Why walkies are important for your woofer
by Sian Griffin // August 2017
Why walkies are important for your woofer!
Did someone say walkies?!
Everyone who owns a dog knows that the walk is one of the highlights of their day! Taking our dogs out for a walk should be more than just the ‘duty walk’ letting them go to the toilet.
As well as burning off energy and exercising to maintain a healthy weight, the walk is an important part of your dog’s enrichment. This is because your dog gets to explore, using his nose to follow scents, mimic tracking behaviour, be sociable meeting other dogs and stretch their legs.
As a walk is an important part of our dog’s day, we should try to make them as interesting as possible and make the most out of our walks. So, how can we do this?
Use your walk to do some training with your dog; take tasty, high value treats out with you, as you will need to give better rewards for your dog working with you with the distractions that come from being outside.
Practice your sits whilst out on a walk
Bombproof your recall
You could practice your recall several times during the walk, rewarding your dog each time they come back and then allowing them to carry on exploring. This will help to proof your recall, as your dog won’t associate coming back to you with going on the lead and the walk being over. If your dog loses their focus on you, make yourself interesting; if safe to do so, hide behind trees, sit down on the ground, pretend to look at things in the grass or run away from your dog. These will spike your dog’s interest and they will more than likely come and see what you are so interested in.
Practice your loose lead walking
Let your dog have an explore and a sniff and then take advantage of the distractions to practice some loose lead walking. Remember to go back a few steps and expect a bit less from your dog at first, for example marking and rewarding for just two steps next to you, even if they are normally on ten before you would normally mark and reward. Then build up to taking several steps before marking and rewarding.
Use gates to practice your doorway control
We practice doorway control in our classes; purely for a safety reason, so that your dog doesn’t dash out and run into a road for example. Use gates and entrances on walks to practice this with your dog so that they generalize it to all types of doorways. Mark and reward them for not rushing through and don’t allow them to go through if they try to rush.
Vary your walks
We can get set in a routine and it is easy after a busy day at work to just nip to the same park each time. It is good if we can vary the places that we take our dogs for a walk; not only does it get our dogs practicing our training and responding to us in lots of different, distracting environments, but it provides further enrichment for our dogs.
Snow makes everything smell different!
If you go to different places, there will be different sights, smells and sounds for your dog to explore. They will enjoy experiencing these different sensations and it will be more interesting and mentally stimulating for your dog.
"What is that? A tuft of grass? I want some too!"
Enrichment provides mental stimulation and this uses their brain more, which means they will use more energy on their walk and be more tired when you get home!
Take advantage of living in Britain! We have so many footpaths, land with permissible access and bridleways across our countryside that you can explore. Take a map and see where you can end up!
Bluebell woods are beautiful in Spring!
We also have many parks, heathlands, woodlands, National Trust or Forestry Commission run pieces of land or places to visit and beaches that are dog friendly. If visiting a new place, look up where you are going first to check if and when dogs are allowed to visit and respect any rules they may have, such as keeping dogs on the lead around livestock.
"Trip to the beach anyone?"
Take some toys with you and play some games with your dog and enjoy your time together. Play interactive games with your dog that get you and them playing together, this could be a game of fetch, a game of tug, or even a game of chase (them chasing you and then you chasing them)!
If your dog is dog social, then allow them to have play time with other social dogs. This could be some simple sniffing and greeting, exploring with each other or a good game together. Always check that the other dog is OK with other dogs approaching, before you allow your dog to go and say hello.
If your dog doesn’t enjoy playing games then you can just take some time to simply give them some strokes, fuss and attention. Walk time is time between you and your dog; enjoy each other’s company and build a stronger bond between you both.
Enjoy your time with your dog! This is a part of the day that you and your dog get to spend together; make the most of it, enjoy yourselves and have fun! I firmly believe we should all make the effort to take our dogs to exciting places and cherish our time with them, enjoying as much special time together as possible.
Sian and Kaya
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