Updated: Apr 30, 2020
The sun is shining, the birds are singing, everything is in bloom - it's time to refresh your dog walks! Dog walks are so much more than an opportunity to manage extra energy. For dogs (and humans too!), it's a way to socialize, bond, positively impact emotional state and mentally stimulate. Here are 5 ways to shake up your dog walk! 1. Be mindful, be present: Start your dog walk out on the right paw. Put the phone away, and engage with your dog and the surroundings. Sure, many dogs may ignore the human on the other end of their leash because the environment is wonderful with all of the sights, smells and sounds! However, one of the reasons your dog might not be engaged is because you are disconnected from your dog.
How can you tell if your dog is engaging with you? Look for eye contact or if your dog moves in closer to your side. Often, these little "check-ins'' are not reinforced by the dog owner. When your dog gives you positive and engaged body language, reward them with verbal praise (or perhaps add a quick treat). Additionally, to cue your dog to engage with you - try a sudden change in direction and use a focus word like "Turn." When your dog looks to you for guidance, give praise! When you are engaged with your dog, it adds interest to your walk and also benefits you if guidance is needed in case of stressful environmental situations. 2. Explore a new neighbourhood: Humans, much like dogs, are creatures of habit. One of my favourite activities is heading to a neighbouring town and scoping out storefronts, parks and neighbourhoods. If your dog doesn't love car rides, this could be an opportunity to do some car training, keep the car adventure short, 20 minutes or less. If car rides are not an option, find a new neighbourhood in your city, google map a route ahead of time and strap on those shoes! 3. Multitask: Break up your dog walk with a trip to the post box, pick up at the local pet store or even a patio visit with a friend for a beverage. The possibilities with this are endless! 4. Training refresher: Walks are the best time to improve core commands while bonding with your dog. Enforcing sitting at corners, practicing verbal commands like "stop," "wait," and "look" during your walk, always reinforce with positive praise (and if possible, a quick treat). 5. Add physical challenges: Before adding physical challenges, I strongly suggest you speak with your veterinarian, especially if your dog has physical/mobility limitations. Plan a walking route that involves different terrain, both incline and resistance like hills, stairs, sand or loose gravel are a great way to challenge both you and your dog's muscles. Increase your walking pace intermittently to a speed walk or even build up to a light jog. Park benches, stumps or logs are great obstacles to practice coordination and strengthen balance. Alternatively, you can also do short stints (3 to 5 repetitions) of sit to down as a form of dog push up or sit to stand transitions. Perhaps while out on a more extended adventure, your dog could handle carrying some weight. This can be done by outfitting your dog with a dog backpack and adding some hiking necessities for them to transport, such as water bottles, extra treats, poop bags, or a towel depending on where your adventure takes you. Wherever your adventures take you this season, I hope some of these suggestions spark a bit of imagination to shake up your dog walk. Remember, the goal is to have fun and enjoy bonding time with your dog, so grab your sunglasses and some comfortable shoes! If you have a favourite destination, whether it's a neighbourhood, a trail or a local haunt, please share and comment below! I hope to see you and your dog outdoors very soon. Cheers!