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How walking the dog can be good for humans too

02/10/2020 - Training

Do you find you sigh, groan, grab the dog’s lead and say “come on then, I suppose I’d better take you out”? Or are you just as excited as your pooch to think of some time in the great outdoors?
Dog walking is just as important for humans when it comes to bonding with your pet and creating a lifestyle where you can live in harmony. Read on for some top tips to turn it from a chore to a treat.
 
1. Have fun (and learn at the same time)
Even if your dog is older, there’s always more for them to learn and bad habits or behavioural problems can be solved by adding in some fun training on your walk. Get your dog to sniff out treats or small toys that you can take with you and hide in long grass or behind bushes. A walk shouldn’t always be about covering distance. It’s about getting fresh air, exercise and spending some quality time with your dog.

2. Go with the flow
Try going for a walk without a planned route. Let your dog dictate direction by following where he chooses to sniff and follow scent trails. For our furry friends, mental stimulation is just as important as physical, and they are driven by exciting smells and exploring new places. So, using your lead just to keep them close, let them take you out for a change. Who knows where you might end up?

3. Positive play
Many of us use a walk as the chance to let our dogs run and play, especially if they are ball lovers. But, did you know that playing with a ball, especially if you’re using a long-range ball-thrower, isn’t as good for your dog as you think it might be?
Dogs generate a lot of adrenaline through ball-chasing and this can actually make them more energetic after the walk, not calm and relaxed as intended. To keep a healthy balance, they need to go through a natural cycle of sniffing and trailing, which would originally have led to chasing and then catching/eating prey. Excessive ball-chasing focuses on just one element (chase) and prevents sniffing/trailing from taking place, but it is these activities that work to promote calmness and lower stress hormones. More on this in the next tip.

4. Sniff out adventure
Sniffing games are great for dogs and a very healthy and natural way for them to have fun and ‘be a dog’. Sniffing stimulates their ‘predatory motor pattern’ and leads on to ‘seeking’ which is rewarding, even if your dog never finds anything. There are owners who discourage their dogs from sniffing, actively stopping them as they want to complete a walk in a set time. Encouraging sniffing promotes good feelings, improves mental well-being and has many overall benefits. Try to refocus the time with your dog to allow them to sniff and act as naturally as possible.

5. Theme your walk
Have you ever considered giving your dog walks a purpose or theme? For example, you might choose to do a training walk where distance and direction are not important but you want your dog to maybe walk with a loose lead for the entire walk or sit at every roadside. Other good themes are to complete a sniffing/exploring walk or perhaps enjoy a social walk with other dogs. This last idea might not even involve much walking. One of my favourite things to do with my dogs is find somewhere to sit where we can watch the world go by. Training and encouraging your dog to watch but not interact is great for their self-control and this behaviour will show up in other aspects of life too, potentially improving behaviour issues.
 
Why not try some of these ideas and let me know how you get on?

You can learn how to add more FUN into your time together in our Ultimate Walks course