and chat up neighbors you might never meet otherwise. On a recent pack walk, for instance, topics covered included:
New development on the business corridor, St. Bridget’s school renovations, Calvitti cooling towers on Scotts Lane, Holiday plans, Mifflin wishlist & architecture, Pet sweaters/coats, Challenges walking two dogs at once, McDevitt refurbishment plans, Port Richmond kielbasa options, Dogs who sneak for treats, East Falls fire department…
Pack walks deliver East Falls, up close ‘n personal. Our hilly, zig-zaggy streets are full of quirky corners, hidden paths and surprising vistas you’d never notice by car.
The dogs keep a lively but relaxed pace, with lots of stops for sniffing and, ahem, attending to Nature’s calls (everyone brings extra bags, just in case).
Spontaneous play is not unusual. Sometimes, we borrow the enclosed hockey space at McDevitt for an impromptu puppy park.
“But my dog is too excitable around other dogs…”
Pack walks aren’t just for well-behaved dogs — in fact, many trainers agree that pack walks are a valuable tool for dealing with anxiety, reactivity, impulse control and various sensory & socialization issues.
While these neighborhood pack walks are not intended to substitute for dog training, they are a fantastic opportunity to reinforce leadership with our pets through supportive cooperation.
Some dogs need more practice than others dealing with stimulus, especially other dogs on leashes. Pack walks provide a positive, non-confrontational activity for both dog and owner to focus on as a team — with you as leader, surrounded by other teams modeling healthy pack behavior, as well.
The Power of Pack Walks
When you move a dog’s body forward, his mind goes along for the ride. You’d be surprised how quickly the primal canine drive to “migrate” kicks in. Before pack walks, dogs may bark & strain their leashes while we’re standing around, but the moment we set off: ears go back, tongues loll, tails sweep gently back & forth as everyone falls into step.
Ready to give it a whirl?
Pack walks meet at McMichael Park (near the turtle) every Sunday at 9:30, rain or shine. Dress appropriately — there’s no hating on Elmer Fudd flaps, clunky galoshes or parkas covered in dog hair, ha (that last one’s a badge of honor for this group).
Come prepared! Read about pack walk dynamics for reactive dogs, and be sure to follow some common-sense rules:
Use 4 – 6 foot lead for best control.
If your dog is reactive, say so! It’s your right as a dog owner to claim the space you need to keep you & your dog safe.
Before introducing dogs, make sure you ask the owner first. When in doubt, skip the meet ‘n greet until everyone’s had a chance to walk some energy off, and move together as a pack awhile.
But Wait… There’s More!
In addition to the training & socialization benefits, pack walks also get us out into the fresh air & sunshine, which boosts our mood & our immune systems. There’s even evidence that getting outdoors helps calm symptoms of ADHD in kids. Maybe there’s a similar effect for hyper dogs?
The best thing about pack walks: they’re fun! We’ve got a great group of regulars, and East Falls really is a remarkable place to wander on foot. We’ve got rich history, incredible architecture, creative enterprises, plus rivers and streams and forests… even cities of the dead!
More opportunities to socialize with our pets — we’re planning walks in & around both Laurel Hill and St. James the Less cemeteries in 2015. While certainly not billed as “tours,” don’t be surprised to pick up some history via Steve Fillmore. As East Falls Historical Society president/history buff, he’s full of interesting facts and stories.
Remember: Pack walks are for people, too.
Check our Facebook page for updates on these “bonus” pack walks, usually on Saturdays from different locations. Last month, we met at Ravenhill and explored a leafy path through the Wissahickon.
For more information about walking dogs in groups, check out dog trainer videos like this one below, or — better yet: Join the pack!
Unless otherwise stated, pack walks keep a casual “smell the roses” pace and last about 45 – 60 minutes. Kids welcome. If you don’t have a dog, it’s totally cool to come anyway for the company and exercise.
Great way to get holiday guests outta the house for awhile, as well. Tell them it’s a parade or something.
For the latest info about pack walks, or just weigh in on all things canine in East Falls, join the NW Philly Pack Walk meetup group.