Walks Are Part of How Your Dog Connects With The Outside World
This week marks National Walk Your Dog Week. This might sound like a trivial reason to create an awareness of. But walks are not even remotely trivial experiences to most dogs. For your best friend, this is often the highlight of their day. Most dog parents work some type of regular work schedule. Rife with boredom, they wait for your homecoming. You are their key to the world. Without a outing of some sort, they have no connection to the outside world.
I often meet with dog parents who tell me that they don’t need to walk their dogs. They have a fenced in yard. Or even worse, they just don’t have time. Or their dog’s behavior makes the walk so unpleasant, that they just can’t face the stress. The lack of mental stimulation supplied by the world at large manifests itself in undesirable behaviors that are the reason for my presence in their home. Boredom creates a host of problems, in particular with smart dogs. Bored dogs will create their own activities that are often at odds with what the humans of the household would prefer.
The simplest solution to start with is to exercise your dog’s mind. A dog’s nose is central to their supply of information. You read the paper, watch the news, scroll through the internet. Your dog dreams of smelling grassy areas, bushes, trees, fire hydrants, etc. These give your dog more information about what is going on in their world than all of the combined human information outlets. So much that is relevant to their world can be learned by smelling what is going on around them.
I often hear, “we live in the country, he gets lots of smells in my yard”. He does, but they still are in his own finite environment. Those smells will change daily with whatever creature changing of the guard happens regularly. But that is no substitute for the smells outside of a dog’s regular environment. Let me make a human equation to help with levity. If you are stuck in your own home and property for who knows how long, how sane are you going to remain? Exactly. Yet so many people expect this exact scenario of their beloved dogs.
So now that I have peaked your attention, let’s address the time factor. Your dog is driving you crazy because he is bored stiff. He needs connected to the outside world. You are spending precious time being annoyed at his behavior when he is trying to amuse himself. Spend that same time walking him for ten minutes instead. Ten minutes is better than no minutes. Spend less time scouring the internet or watching TV and more time outside with your dog. Your body and your dog will both thank you.
So now you might tell me that your dog’s behavior on leash is so atrocious, that the walk is just so unpleasant. Then do yourself a favor and purchase a front clip harness such as the Freedom harness. You have the control back and you can both enjoy the walk. Management problem solved. A real focused leash walking partnership requires some professional assistance but with a management device that doesn’t hurt your dog, you are well on your way to a much more pleasant walk for everyone involved. Your dog straining against his collar isn’t any more fun for him dog than it is for you.
What if your dog barks at everything he sees on a walk? Then please consider professional assistance to modify this behavior. There are a few behaviors such as dog reactivity or stranger aggression on leash that should best be addressed by a professional. In the meantime, consider driving your dog to a quiet place to walk such as a cemetery. Of course, check the rules for said cemetery in advance. Most cemeteries allow dog walkers. They keep vandals at a minimum.
Keeping your dog on leash as required by law and picking up after your dog help keep green places open to dog walkers. This is a no-brainer. Practice courteous walking with respect to others and the law of the area.
Some dogs don’t enjoy walks as much as others. This is true. For them, the world is too scary of a place to go out into. This is another scenario that can be best addressed with a behavior professional. Imagine if a human family member felt that way? You would want them to get help, wouldn’t you? Then allow your cherished dog the same courtesy.
Elderly dogs can be walked with either strollers for small dogs or wagons and the like designed to help larger dogs have their outings without stress on failing joints. Walking your dog doesn’t actually have to mean that they are doing the walking themselves!
And finally, if you are physically unable to walk your dog, hire a qualified dog walker to handle this for you. Win/win situation for all involved.
It’s more about mental enrichment than physical exercise. Every outing that doesn’t involve a trip to the vet or somewhere equally unpleasant for the dog in question can help with mental stimulation. I cannot overemphasize the virtues of mental stimulation for your dogs. A mentally tired dog is often a satisfied dog. Make it your goal to provide your dogs with mental enrichment and you cannot go wrong! Happy walking, whatever form it takes!
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