Spring is here and finally pet parents can start spending more quality time outside with their canine companions. Exercise is one of the key ingredients in giving a dog a happy and healthy life. It is in a dogs nature to travel and walking your dog is one of the best and more common ways to get your dog to burn off energy. Some dogs need more physical and mental stimulation than others. Getting to know your dog is crucial when it comes to physical activity and can help tone muscle, combat obesity and stop destructive behavior all together. Find out how to perfect the walk, always be prepared and use the walk to make your dog a better listener.
Determining the dog’s physical needs
Some dog breeds were developed to perform specific jobs. These dogs with a purpose usually need more physical stimulation. High-energy dogs will bore easy so new games and challenges should be used on walks and outings. All dogs need mental stimulation and can bore but working dogs, herding dogs, hunting dogs and sporting dogs may have more energy and need to burn more calories. Since these dogs are usually kept as pets now rather than working in their ‘field’ they will need to do things that will feed that natural desire to do what they were bred for. Some smaller dogs may only need a half hour walk a day and light play to keep them in shape and in a good mood. Most large dogs will need an hour or more of exercise or play a day. If the dog is a short-nosed breed it will not likely need a lot of exercise. ‘Exercise’ does not include time in the back yard- the dog does not consider that stimulating and will not likely exercise on its own. Dogs will get bored if only let out in the back yard or for short breaks. New places have new smells and smells are how your pooch discovers the world around him. Pet parents can consult their veterinarian to find out how much exercise the dog can handle. It may be unsuitable for some dogs with health issues to work out too much. Observe your dog to make sure it is not too tired or worn out. Always make time for breaks.
Preparing for the walk
Don’t forget to always have a secure harness of collar on the dog that has current identification tags in case of an emergency. If the dog is puppy that resists wearing a collar or harness get the dog used to it before leaving. Try to get the pooch to see the collar as a good thing. It is important to bring a leash every time- even when visiting an off-leash dog park. One never knows what can happen and the leash will gives the owner more control. Some dogs will need special footwear or apparel in the winter. There are several winter paw care products on the market. Some breeds do not do well in warm weather and will need to be walked early in the morning or late at night in the summer months. It is important to know your dog. Water is essential when going for walks. Always bring fresh water for your dog and a bowl that it can drink from. Many portable water bowls can be purchased made just for dogs. It's smart to have a toy or treat to reward- or bribe- the dog for good behavior. Another important thing to bring- the poop bags! Please respect others and always clean up after your dog.
The benefits of the walk
Not only does walking a dog burn off energy but it also creates a bonding experience between the pet and pet parent. Walking your dog can be a great time to work on training your dog. Try out new commands and carry some treats or toys to reward the pup. Positive reinforcement can come in more forms than just a treat- remember play can be just as good at motivating a dog to learn. Rewarding with play can often work better that training treats. Walking the dog is great mental stimulation and can get him used to different environments. Use this time to socialize your dog with other dogs and people. Teaching a dog to be well behaved in social settings can prevent aggression issues from developing in the future. If your dog is well exercised and socialized it is far less likely to be destructive in the home. Have fun with it- if it’s not fun 99 per cent of the time then you are not doing it right. The walk enables pet parents to emphasize themselves as a loving but firm pack leader and can set the tone for the pup’s temperament for the rest of its life. If that’s not enough to get you excited to walk your canine companion then just think of it this way- at least he’s not pooping in your yard.
Good walk behaviour & bad walk behaviour
It is important to start slow. Have a warm up and cool down session with the dog- just like people do before working out. Do this by slowing down the tempo and making the walk more casual. When leash training a dog keep in mind that the animal can read body language. If you are tense the dog will become tense. When you leave and enter the home you should be the first out the door. It is important to make the dog wait so you can exit first. Pet parents are always the leader- never the follower. If you are calm and assertive your dog should respond in kind. Watch the canine's body language as well. The tail should be held confidently. Watch for bearing teeth or raised fur. Choosing the right collar can be tricky and should be done with the animal there inside the pet store. Allow the dog to try on different options. Once the right collar or harness is found it is important to never pull too hard. Dogs can become seriously injured regardless of the collar or harness style. Never correct the dog with aggressive behavior. When a dog is pulling you will get better results turning your back and ignoring it than you will by pulling back. A dog is a reflection of its owner. Only you can make him feel content, confident and at ease with his surroundings. Make the dog smile a big dog smile!
Meeting new dogs and people
A good dog is a well socialized dog. Introducing a dog to all the good things the world has to offer is vital in creating a happy, non-aggressive canine. Dogs should be introduced to pets and people at a young age if possible. It is up to the owner to show the pooch that these new things are good and can be trusted. Walking the dog in public is one of the best ways to meet new friends. When approaching another dog it is best to ask the other dog’s owner first. The owner may have their own reasons for not wanting the two dogs to meet. For instance service dogs training for the job should not be pet are interacted with. Some dogs may be learning leash manners or may be aggressive. Clear it with the owner verbally and make sure you are in a controlled setting. Busy streets or too many dogs at once can be distracting for a dog. Always make sure the dog is calm and submissive before approaching. Keep the meet short and simple, first have your dog sit and observe the other dog from a short distance away. Allow the two dogs to sniff one another briefly- then end the meeting by calmly leading your dog away. If your dog behaves well and doesn't bark or become aggressive at the other dog be sure to praise him right away so he knows exactly why he is a ‘good boy.’ Positive reinforcement will teach a dog that other dogs are friends. If you do see a dog in your path that appears aggressive or for whatever reason you do not want to pass by it don’t tense up. Just calmly lead your dog into another direction. Try to avoid making eye contact with the dog; this can be taken as a challenge in some dogs. Just take a new path- your dog will love discovering the new smells and ignore any passers-by completely.
Games & creative twists on the walk
For some dogs walking can become boring and pet parents may need to take new paths frequently. Try hiking in different terrain or walking along the water. Take a car ride to a new destination for the walk- the pooch will enjoy the ride and the walk. Disc games and fetch are great ways to stimulate the dog mentally. They are also fairly easy to teach to the animal. One thing that is especially great about fetch-style games is that is can help train the ‘drop it’ or ‘let go’ command. If a dog refuses to let go of the object it has just fetched hold on to the object firmly but don’t pull on it. If you pull it will only reassure the dog that this is a game. Then in a clear and firm voice say the command ‘drop it’ once and wait for a reaction. If he refuses try it again just that way. Try to avoid saying the dog’s name- just the command. Disc training is a great way to teach a dog new things and keep it in shape. Obstacle courses and agility classes are other great ways that dogs and dog owners are bonding together and staying in shape. Some owners take their dogs swimming. Again it is important to know your dog and dog breeds- some dog breeds can’t swim and shouldn't be in deep water. Others are swimming champs so do your research and start small with your pooch. If a dog likes to run try rollerblading with him. Hunting dogs like games where they can find something that is hidden. Some working dogs really enjoy pulling carts and will even carry doggie-backpacks full of their own toys and treats for the walk. Now that’s a job well done!
No time for regular walks? No worries!
Some people have really tough work schedules and may not have the time to take daily hour-long exploration adventures with their dogs. Every dog owner should try to fit in at least 30 minutes of walking or exercise for a minimum of three days a week. Otherwise the dog could become bored and frustrated which usually leads to it becoming destructive or aggressive. Professional dog walkers are out there to help out busy pet parents. Registered dog walkers will often be insured and walk multiple dogs at a time. They can be more expensive than independent dog walkers. Doggie daycare facilities will often exercise your dog for you while it is enjoying its stay. Try exercising in the home if need be. Some pet parents learn treadmill walking as a means of walking the dog during busy workweeks. There are even doggie spas out there to pamper your pooch if you don’t have the time. Exercising with a dog strengthens the bond between pets and pet parents and provides dog with a purpose. It teaches dogs about boundaries and helps enforce pack leader status. With a mix of affection, exercise and boundaries your life with your dog will grow and flourish into something extraordinary.