How to Walk the Walk (with your dog)

Boston Terrier in pink harness and leash, in front of owner's legsIt’s National Walk Your Dog Week! I know, I know, your dog is probably thinking “oh dear, not more walks!” What else have we had to amuse ourselves and stay active during these long months of Covid-19 besides 6 walks a day with our four legged friend? (I’m definitely not speaking from experience here…) An active dog is a healthier and more well-behaved dog, as we are all realizing after months of daily walks to get out of the house. But did you know there are different kinds of dog walks? Have you tried any of these listed below? If not, try some of them out on your next stroll around the block. Bonus – they are all socially distanced for your safety!

Why walk your dog?

There are 4 main reasons to walk your dog: exercise, elimination, stimulation, and training. Every one of your walks does not need to include all 4 reasons. It may actually be better for you and your pup to distinguish between longer exercise walks and shorter elimination walks at different times in your routine. Ideally, almost all of your walks would incorporate some training depending on what you and your pup need, but that does not have to be the sole focus (and shouldn’t be!) of all walks. Stimulation walks give your pup a time to interact with his/her world at large and learn about how he/she fits into the environment.

Before you start walking, make sure you have the proper equipment and get you and your dog some training if you need assistance with leash walking manners. Many dogs who pull do best in a harness, particularly a front clip or head harness. Trainers like Kate Perry caution against using a retractable leash. Retractable leashes can be dangerous for both your pet and surrounding pedestrians and can actually encourage your dog to pull.

Types of fun walks

  • Sniff Walks:

Dogs experience their world through their noses.  A dogs’s sense of smell is approximately 10,000 times better than that of humans! It’s therefore important for dogs to have time to stop and smell the roses or check their “pee-mail” while out on walks. Allowing your pup to sniff is an important way to improve your dog’s mental stimulation during walks. Instead of pulling your dog away from a fascinating smell, consider giving your pup some time to really get into the good sniffs. Reward any good behavior with a chance to sniff around for a few minutes. It’s a great way to bond with your dog while allowing him to wear his brain out. Let’s face it, what else do you have to do?

  • “Bark”-cour Walks:

Instead of walking along peacefully on the sidewalk, why not find your pup an obstacle course and test her “bark”-cour skills? Benches, steps, logs, rocks, curbs, or empty bike racks can be great opportunities for your pup to improve her balance and agility while providing mental stimulation and developing her confidence. Find a vacant playground or dog park with agility structures for a more intense version.

  • Training Walks:

This is a tried and true walk. While it may not be as intricate as the bark-cour or follow the leader walks, or as relaxed as a sniff walk, training walks are important to keep your dog’s skills and manners intact. You can chose to work on one aspect, like loose leash walking or dealing with distractions or other dogs, or work on several areas that you and your pup could improve upon. Training is a constant throughout your pet’s life to keep them safe and happy, so every now and then dust off your clicker and work your dog’s brain! Remember to bring high value treats and make training as fun and interesting for both of you as you can!

  • Follow the Leader:

Walking the same route can get boring for both you and your pup. Consider switching up your routes to give your dog new smells and sights. Or better yet, try following your dog for a walk or two! Sure you may spend 20 minutes sniffing the Magic Baguette Bush of ’18 and then zig zagging between all of the garbage cans, but your pup will love the freedom to explore and you can feel great knowing that you are giving them all the stimulation they could want.

  • Walk for a Cause:

Since March you’ve taken approximately 7,349 walks with your dog, right? Well, why not make all of those steps do some good? Apps like WoofTrax and ResQwalk are free and let you raise money for donations and resources for your favorite “people,” the four legged kind!

  • Walk in the Park:

We’ve been taking the same walks every day for the past few months. We see the same sights and our dogs have the same smells. If you have extra time every now and then, consider taking your pet to a state or regional park to explore new vistas in a safely socially distanced way. Bring along some special treats for training or toss them into the grass for your pup to “hunt” for even more stimulation (and a break for you if you’re tired!). There are many great parks in Minnesota to check out: here are a few from CBS and Sidewalk Dog.

Whether you’re taking a stroll around the block or hiking through the woods, make sure to do so safely. Be sure your dog always has proper identification just in case (collar tag and microchip), keep an eye on the temperature of the pavement under your pet’s feet, and bring plenty of water to keep you and your pup hydrated. If you regularly walk at night have both you and your pup don some reflective gear to be sure motorists can see you.

If you would love for your dog to enjoy more walks but you are unable to find the time to take them, that’s where we can help! Check out our dog walking services to see how we can improve your pet’s health and happiness, and your life!