I as a runner, I can honestly say that I do not enjoy walking. I’m accustomed to moving twice the distance in half the time, which makes walking feel painfully slow. But since Otis is still too young to run, with Bella’s front wrists still healing, and as I work toward strengthening my back, walking is our only option right now. So, over the last few months, I’ve figured out how to look forward to my walks with the pups and find joy in the littlest things. [For some of my tips and tricks for a swift and easy dog walk, keep reading after this post!].
Walking your dogs creates an incredible bond and a huge level of trust. Any dog trainer will tell you that the best way to bring a new dog into your home is to take it for a walk. Why should that be any different with dogs you already have in your home? Dogs are pack animals by nature, so walking in a group is extremely natural and instinctual for them. And if you have more than one dog, they also bond with each other on a walk which is great for their relationship, too. Walks are the one place where my two pups are in harmony and aren’t trying to roughhouse, wrestle, or outdo each other. I don’t know about you, but I find that to be extremely peaceful!
If you live close to a school or park, walk your dog there and then let him run off leash. For me, there is something about seeing my dogs run free that just brings me so much joy! Leash walking is good for their minds, but running off leash is so good for their souls. Often times we humanize our dogs at home [admittedly, I am super guilty of this], and when we let our dogs run without a leash connection, it’s a reminder to both them and us that they are actually dogs. One of the highlights of both mine and my dogs’ weekends now is that we get to go to the school down the street from us so they can run around and be dogs. The other bonus of finding an enclosed place like a school to let your dogs run is that you can work on off-leash training and really build that bond and level of trust.
Getting outside does wonders for us humans, too. Since most of us hold jobs that keep us inside all day, we should take every opportunity to get out in nature. Having a dog leaves you with no excuse, since they need at least one daily outing to keep them sane. When I’ve had a stressful day at work [or when it’s that time of the month], I look forward to my evening walk with the pups because it allows me to decompress, and in my own way, meditate. I do a lot of my blog writing in my mind when I’m out with my pups. Something about the fresh air and the quiet evenings helps me think more clearly and get my thoughts on track.
While it’s slower and less effective than other forms of cardio, walking is, in fact, a form of cardio. You won’t burn as many calories or get your heart rate up as high, but you are exercising and you are making a difference in your health. If you live in a neighborhood with hills – great! Try to keep a consistent pace while you’re going up and down them. Don’t slow down! And if you don’t live near any hills, see if there are any neighborhoods or places nearby that have them. It’s a great way to get your heart pumping [and, if you’re pressed for time, you don’t have to go as far].
Grab a friend with a dog and go walking together. This is huge! This automatically makes you have an accountability partner so neither you nor your dogs miss out on a daily walk. I have a friend who lives close to me, and we try and get a walk in together every evening. For the pups, it’s great social interaction and learning to walk in a pack with other dogs. For the humans, it’s exercise and social hour. Need I say more?
Change up your walking route every once in a while. I love the days where I turn down a new street and get to check out different architecture and landscaping. It sounds silly, but it gets me daydreaming about the next home my fiancé and I buy and they way I’d like to design and decorate it. Plus, the dogs will love exploring a street with all kinds of new smells and sounds.
If you’re walking during the day, bring your phone with you so you can listen to music, an audiobook or a podcast. Generally I’d be against this, since the point of being out in nature is to let the noise of daily life fall away, but sometimes it’s nice to pop some headphones in your ears and zone out while you cruise with your pups.
There are going to be days where your walks aren’t fun. Maybe your dog is acting up, or it’s pouring rain, or the park down the street is busy so you can’t let your dog off his leash – whatever the case may be, the bottom line is that you got out there with your dogs. And when they’re sacked out at home, snoring little doggy snores and dreaming doggy dreams, you’ll have this odd and overwhelming sense of contentment. A proud pet parent moment. I imagine it feels something like what a parent feels for their own baby. Elation, maybe. Knowing that not only did you do something for your dogs, but you did something for you, too.
As a(n) [almost] daily dog walker, I’ve compiled a short list of some tips and tricks I’ve learned from both licensed dog trainers [who Bella and I have worked with], and my own experiences.
If you have a dog that doesn’t get along well with other dogs, it’s important to always be looking ahead and paying attention. If you see another dog coming, DO NOT STOP WALKING. Dogs are not multitaskers, which means that if you keep moving, they can’t walk forward, walk sideways, bark, growl, and watch their step all at the same time. If a dog is coming toward you, quickly check both ways and cross the street as soon as the coast is clear. The further you are from a situation, the more power you will have.
If you hope to work on off-leash training, I highly recommend bringing treats with you. Be sure your dog knows you have them before you release him. While he may be a scent dominated animal, there’s no way he will know you have them unless the wind is miraculously in your favor. Be sure you purchase high value treats – something your Fido will be willing to give up the fresh scent of a squirrel for.
Always, always, ALWAYS bring poop bags with you! I never leave the house without at least three doggy bags in my jacket, pants or fit belt. I even carry a roll in my car! Be a responsible dog owner. I can’t tell you how furious it makes me when people don’t clean up after their dogs, especially little ones. Just because your dog’s poo is the size of my finger, does not mean you get to leave it lying on the sidewalk.
In my personal opinion, there is nothing wrong with using a shock collar or a prong collar on your dog. You want to feel comfortable and confident as the owner of your dog – and if that means you can’t overpower him without the assistance of a tool, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. With Bella’s tendencies to dislike other dogs [and with her intimidating size and breed working against both of us], I always have her shock collar on when I know she will be in social situations. It’s more peace of mind for me, knowing that I have the power keep her from getting to a level where she feels like she has to take action on somebody else.
Don’t let your dog dictate the pace of the walk. You are the human, you decide how fast or slow things go. Because dogs are so scent dominant, they will follow any smell of interest that comes their way. My two are constantly trying to stop and smell the roses [literally and figuratively]. I am continually teaching them that they will get a sniff break and a potty break when I decide it’s time.