Variety is the spice of life
Add variety to your dog’s daily walk
A common activity among dog owners is the dog’s daily walk. It provides off territory stimulation, physical exercise, mental stimulation and an opportunity to socialise with other people and dogs. Given that it is a daily routine it can become quite boring if it is the same thing day in and day out. Adding variety and changing up the walk can have a wealth of mental and physical benefits to your dog. And your relationship with them.
Change up your route
If you have a walking route that you particularly like, that is ok. Add variety by doing the route in the opposite direction. You will be amazed at how approaching objects on the walk changes the walk for you and the dog. Try walking the route in the evening or early morning, time of day and available light can change up the walk. A night walk can be a lot of fun and is a different experience.
A new route, or a route not taken very often can be a lot of fun for both of you. Sights and sounds, smells for your pooch, that are not frequently seen or smelled add novelty. A route that is only taken every 2 to 6 weeks will change a great deal between walks. Especially the smells as other animals and people have passed through the space.
Change up the type of walk
Sounds silly. A walk is a walk, how do you have a different type? On our daily walk we tend to fall into a natural rhythm that feels comfortable. For some that is a meandering pace where you stop to admire the outdoors. A different person might move with purpose, getting from point A to point B as efficiently as possible. We expect our dogs to adapt and adjust to the walk we like. You can however, flick between these styles of walking.
A scent walk
Dogs have powerful noses. We humans have about 6 million scent receptors, we usually determine if something smells pleasant or disgusting and move on. Dogs have more that two hundred million scent receptors. They are collecting information we can only imagine. Why not allow them the time to do so? A scent walk or sniffari as it is sometimes called is a meandering walk that prioritises allowing the dog to smell. No matter what is in the environment or for how long they wish to focus on a single smell, I wait and let them.
If you wanted to know more about the power of their noses I highly recommend ‘Inside Of A Dog’ by Alexandra Horowitz.
This type of walk has numerous benefits. A dog receives so much information through their nose, about the environment and those who have passed through it recently. It is therefore one of the easiest ways to provide mental stimulation. Sniffing is calming. It helps to regulate emotions, reducing their heart rate and stress levels. While sniffing on your dog’s daily walk you are still providing physical exercise so a scent walk ticks a lot of boxes.
A fitness walk
Any walk done with your dog is an opportunity for physical exercise and moving about. A fitness walk is simply one that priorities and maximises the benefits of physical exercise. To build fitness the length of the walk, the pace and the difficulty of the terrain are important factors. You can plan a walk that is longer than your usual walk. No time for this, then change up the pace. Walk a focused and brisk pace. Not quite fit enough to maintain this pace for a length of time? Then try Pace changing during the walk. You can walk your normal speed for a period of time and then speed walk or jog for a while before returning to your normal pace. It is a chance to improve your own fitness as well as your dogs.
Pace changing or brisk pace around the block is ok. You can however also change the terrain. Take a hilly route, with a few challenging inclines. Walking on the grass or taking on a bush trail will also add a new element of difficulty. Both you and your dog will benefit, improving your strength and endurance.
Be sure to keep in mind not only your level of fitness but your dogs as well. A puppy may have a great deal of energy but fatigue quickly when exercised, simply because their fitness level needs time to improve. A senior dog may show a decline. Consult a vet if you are unsure about your dogs fitness.
A training walk
You guessed it. A training walk prioritises training. This is great for dogs who pull, teaching them to walk on a loose lead will have long term benefits. And the walk is more enjoyable when you don’t feel like you are being dragged. Adding training to your dog’s daily walk is more than teaching a dog to keep a loose lead. Anything can be included. The priority here is to keep your dog engaged, learning and perfecting skills when on lead and out in the world.
You can keep this to lead skills, teach your dog to walk in the heel position. On the walk increase duration or practice in distracting spaces. Then switch sides, teach your dog to cross over to the right hand side and walk there. The improved lead skills will come in handy in real life situations. This also adds mental stimulation and social interaction to the walk. To do this you are focused on your dog, when done with rewards based methods it only enhances your bond with your dog.
The world around you is full of opportunities to engage in training with your dog. A park bench is an opportunity to practice stationing on an unfamiliar object, crawling underneath it or just practicing putting the front two paws up. Posts in the ground, use them as weave poles. Practice your tricks and various skills in a new environment. The opportunities are endless, only limited by your imagination.
A social walk
A walk with our dog provides opportunities to interact with other people and their dogs. A social walk simply prioritises these interactions. Scheduling a walk with friends, whether they have dogs or not provides and opportunity to interact with someone different. There public walks which are scheduled, like Million Paws Walk, where your dog has an opportunity to meet other dogs. Local markets often have dogs and people around.
It is important that your dog be friendly and comfortable around other dogs and people before bringing them into a crowd. It can be an overwhelming experience otherwise.
Get out there and try something different
At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is both you and your dog have a good time walking together. Try a few variations and find the type of walks you both enjoy. If you like the sound of adding in more to your dogs walk but feeling time poor? Contact Activate and talk to our trainer. A Walk N Train incorporates these elements, specifically catering to your dogs needs.