Even though he is always ready and waiting to help you clean up under the high chair or the stove, he’s affected by the busy stuff in your life, too. He craves quality time with you, and he also needs exercise and wants to explore.
Dogs in the wild travel far and wide to mark out their territory and to hunt for meals. Sure your dog doesn’t have to go any farther than his monogrammed bowl, but part of him craves to get out.
So take him for a walk.
Do you wonder how you can possibly fit another thing into your schedule? You might be surprised.
If you have younger kids, plan neighborhood walks with other parents. If your kids are old enough, it’s a great opportunity for them to learn responsibility while you’re still close by to take care of emergencies. And if you have a busy work schedule, you might be surprised at the change in your own day if you watch the sun rise with a peaceful walk, just you and your dog.
Walking with your dog gives you a chance to teach him social skills and obedience tasks. First, let him learn him to walk right by your side with a slack leash, never pulling ahead or lagging behind. Once he learns this, move on to working with him on other outdoor obedience, like staying, even when a squirrel bounds across your path.
Regular walks will help him reinforce good behavior when you take him out in public. Also, if your dog is overly enthusiastic when meeting people or other dogs, it’s a great practice opportunity. Teach him to sit when a person or another dog is approaching. If they stop to say hi, reward him for his patience and then let him return the greeting.
Thirty minutes of light exrcise like walking can help your physical health and your emotional well-being…don’t you think that might apply to your dog, too? If it’s hot out or if your route is long, bring water — both for you and for him. You can even get a backpack so he can carry the water bottles and a collapsible bowl for his rest stops.
Start out slow and short. Until your puppy or older adopted dog is accustomed to you and your neighborhood, a long walk can really be overwhelming. Each time, extend your walk just a little bit farther, being sure sure your dog stays by your side with a slack leash. Let him explore, sniff and mark things, but also make sure he knows you’re the leader, not him. Work yourself up to a regular path that he can feel comfortable “knowing” is his route.
You’ll also want to choose a good leash and collar or harness. Leashes come in as many styles as you can imagine. If you walk in high-traffic areas, consider a shorter nylon leash. If your dog chews on the leash, consider a chain leash; even though these are heavier, your dog is less likely to want to chew on the metal links.
Also, if your dog pulls at all, consider a harness or Gentle Leader® collar rather than a flat collar. Flat collars can choke where harnesses spread the pressure out across his chest and Gentle Leaders® apply pressure on the back of the neck instead of the front. Not only will they both make controlling him easier, it will make the walk much more comfortable for him as he’s learning to heel.
By walking together, you’re supporting your dog’s natural need to move, and you’ll feel better too. Walks will help you and your dog feel more relaxed, and it will be a great habit that will help you stay connected for a long time. Just thirty minutes a day will pay off for a lifetime!