7 Ways to Have for More Fun while Walking Your Dog
Walking your dog is a great time to spend one on one time with him.
In one of my dog training classes recently the owner of an eight month old adolescent puppy admitted she didn’t enjoy walking her puppy. Not only was he getting big and hard for her to control (which was why she was in class) but she added, “I know that responsible dog owners should walk their dogs but my puppy and I do the same thing for every walk and I’m bored!” Your walks shouldn’t be boring. The two of you should be able to enjoy the walks, and each other, with no pressure.
Mix Walking with Obedience Training
Your dog’s entire walk doesn’t need to be under strict control; this shouldn’t be like military boot camp but at the same time your dog does need to be well behaved. So do some loose leash walking, letting your dog relax and sniff, then practice some sits, downs, stays, watch mes, and other obedience exercises. Then go back to loose leash walking. After a few blocks, practice some more obedience. Go back and forth and keep it fun and exciting for your dog.
When the basic obedience skills are too easy, teach your dog some tricks and mix those in with your practice. Tricks that don’t require props are the easiest but I know two dog owners who carry a hoola hoop with them on their walks for trick practice.
The World is a Confidence Course
While you’re walking, if you see a downed tree and it looks safe to do so, ask your dog to jump over it or hop up on it and walk the length of it. When I walk at the local harbor, I ask my dogs to jump up on a retaining wall and walk about fifty feet of it. Not only is it fun (they usually jump up before I ask them) but it’s also good for their balance and it’s a confidence builder. Besides logs and retaining walls, look for stairs, manhole covers that wobble, a floating dock that moves in the waves, or a bench that can be walked on or jumped. Keep safety in mind, of course, and help your dog if he’s uncertain; build his confidence and teach him all these new challenges are fun.
Walk in the City
Dogs who live in the city are used to the noise and busyness of a city but suburban or rural dogs often aren’t. You can introduce your country dog to the city, though, and have a good time doing it. If you have a dog owning friend who live in the city, perhaps the two of you can meet for a walk. Your country dog will adapt much more quickly if he’s with a calm dog who’s unfazed by the city bustle.
Many dogs find the city interesting and full of new things to see and smell. However, watch your dog for signs of stress which can include panting, wide-eyes, ears plastered back and a lowered body posture. If you see any of these, immediately take your dog to a quiet place where he can recover. Then the next time you go to the city, choose a spot that’s not quite as loud or chaotic.
Pastures, Meadows, Forest and the Beach
Most dogs enjoy going for a walk out in the country, and that includes both city dogs and country dogs. Walking someplace new is invigorating no matter whether it’s a meadow full of flowers or following a path through a grove (or forest) of trees. My dogs and I were recently up in a mixed forest at 5000 feet in Southern California and while I craned my neck identifying the varied trees, my dogs were watching birds and squirrels, sniffing new smells, and watching the lizards dashing past us. We both had a great time and it was certainly a change from our normal suburban walk.
Add some Off-Leash Play
If there is a place nearby where your dog can be safely (and legally) off leash, bring a toy on your walks so you can add some off leash play to your routine. Walk, let him go in the safe place, throw his ball or toy for a while, and then finish your walk. Not only is this great exercise but it breaks up the routine of the walk.
You don’t have to do this for every walk; and in fact, I wouldn’t advise it. Your dog could come to expect it and become poorly behaved on the first part of the walk because he’s anticipating the off leash play. So vary your routine enough so your dog doesn’t know what to expect.
Invite a Friend or Two
You may enjoy walking by yourself with your dog; I know I do. With just my dogs and I, I can choose the route we walk, the pace we walk, and how fast (or slow) and how far we walk. But sometimes it’s fun to invite a friend or two to walk with you. Let your friend choose where, when, and how to walk. It’s good practice for you and your dog to vary your walks.
If you find your dog getting bored or misbehaving because you’re chatting with your friend, excuse yourself for a moment and do some obedience exercises with your dog. A few quick sits, downs, watch mes, and other exercises will get your dog’s attention back on you. Then go back to your walk with your friend.
Keep an Open Mind
Walking your dog shouldn’t be boring. So keep an open mind, try new places to walk, and vary your routine. You and your dog will both enjoy the change.