“I can’t get my dog to focus.” “My dog ignores me.” These are common complaints from many parents about walks with their dogs. Realistic expectations, appropriate management and training undoubtedly help with these issues. But the very way we walk our dogs can make the situation more challenging than it needs to be.
I believe walking dogs on a short leash by our side creates many undesired issues that can be avoided. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when walking with dogs at our side is the most appropriate thing to do. My concern is that people have their dogs in this position too much on their walks together.
Dogs Need Freedom and Choice
This must be incredibly boring and frustrating for our dogs. It neither allows a natural pace, which is much quicker than humans nor path as dogs don’t usually walk in straight lines. To our dogs, this situation emphasizes how great freedom would be. Freedom to move naturally, explore and sniff.
Many people also get into a rut of only going from one place to another, thinking that the benefit of an outing is just to make the dog walk. A ‘block walk’ usually doesn’t offer much interaction or stimulation. Yet again emphasizing how great being away from the parent would be. Anything else would be more fun.
It’s Time to Re-Think Walks
Re-thinking the purpose of our dogs’ walks and what we do on them can address these issues.
A to B is Boring
My number one piece of advice is to drop the notion that A-B walks are of any real value. Sure, getting your dog out just to stretch their legs and for a bit of fresh air isn’t a bad thing. If this is the norm, however, the dog is getting ripped off. Instead, I encourage parents to find ways to provide enrichment and more enjoyment for their dogs on outings. There are many ways to do this, no matter your dog’s tastes and needs, or your schedule. Some examples are:
- stick close to home and have a sniffari
- play together while out
- go to a favourite spot (for your dog), such as the beach, river or forest
- drive somewhere new and explore
- practice skills that are ready for outside training
- go on an adventure hike
No Room to Move
Following a very close second is the equipment we use to walk our dogs. Dogs deserve to be able to move naturally. If they cannot safely have off-leash time, then using a long line is the best way to offer them a sense of freedom and more natural movement. It singlehandedly changes their experience and takes walks to a whole new level. Having the ability to explore and sniff is so enriching for our dogs. It tires and fulfills them in a way that a short-leash walk cannot.
From your dog’s point of view, either of the above would significantly improve their outings and be a welcome addition. And guess what? These changes would be hugely valuable to you as well!
Enrichment and Freedom On Walks Don’t Just Benefit Your Dog
Being stuck on a short leash next to a human for an entire walk makes things in the environment even more valuable and distracting. It’s no wonder dogs want to stay away and do their own thing once free! What if instead, you reduce distractions and temptations by routinely providing your dog freedom, choice, and space to move on a long line? Allowing access to things in the environment is not only incredibly enriching. It also allows you to build connection, focus and excellent leash skills. I know, it sounds crazy. But it IS possible, and it’s also not that difficult to do.
Sound interesting? Would you like to learn more? Then, stay tuned for WAG YOUR WALK, where you can learn this and other awesome skills!
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