What is the purpose of your dog’s walks?
If the purpose is to get from A to B, then you’re doing it wrong. Yes, there are always going to be times when you have to get somewhere with your dog, but that shouldn’t be their normal walks.
If the purpose is to physically exercise your dog, then you’re halfway there. But a walk needs to be about mental stimulation as well. But that’s not a difficult thing to achieve. In fact one small thing can make all the difference…
Instead of dragging your dog away from every tree, lamp-post and corner, just let them sniff. That’s it.
Smell is your dog’s dominant sense, and they pick up so much information from sniffing where other dogs have peed, or even just walked. The mental stimulation of allowing your dog to sniff will tire them out just as much as physical exercise, if not moreso. And this is so rewarding for dogs, it’s the equivalent of social media for us – picking up all the news of the area.
The biggest thing I wish I’d known when I got my dog, was that a 10 minute ‘sniff walk’ will tire your dog out just as much as 30 minutes of fast-walking alone.
Who is the walk for?
Sorry, to break it to you, but it’s not for you – it’s for your dog. You may enjoy it as well, but this is your dog’s time. So as well as allowing your dog to sniff where she wants to sniff (within reason) let her have some say in this walk, like where you go…
I often see people coming out of their house, dog straining on the lead trying to go left, when the owner yanks the lead pulling them to the right. And I see the dog looking forlornly over their shoulder back in the direction of where they wanted to go to investigate some amazing smell, or an intriguing sound… And yes, that might be the one time when they are actually on an A-to-B walk, but it still makes me sad.
I let my dog choose (again, within reason) where we go on walks. It took him a while to understand what I was doing, but he now loves it. And when there is occasion when I have to say, “No, we’re going this way”, he’s more likely to listen.
So, how do you give your dog this choice? It’s simple. When there’s a choice of direction, stand still, get your dog’s attention, ask “Which way?” then take a small step in one direction, if no reaction, step back. Then take a small step in a different direction. Now it may take a few attempts for your dog to fully ‘get’ that she’s allowed to dictate the direction, but after a while, she’ll start to go with you on that step when it’s the direction she wants. And soon, she’ll be letting you know as soon as you say “Which way?”. Most of the time, my dog doesn’t wait for the question anymore – he knows where he wants to go, and that most of the time, that’s allowed.