Updated: Jan 13, 2019
I know what you're thinking: I'm kidding, right? Who needs to be told how to walk a dog?? Get ready to think about your walk in a whole new way...
Are you stuck in a walking rut? Plodding round the same old route day in day out?
It’s dull for us and even duller for our dogs - and let's face it, for many dogs, the daily walk is the only change of scene they get in every 24 hours. So here’s how to put the fun back into your daily walks for you and your dog.
Sniff walk – Same route, same pace? Next time, why don’t you both stop and smell the roses (although, to be frank, it ain’t roses your dog wants to smell). Scent is hugely important to our dogs but we tend to hurry them along, either on the lead or marching round at such a pace that they have to break away from scent exploring to keep up. So try an amble. Take time to look at your usual route with new eyes and give your dog loads of sniff stops to get his nose stuck in. Great for dogs who need mental stimulation but less exercise.
Surprise walk – Choose a route where you will retrace your steps. While your dog is running on ahead, plant surprises along the route such as a toy, a ball or a small bag of treats hidden in a bush, up a tree, under a stone. On the way back, call your dog when you get to a surprise spot. Ask her, ‘What’s here? What can you find?’ Lots of dogs will follow a pointing finger or you can encourage her to look for the surprise.
New walk – This seems an obvious suggestion but you’d be surprised how many clients I see who do the same walk, day in, day out. Make a commitment to do at least one new walk a week. Get in the car, explore a new footpath, or simply ditch the run round for a mooch along the high street every now and again. Most dogs love a change of scene as much as we do.
Kibble trail – This is great for older dogs, less mobile dogs and young dogs who are likely to over-exercise themselves. Set up a trail of your dog’s usual food or small treats. If your dog has a good ‘wait’ or ‘stay’, you can ask him to sit while you go out and plant a trail of kibble. Then return to him and tell him to go find it. If your dog doesn’t have such great impulse control, enlist a friend, or drop the kibble as you go and get your dog to find it on the way back.
Training walk – Practising the commands your dog knows in different situations is really useful so turn the occasional walk into a training walk. Keep it light and fun - having your dog under control in a non-pressured situation will pay off when you really need it.
Activity walk – For many of us, taking the dog for a walk involves getting to a space where our dogs can run and then leaving them to find their own entertainment. Every now and again, make your walk really interactive. Devote at least part of your walk to games your dog really loves. This might be ball chasing (and if your dog is not great at retrieve, take two balls), or frisbee, tug games or ‘Find it’. This last is a game we always teach as part of puppy classes. It simply means teaching your dog to find something – a treat, a toy or (more advanced) a scent – on command. You can even hide yourself, call your dog and let her find you!