The Importance of Walking Your Dog
A trainer’s favorite subject! If you do not exercise your dog enough, you can try to train all you want and get nowhere.
A tired dog IS a well-behaved dog!
Daily walks provide your dog with positive attention from you and a chance to be with you doing something he loves. Dogs do not self-entertain. If you put your dog outside in your fenced-in yard, he will not exercise himself (unless there is another dog to play with). More likely, he will resort to boredom barking, trying to escape the yard or do some creative landscaping instead! As his guardian, it is your job to provide your dog with enough stimulation. If he spends 10 hours a day alone in the yard or in a crate while you work, do not expect him to be a well-mannered member of the family when you come home in the evening.
Dogs do best with a structured life and the daily walk helps to satisfy that need. Taking your dog for a walk is an important ritual in keeping your dog mentally stable. A dog, as an animal, is a walker/traveler by instinct. Packs of dogs get up in the morning and walk. Simply having a large back yard or taking your dog to the dog park is not going to satisfy this instinct in your dog.
Walking your dog on a daily basis is very important to your efforts at training. There are two huge benefits to the daily walk, the exercise of body and the exercise of mind. Exercising the body helps to prevent numerous behavior problems at home. A bored dog with energy to burn will get into trouble without much effort. A dog that has been exercised has spent its energy on walking and will not have excess energy to pour into trouble-making. Exercising the mind through a daily walk will assist a dog owner in his training efforts. Learning to walk on a loose leash takes time and effort, but the exercise is one in listening to, engaging with, and paying attention to the owner. This helps to reinforce the willingness to listen to and pay attention in other aspects of life.
For a dog to be mentally stable, you as an owner must take your dog for daily walks to release mental and physical energy. A lack of exercise, allowing the build up of the mental energy which a proper walk releases, can cause many behavioral problems in a dog -- such as, but not limited to, hyper activity, neurotic, and/or obsessive compulsive behaviors, which are signs of a dog who is not mentally stable. An unstable dog is not a happy dog. Excitement in a dog is NOT a sign of happiness. Dogs who act very excitedly when their humans come home are showing signs of a lack of exercise and a lack of consistent enforcement of non-arbitrary rules from the owner. For a dog, excitement does not indicate happiness. In most cases it is a sign of a dog who is not mentally stable.
Finally, all dogs need to be taken on walks, even the most tiny of pocket-sized dogs. Just because they fit nicely into your purse doesn't mean they should be carried everywhere. The length of the walk will obviously vary based on the size and energy of the dog, but all dogs need to be taken on frequent walks.
Here are some tips for walking your dog.
Walking your dog should be one of the joys of being an owner. But unfortunately, too many dogs take their owners for walks rather than being walked. The proper way to walk a dog is the dog walking with you, not pulling, not searching back and forth for things to smell and not running and jumping on others. Dogs have four legs, we have two, but your dog can understand that this activity is all about walking, not about sniffing, running, jumping or anything else. It's just a walk with a human.
Getting Ready for a Walk
Most dogs get overexcited when it’s time for a walk. It may appear cute to an owner to see Fido jump hysterically, barking for a walk, but the owner needs to make sure his dog is calm before leaving. Don’t let your dog bolt out the door before you. Have him sit or stand calmly and then attach his leash. When you are ready and the dog is calm, open the door and proceedt out the door. No commands to the dog are necessary. If he is calm and looking to you for direction, he will just follow as soon as you take that first step. Having your dog calm at the dog and not trying to charge through it is also a safety issue.
Don’t Let Your Dog Walk You
A dog should either walk beside or behind you, but never in front of you. When he goes in front, he pulls, taking you on a walk. Even worse than pulling you, is the fact that you give your dog the wrong idea that he’s the leader and not you. Because dogs are pack animals, they look either to humans or other dogs to see who’s in charge.
The collar should be high up on the neck, giving you more control over the dog - control the head, control the entire animal. Body harnesses are not recommended for walking dogs, not even the easy walker harnesses. No matter what the advertising says, if you rely on a tool to walk your dog, your dog will eventually end up walking you. A harness goes around the strongest point on the dogs body making it difficult to control the dog. Keeping the lead high up on the neck the same way they do in dog shows gives you more control with less effort. There should be no tension in the lead. Do not allow the dog to pull and don't constantly pull on your dog. Relax.
The lead should be short, but long enough to hang loose. If the dog starts to pull, stop and be a tree, or walk suddenly the other way. If the dog starts getting too excited and you are not keeping him beside or behind you, stop and make the dog sit. Wait until he is calm than start again. Do not call to the dog when you start walking again, just start walking. The dog needs to learn he is following you, and tune into the person walking the dog. Do not praise your dog for walking calmly. This only creates excitement and you are more likely to pull your dog out of his calm state.
The dog is not to sniff the ground and relieve themselves where they please; they are to concentrate on following their owner while walking. The person walking the dog decides when the dog is allowed to sniff or pee, not the dog. It is ok to allow your dog to sniff around and do his business, however, only when you decide it is ok. The dog needs to see you are controlling the walk, the environment and him.
When to Walk Your Dog
If you are going off to work for the day, the dog should be walked before you leave the house. This will put the dog into a rest mode for the time you are gone. Dogs should also be walked before they eat, fulfilling the dog's instinct to work for food.
Dogs, of all breeds and types, who are taken for daily walks, and who are made to walk beside or behind the owner, are less likely to be destructive, obsessive, have separation anxiety and/or dominancy issues, among many other behavior problems. Dogs with higher energy should be taken for longer, more vigorous walks, some two or more times a day. For a dog, walking is a primal instinct. Fulfilling this need in your dog will make for a happier dog and happier owners.