Do you consider walking your dog a tedious chore? Are you tired of not being able to walk rhythmically and suddenly stopping “out of the blue” having your arm almost pulled out? It shouldn’t be that way, as long as you try to see your walk from your puppy’s perspective!
A walk serves many purposes, your dog needs both mental and physical stimulation. Both are important for your dog’s well-being, the challenge is to find the right balance. Your dog’s behaviour will help you monitor whether the walk served her well. If after the walk your dog gets easily bored, asks for constant attention or gets destructive, it’s very likely she might’ve not burnt enough energy (remember, both physical and mental) to keep her calm and content for a few hours.
From your dog’s point of nose
Sniffing is the primary way your dog gets to “see” the world and make sense out of it. A dog’s sense of smell is way stronger than ours, with human noses having about 6 million of these sensory receptors, sheepdog noses over 200 million, and beagle noses over 300 million to name just a few. For this reason, striking the right balance between physical activity (ie. walking) and mental stimulation (ie. sniffing) becomes paramount when trying to provide your dog with what they need while giving you the type of behaviour you aspire from them.
As with anything in life, it’s pretty much a matter of trial and error. First try long walks with only little sniffing, then try other shorter walks with plenty of sniffing. Monitor your dog’s behaviour and make adjustments accordingly, it will be the only way to determine the right balance of walk time and stop and sniff time.
Some ideas to make walks more enjoyable
Walking your dog should not be a tedious chore since it is something that you will be doing for your entire dog’s life! Why not try some of the following ideas to keep them interesting enough for you both?
Explore new locations
Always choose walks that best suit your individual dog’s needs (It is not the same having an 8 month old Springer Spaniel than an 11 year old English Bull-Dog, right?) Same as you get bored while walking down the same path over and over again, your dog gets bored too. Combine forest walks off the leash with more urban ones on the leash. Some days cover walks with more dog interaction and others with more people interaction (e.g. ending with a nice cup of tea in a dog-friendly coffee shop)
Have a “water-loving” dog?
Does water acts like a magnet for your dog? I totally get you! The tiniest of puddles will make my yellow lab the happiest dog on earth, which brings second thoughts on why did I go for the only Yellow lab in the litter!!
Of course, it should go without saying, do take extreme caution with your dog near water, know her limits, know the place. Strong currents may appear out of nowhere! Also, avoid disturbing wildlife and farm animals!
Find a walking pal
It makes the walk more entertaining for you both. Look up for “Meet ups” with dogs in your area, follow breed specific events or register with a Dog Training Club. It is encouraging and motivating to know that someone (apart from your dog of course) is looking forward in going with you for a walk!
Do some light Training during off leash walks
- Assuming your dog comes when called, call her every now and then and reward with some treats and/or petting intermittently. This way she will learn to keep an eye on you and more importantly will get her “Come when called” command reinforced.
- Ask her to “Sit” and “Wait”, walk away, call her back and reward.
- Ask her to “Sit” or just “Wait”, go hide and ask her to “Find me!”.
- Introduce changes in direction followed by “This way!” so your dog is attentive, always knowing your whereabouts
- Simply bring a ball with you or look for an interesting enough stick to throw away for your dog to fetch.
Take away for humans
Exercise is not only measured by the distance walked but also by the mental stimulation that your dog is getting from it. Walks should be less of a tedious chore and more of a chance to bond with your dog. Monitor your dog’s behaviour and make adjustments accordingly. Most importantly, MAKE WALKS FUN FOR BOTH OF YOU!
Recommended further learning:
Out and About with Your Dog: Dog to Dog Interactions on the street, on the trails, and in the dog park. Sue Stenberg
My dog pulls. What do I do? Turid Rugaas
The Canine Kingdom Of Scent - Fun Activities Using Your Dog's Natural Instincts. Anne Lill Kvam
Secrets of the snout: The dog's incredible nose. Frank Rosell