ABSTRACT

Does dog walking have a history? The question sounds a rather too simple one, and I am aware that it invites accusations of tweeness, frivolity or triviality. It might also seem utterly invalidated by the antiquity of the phenomenon: literally as well as symbolically, dogs and humans have walked together down through the ages, from the start of animal domestication to the present day, and their relationship has long been a matter of concern for anthropology and evolutionary biology.3 But, taking our cue from the still relatively recent concern for the cultural history of animals, we might consider whether dog walking can be seen as a distinctively modern practice, linked to the more recent history of ‘domestication’ in which the practice of pet keeping is inextricably enmeshed: something too that has developed under particular conditions, the result of certain struggles, and installed in specific sites.4 Nor is this just an historical thesis, for we can further suggest the possibility that walking the dog is a distinctive type of spatial practice, and that the acknowledged modernity of the ‘walking city’ be expanded to include the possibility of the creation of a ‘dog-walking city’, in which humans and dogs were allowed and indeed eventually encouraged into social and public space together.5