For your dog, a walk isn't only an opportunity for physical exercise and a potty break, It's also a time for cognitive enrichment and a chance to bond with you. I know that sometimes life just doesn't allow time for a long walk, but our pups ask very little of us in comparison to the unconditional love and acceptance that they give to us, and a walk is just one of the ways you can give back and also meet some of their instinctual needs. If you can, go the extra mile!
Here are five ways to make a walk more enjoyable for your pup and for those around you.
Stop and smell the roses
Dogs need cognitive enrichment just as much as they need physical exercise, and one of the primary ways they get that is through their nose. We know dogs have an acute sense of smell that surpasses 10,000 times that of a human, and that sense of smell is the primary way they navigate the world. Take the time to let your dog sniff, explore, and collect information—while being mindful that they don't stick their nose into something undesirable or hazardous.
Opt for a harness for walking
The biggest benefit of a harness is that when paired with proper leash skills it eliminates the pressure on your dog's neck or throat, which can be damaged by a traditional collar, prong collar, or choke chain. A body harness can also give you more overall control over your dog, and decrease their propensity for pulling.
If you have a very large dog or a shoulder injury, and need extra support, I recommend a head collar. A head collar is not a muzzle. Rather, much like a body harness, a head collar can reduce your dog's pulling power by applying pressure equally distributed around the head. The Gentle Leader is my favorite model; it has a simple, classic design and comes with an informational CD which can teach you how to properly acclimate your dog to the collar. But remember: neither a body harness nor a head collar is a replacement for teaching your dog to walk nicely on the leash.
Every dog owner should carry high value treats! Something your dog really loves that you can use as a reward for good behavior, like focusing on you when other dogs walk by, or to redirect them before they get overly stimulated which is key. When done properly, treats will help the dog create a positive association with that which they might find stressful (barking dogs, garbage trucks, etc.) and in time reduce their stress. Best case scenario you have reduced your dog's stress level and changed their emotional response. Worse case scenario you are a really cool dog parent who can manage a situation without a fuss. If you know your dog really isn't motivated by treats, take the time to find out what does motivate them. Is it a toy? Is it cheese? Is it affection? For more on food in training click here.
Believe me, I love your dog. I am sure he or she is wonderful—but that doesn't mean my dog always wants to say hi. I may be walking a dog that gets overwhelmed when approached by a new dog, or they may not have the best leash skills. They may be nervous, shy, in training, or just plain not interested.
We humans don't run up and greet every person we see on the street, and for the most part we get to create space and choose who we meet on walks and when. The same should go for our dogs.
Read the room
Be mindful of those around you, or as I like to say, "Read the room." If you are out with your dog and someone crosses to the other side of the street, moves their dog to the side or behind a car, or you see them struggling to manage their dog, please give them space and don't take it personally. Most likely their dog has a hard time when greeting new dogs and they are trying to create a safe space and safe distance for their dog to avoid conflict.
That goes for people without dogs too. I love your dog but not everyone does. Some people may have had a bad experience, be allergic, or just may not like dogs! So be mindful of how your dog behaves when approaching a new person.
Variety is the spice of walks
Do you walk the same route everyday? Switching up the walking routine can provide extra stimulation for both you and your pup. You can let your dog choose which direction to go and see where they take you, or jump in the car and drive to a new location to mix it up.
Keep it clean
Poop bags you guys. For obvious reasons, such as disease and the fact that neither of us want to step in dog poop, please pick it up. For more on poop bags click here
Want tips on loose-leash walking? click here
Good Walk Non-Pull Harness
Lupo Snack Bag