For most dogs, daily walks are incredibly important. I say most because there are always exceptions to the rule, and some dogs may not be able to go for walks due to physical limitations or other extenuating circumstances. These dogs will still need plenty of enrichment including whatever they are able to do physically.
For the rest of dogdom, daily walks are necessary, not just for potty breaks but also to provide both mental and physical stimulation.
There’s lots of information out there on how to make sure your dog is behaving and polite on leash while on walks, but the truth is that us humans need some training too!
Here are some of the things that we humans need to work on to make walks better for our dogs and us as well.
1. Let your dog sniff! Dog experience the world through their noses. Yes, they have as many senses as we do, but their sense of smell is primary to how they perceive the world. When we deny them this, it can cause confusion, frustration and even depression in our dogs.
2. Stop ignoring your dog! I can’t tell you how many times a day I see people walking their dog and their face is in their phone, or they have headphones on, or they are talking on the phone, or even walking with another person and their focus is solely on that other person. It infuriates me and makes me incredibly sad all at the same time. Your dog does not deserve this.
You should be paying attention to your dog for a number of reasons. This is your most precious bonding time, don’t take it for granted. Also, you need to be aware of your, and your dogs’, surroundings. Is there a speeding car coming your way? Is there a dead skunk that your dog is about to chomp in to? Or maybe an off leash dog running right at you? When you are not paying attention, you can’t be on top of things. That’s not to say that you could prevent these things, but you can move yourself and your dog, you can keep your dog from grabbing whatever it is off of the ground, and you can prepare for what is coming your way.
3. Stop attaching a leash to a collar – and stop using the wrong types of collars! I feel like I’ve beat this one to death but y’all, I can’t stop until it no longer happens. I only recommend attaching a leash to a harness. It not only gives you better control, but it also distributes the pressure so that your dogs throat, spine and everything in between does not become injured.
If you are using any form of training collar whether that is an e-collar (electronic collar), prong collar or pinch collar, please stop. These forms of “training” are not based in science, destroy the bond you should have with your dog and lead to potentially violent backlash. I also don’t like gentle leaders because of the force put upon your dogs neck and spine, I would rather use a harness with a front attachment to gently lead your dog towards you when they pull.
So, what should walks look like?
Walks with your dog should be a mix of fun, training, sniffing, exercise, and changes in environment. Taking the same walk very day is boring and it’s up to you to provide variety for your dog in a way that is fun and safe.
Find safe places to take your dog, maybe a park or a beach, a hiking trail, or even a friends neighborhood to keep things varied and interesting. You can also take toys and treats for training and just to have a good time!
And always make sure you have plenty of water for yourself and your dog no matter where you go.
As a special bonus for my Patreon supporters, I wanted to give you a sneak peek into something I’ve just started researching.
“Dr Isla Fishburn (BSc Zoology and MBiolSci and PhD in Conservation Biology) is a canine wellness practitioner and shamanic practitioner for people and dogs. Isla understands that everything is a vibration – you, your dog, the earth. As such, Isla believes that complete wellness for a dog must include wellness for all of life as a collective. To better the life of dogs and people, Isla is passionate about spiritual ecology, earth based teachings and co-creative partnership with Earth.”
I recently listened to a video she sent to me (I’m on her mailing list) and I need to listen to it probably another 8 times just to take notes on everything she said in the 20-minute video. It blew my mind more than anything else I’ve listened to lately, and that’s been a lot!
One thing she spoke about was how our dogs have what she calls a “functional character.” The way I understood it, their functional character is sort of like their role in the family. Every dog is an individual and has a specific role to play within the family. I don’t want to get too much into detail here for two reasons, one is that she has an entire course dedicated to functional characters, so a paragraph could not do it justice, the other is that I haven’t taken the course yet. It has certainly piqued my interest, so it’s on my list!
One thing I do want to mention, as it relates to dog walks, is that she walks her 3 dogs separately because they have different functional characters and as such their needs for walks vary. If she were to walk them all together, then 2 of them would be left unfulfilled. How interesting!
Let me know if this interests you as well. I hope to hear from you in the comments 🙂