The Benefits of Walking Your Dog

Going out for walks is an important part of a dog’s life.  Even if you have a large fenced-in yard where your dog can “do his business,” walks can make a dog’s life more exciting. With proper training, you can make walking your dog an easier and more fulfilling venture.

Why are walks so important?  While many people think the purpose of walking your dog is mainly to let your dog go to the bathroom, it can also help you provide more. Walks are a good form of exercise for both the dog and owner.  This exercise can be used to help strengthen your bond as long as you are on the same page with what is expected of your dog’s behavior.  Exploring the environment can also be a good form of enrichment; seeing the sights and sniffing the smells requires focus on the dog’s part that can be guided and directed by you.

There are different ways to walk your dog.Building walks into your regular routine will help your dog know what to expect on a daily basis.  Even if you don’t have the time to walk your dog at length every single time, taking him for a short walk before you leave for work and later on when you return can help wear him out.  Even something as simple as a walk around the block or a trip to a nearby park provides precious bonding time.  If weekday walks need to be shorter, consider taking a longer outing on the weekend.  You could even organize a day trip with other dog-loving friends.  There are many trails and parks in the New Orleans area that are dog-friendly, although you should always be on the lookout for other critters when you venture into the wild with your dog.

A peaceful and successful walk requires more than just a venue.  Owners with the best intentions may not be able to walk their dogs as often as they would like due to their dog’s behavior. While it may be wise to consult with a trainer for assistance, there are some basics you can work on by yourself.  Walks should have structure, and that structure starts before you have left the house.  Have your dog sit before you put on his leash and don’t let him drag you out the door.  Try and maintain a brisk pace on your walk.  Be mindful of your surroundings as well as your dog’s issues.  If you see someone walking towards you with a dog, cross to the other side of the street if your dog isn’t so friendly.  Using commands such as “sit” and “come” can help get your dog’s focus where you want it to be. Depending upon the dog’s energy level, a structured walk can wear them out in 15-20 minutes, compared to an hour walk where they are leading the way.  Getting the exercise and enrichment that walks provide is still very important for seniors.  Implementing activities will help the older dogs who aren’t able to walk as far as they used to by engaging all of their senses.

Gentle LeadersUtilizing the right equipment for your dog is key to a successfully walking your dog. A leash should be used as an extension of our intent; the message we want to send to the dog travels down the leash.  For these purposes, a six-foot leash works best.  For a large dog, a 1”-wide sturdy nylon or leather leash gives the owner the most control.  Although many people use retractable leashes to give their dogs more freedom, this takes away a lot of control from the owner and can be a safety hazard.  If your dog is 20 feet in front of you, how are you going to be able to redirect him from potential dangers like a car making a fast turn or an off-leash dog coming at you?  It also makes it difficult for you to communicate with the dog regarding your expectations of their behavior.   Some dogs can be walked on a flat collar or harness if they have been trained to stay by your side.  Additional equipment like head collars (Gentle Leader) and front-clipping harnesses (Easy Walk), which can both be found in our boutique,  can keep the dog from pulling.  [There is a small amount of training required to get your dog used to using this type of equipment.  The packaging contains a DVD to start you through the process.  Contact a qualified trainer for further instruction.]

Training is always a good investment of your time and energy.  Taking the time to train your dog to be a better walker will help you make sure they get out for more walks.  It can also help you to handle them better in other public situations, like going to the vet or visiting family.  If you are still having trouble, reach out to a trainer who utilizes positive reinforcement techniques.  Consistently practicing will help both you and your dog get better.  After a while, walking your dog with skills become a habit, and walks become more enjoyable for all.

Blog Category: