Your dog's daily walks are probably his favourite times of the day (yes, even more than mealtimes). To most pet parents, the purpose of walking their dogs is so they can do their business. But after being indoors all day with practically nothing to do, walks are more than just potty breaks for your dog. Walk-time is when they truly enjoy themselves because they get to do so many doggie things - sniff new smells, meet other dogs and new people, catch up on the news of the neighbourhood and so on.
A good walk is a great way to get your pet both mentally stimulated and physically exercised. So when you take them back home, they're content and happy. Here's how both of you can enjoy this time.
- Take leisurely walks: First off, walks are no fun if you and your dog are rushing through it. That means you must set aside some time for it twice a day, so you don't have to hurry through it. It's no fun for you if your pet is going to pull you the entire time either, so if your dog is a puller, speak to a positive reinforcement trainer to help you train your pet to walk with you. Dogs of any age can learn this.
- Let them sniff: A dog's powerful nose is an important tool that helps him understand the world. So, you should let your pet sniff. Constantly jerking back the leash and pulling him away from something will only make him more curious. Plus, sniffing is mental stimulation, so letting them sniff is actually tiring them out more than the physical exercise of the walk. If you let them sniff, you'll also notice that they won't pull as much.
- Change things up: Dogs like routine and they probably have a 'favourite spot' to do their business. But they also like to explore new routes and smells. So every once in a while, surprise them with a diversion. It keeps them from getting bored.
- Make friends: Walks are a good opportunity to socialise, identify some friendly, docile dogs in your neighbourhood and speak to their families to arrange a meeting every now and then. Your pet would love to run into them on your walks. If your dog is friendly, let interested neighbours pet them, this not only helps your pet socialise with people but you can use the opportunity to educate your neighbours on the right way to approach dogs. If your dog is not friendly you can get a leash insert that lets people know.
- Practice commands: Most dogs have no problem following commands when indoors. But outside where there are more distractions, it can get more difficult for them to follow you. However, it is essential that they respond to your commands even when there are things to distract them. So carry a few training treats and practice commands when you take your pet for a walk.
A note on pet walk etiquette:
Your dog may love walking off leash but in a city this is always risky. Even in quiet, residential areas, speeding vehicles do whiz pass unexpectedly. If you want to let your pet run free, there are dog parks you can take him to.
Another reason to have your pet on a leash is that even if he is super friendly, you may meet another dog who likes his space. Your dog's first reaction to seeing another one is probably going to be to run up and greet him.
It is important to clean up after your pet. There are several products like poop scoopers and poop bags that make this chore easier. You may find that your neighbourhood becomes more pet friendly if they see you cleaning up after your doggie. Also, since dog poop takes more than a few days to decompose, you will be keeping the area clean for your own pet.
(Photo credits: Tim Southee)