We are taking our dogs for their walks anyway, why not make the most of them. So, here are five ways we can get the most out of our dogs walks that will also benefit their confidence and mental health.
Find something interesting…
There are a lot of good reasons to try this! Following scents to find treasure is particularly rewarding, plus, just a few minutes of sniffing can be as tiring as a short walk. Hunting games are also highly enriching, and can prevent boredom behaviours at home. You could either follow a trail that your dog is interested in, or scatter some treats into long grass for him to find.
Walk before breakfast
Tap into your dogs natural biological rhythm and take your walk before the first meal of the day. Going for a walk turns off hormones required for hunting, and triggers hormones needed for digestion. Meaning the body is ready for food after the walk. Of course, most dogs will eat at any time, but the whole body functions better when we work in sync with it’s natural rhythms. In fact, eating at the wrong time can cause weight gain, food aggression, and reactive behaviour.
Lot’s of good things happen when we slow down our walks. Anxious dogs become more curious about their environment, excitable dogs calm down, and reactive dogs stay in their thinking brains longer. Try a walk at half your normal pace and really take in the sights (and smells). It’s also great for lifting mood and preventing separation anxiety as it’s not possible to feel anxious whilst exploring.
Walk with friends
Walking with friends is fantastic for a dogs mental health. Meeting dogs in the park is good, but having a friend they know well takes that to a new level. Dogs that have true friends outside the home are less likely to suffer with separation anxiety, are more confident, and can be less mouthy and rough in their play with their people. This is especially true of Boxer type breeds who love rough play. Having a soul mate to play with at full speed, can really take the pressure off their play needs.
Keep a loose lead, or get off lead!
If your dog doesn’t have a good recall, now’s the time to get working on it. Off lead dogs get to meet other dogs in a polite way, and make friends without being hindered by the lead. More arguments are caused by the lead, than by the dogs. Leads create tension, force our dogs to be rude or aggressive to each other, and add tension when dogs are trying to appease each other.
A polite greeting includes a quick sniff of the cheek (so you’ll need to get close enough that they can reach comfortably) then, if both dogs agree, they walk in a circle together sniffing bums. If they don’t agree, they will need to make space for each other. Tight leads prevent this at every level and force dogs that have decided to keep walking to stand looking at each other awkwardly. Depending on your dogs personality, this can cause aggressive, reactive, or anxious behaviour in the future.
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