Yesterday I ran an entire workshop dedicated to helping owners improve their walk with their dog. It was incredible how quickly we saw a transformation with the dogs and humans. Changing how you walk with your dog can dramatically change your relationship with your pet. Most clients expressed frustration, fear, and embarrassment when it came to taking their dog out, resulting in shorter and less frequent walks, which lead to behavioural problems with their dogs. Aggression and leash reactivity was the most common issue in all that attended the class. Whether the dog was big or small it didn’t matter, they were all walking in correctly with the dog in front and their owners not showing any leadership, which made them react to everything on their walk as if it were a threat.
Here’s a video of the before and after. This is already minutes in and much improved from when the dogs first arrived.
The walk is something you cannot skip. It is a crucial time to bond with your dog, gives your furry friend a healthy way to get rid of pent-up energy, and when done properly (you walking in front with your dog beside or behind) affirms your role as Pack Leader. Backyard time is not a substitute. A dog only given backyard time is unfulfilled and bored and guaranteed will find other ways to release their frustrations. It doesn’t seem all that different from solitary confinement in prison, where the prisoner gets 1 hour rain or shine to be by themselves in the yard. Fun right?
All dogs no matter what their age, breed or energy level need daily exercise. Low energy dogs need at least a 45 minute walk, Medium energy 1 hour and High energy dogs require 1.5 – 2 hour walks.
Here are my 10 tips to making a walk a part of your routine:
- Wake up an hour early!!! Add time to your day and get the walk done first thing when you are recharged and energized. Walking the correct way with your dog will help you clear your mind, de-stress, and prepare for the day.
- Don’t leave the walk until the end of the day when you are tired and unmotivated. More likely than not you’ll just end up sitting down and to have dinner and relax.
- Make it a family event – either walk together or divide the walking responsibility (Mom/Monday, Dad/Tues, Kids/Wed, Family/Sat&Sun, etc.)
- View it as your workout. Pick up the pace or get some ankle weights to get your heart rate going and it can sub for the gym.
- Drive less! Going to the corner store? Dropping the kids at school? Meeting a friend for coffee? Why not walk there with the dog? The perfect way to include the dog while doing something you would ordinarily do.
- Make your walks more interesting! It gets boring walking the same route. Switch it up! Go new places! Jump in your car and find a cool place to discover. Have Fun!!!!
- Start a walking club. Guaranteed you have friends with dogs or there are dogs in your neighbourhood. This is mutually beneficial because walking with other dogs will help socialize your dog and walking with other people daily will hold you accountable.
- Make more out of shorter walks but adding an extra element, like a knapsack, to help tire your dog. This fulfills the dog physically by adding weight but also psychologically because the dog feels she has a job to do.
- Avoid the urge to walk at times you won’t encounter other dogs. If you are walking properly your dog’s reactivity will get better. However, if you still practice avoidance your dog will not be able to socialize so the behaviour will stay the same or get worse.
- If all else fails hire a dog walker. If you cannot fulfill your dogs exercise needs, you must invest in a service that can provide a walk for your dog. Everyone has a busy schedule but if you really can’t add a walk into your lifestyle you need to ensure your dog gets exercised through another means. Otherwise your dog’s behavioural issues are here to stay.
Now that you’ve read my tips, go walk your dog! 🙂