Walking your dog can be more than just “go potty” and the possibilities and rewards for both of you are only limited by your imagination. Begin by acknowledging this creature you live with as an individual, and allow them some freedom in your relationship (safely!) to enhance your lives together.
As we enter the hottest days of the summer, you may be at a loss as to what to do with your dog. The heat in the city – in the air, on pavements, even in our wonderful parks – can be too much for extended exposure, and you can only wake up so early or stay up so late to avoid the heat of the day. Plus, no one can hold it ALL day long, can they?
Now is the time when I generally tend to advise customers to change their dog walks from a body exercise-based potty break to a more brain enriching experience. It doesn’t have to be hot to do it, I tend to make at least one of my daily walks a more enriching than exercising experience every day.
Your dog experiences life through their nose first, eyes and ears second. To make a regular walk into a more enriching experience is simple. Here are some suggestions.
- Go where your dog wants to (within reason of course!) Depending on your dog, it may be a winding trail through a local park, or perhaps a different street than a usual one, or even a slower paced walk on familiar streets. Instead of leading and urging your dog on, let them lead, and follow them as you observe them exploring the environment. Watch what they pay attention to and give them all the time they want to gather information. Watching your dog’s nose work, or their ears move to sense what surrounds them can be insightful and help you understand your dog more.
- Choose a different route. We all get stuck in the same routine, it’s easy, it doesn’t take a lot of work, and we’re tired at the end of the day. But changing things up can be energizing and more enjoyable, and you get to expose your dog to a completely different environment, sometimes just by crossing the street.
- Practice silent walks. I often find myself prattling on to my dogs, either giving direction or just noting things to them (yeah I’m one of those.) When I was fostering deaf dogs, however, I learned the value of walking in silence. When your mouth is silent, your mind calms, and you can really focus on the energetic connection between yourself and your dog instead of the leash. It’s much easier to tune in, for both of you, and you may find your dog inherently knowing what it is that you want (and vice versa) just through subtle physical clues you never knew you were giving.
- Use your observation skills. Truly observe your dog as an animal, a creature humans have lived with and who have chosen to share life with us for tens of thousands of years. No other animal
has formed this connection with us, and we owe it to them to learn their method of communicating as well. Watch how they behave at a street corner, or the sound of a twig snapping, or another dog approaching. Learn their physical body language through observation and see if you can use it to communicate better with them.
- Have fun! A short burst of fun play or tug followed by mental stimulation can work for many energetic dogs. Smiling and laughing WITH your dog will make you both happier, and what better way to communicate than laughter?
What kinds of fun or interesting things have you discovered on your dog walks?
As with all activities with our canine partners, use safe walking skills, and keep your eye on what’s coming down the road. Be mindful of others, and use a leash unless you are in an enclosed safe “off leash” environment.