Make your walks more fun, fulfilling and educational
A walk with your dog should be calming. A moment of peace and quiet. Of mindfulness. Of reflection.
A walk is also an opportunity to reinforce learning and get mental and physical exercise for you and your dog.
And if you are short of time, you need that time to work hard so your dog is content and satisfied when you go to work and you don't come home to bedlam! But not all walks are created equal.
Every afternoon, you'll see dog owners stood in the middle of an oval chatting while their dogs entertain themselves, or not.
The typical Aussie oval that Councils frequently set aside for use by dogs is often well intended, but woefully inadequate. I also question the implementation of policy that forces an increasingly large number of dogs and people into confined and under-stimulating environments. They are setting dogs, owners, councils and the non-dog owning public up for failure.
On this type of walk, play is often just running, or some rough and tumble - all good, fun stuff, but not a productive and meaningful mix of physical exercise, mental stimulation and reinforcement of desirable behaviour.
It's often not a helpful way for dogs to mix because interactions are often an unnatural set-up that ends up teaching a bunch of really unhelpful things, like inappropriate or unhelpful play and behaviour that undermines training. The concentration of dogs and owners often triggers unnecessary and avoidable confrontation, that owners fuel with their own behaviour.
Alternatively, people traipse around, staring into their cell phone, while the dog sniffs this or that. The dog and owner are little engaged either in the walk or in each other.
This type of 'walk' doesn't maximise the potential benefits for body and mind, for the owner or dog, of going for a walk. Sure, the dogs have a poo and get some cardio, but the dog isn't getting much bang for his buck, and nor is the owner.
Make your walk more meaningful for the dog - and get some extra exercise for yourself - by not joining the afternoon chin-wag.
Instead, continue your walk and make yourself the focus of the dog's fun with games that reinforce and reward positive behaviour.
If at all possible, select a walk venue that has a variety of terrain, perhaps bush, trees and long grass, and lakes or rivers. This type of venue will be more fulfilling in itself, but will also be a richer environment for training.
Use your walk to teach and reinforce the behaviour you want from your dog at home, and reinforce the strong foundations that you practise at home.
Use your off lead walk to reinforce recall and create a difference between 'come' and 'this way', for example; reinforce rules about 'four paws' and no barking, and teach games that make your dog use his nose.
This way, if you only have 20 minutes to spare for your dog before rushing off to work, you will have squeezed every bit of good out of that time, and can go to work with some peace of mind!
If you'd like to learn how to make your walks more fun or you'd like your dog to go on fulfilling and mentally and physically stimulating walks, click on the button below to get in touch.