4 Ways to Make Your Dog’s Walk More Interesting
January is Walk Your Dog month!
Which makes it the perfect opportunity to figure out ways to make your dog’s walk more fun and more interesting. Here are four tips on making the most of every walk, no matter how short or long.
Let Your Pooch Be the Navigator
Are you the kind of dog walker who keeps a tight leash on your pooch? It might be time to loosen things up a little. Letting your dog decide where to go and what to smell (while still safely attached to a leash) could be a great brain workout.
“I believe it is important to balance the walk with a little of each being the guide. This way, your dog understands that there are times the leash will require him to go one way (away from danger without fussing), but that sometimes he can choose to go sniff something he wants,” says Jme Thomas, executive director of Motley Zoo Animal Rescue. “So you can go let your dog sniff, but when it’s time and you’ve decided enough is a enough, he will walk away with you willingly, knowing some days he gets to smell the roses more than others.”
According to Thomas, the unpredictability of the timing and opportunities will help your dog to become more reliable on the leash and under your guidance, which is extremely important when you’re out in public.
Switch Routes Regularly
Perhaps the easiest way to make your dog’s walk more interesting is to change the path you take. This doesn’t need to mean a huge change in routine—go straight one day, turn a corner the next, head to the different park on the third day.
“Unpredictability can help your dog better generalize about the world,” says Thomas. “A dog that can deal with frequent and unpredictable changes is going to be a bit more stable and confident, because they have learned that adventures can be fun, not scary.”
Just like meeting many new people and dogs is important, Thomas points out that new places are probably things people don’t consider enough when working on socialization and confidence—but they should!
Add the Unexpected to Short Walks
Many dog owners believe that, when it comes to walks, longer is always better, but this isn’t always the case. In fact, Thomas reports that the length of the walk is not as important as the purpose and the goal.
A long walk for an energetic dog is still unlikely to tire them out; however, work with their brain and they will tire more easily, says Thomas. “A shorter walk with games and training incorporated will actually be harder and wear them out more than going for miles, playing ball, or other such strenuous activity you think they need,” Thomas says. “A busy brain equals a tired dog.”
Let Him Socialize When on A Walk
How often do you allow your dog to socialize with passing dogs when on a walk? Socialization is extremely important, and most people don’t do this enough, according to Thomas. Of course, you should be aware of your dog’s reaction to other dogs and people so you can do this safely, both to protect your dog from unsafe situations and people, and to potentially protect other people from your dog.
If there are off-leash parks where you are, regular stops (even if it’s just for 10 minutes a couple of times per week) can be a great way to break up a walk. Your pup will get a chance to play with other dogs, learn social cues, and spend some of his extra energy running around.