Daily walks with your dog will not only strengthen your bond together but also gives you and the dog necessary physical and mental exercise.
Playing in your backyard with your dog is great exercise, but it’s not enough! Taking your dog for a walk not only fulfills his physical exercise needs but also is great mental stimulation.
Think about if you NEVER let your kids leave the confinement of the house and yard. They would be bouncing off the walls, finding ways to entertain themselves in all sorts of ways (not always good). Your dog feels the same way, he will quickly find something to chew on, get in the trash, etc.
To live a balanced life, your dog needs exposure to the world: smells, cars, people, other dogs are all part of your dog’s life.
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The frequency and length of your daily dog walks are going to be different for every dog. Every dog is unique. In general, your dog should have at least one 20 minute walk per day.
Smaller dogs will require shorter walks. High energy dogs will need several long walks every day.
To determine out how often and how long your dog needs to walk, you will need to pay close attention to his behavior. Start with a 20-minute walk, and if he is still full of energy, keep going. If you take a 20-minute walk, and he’s tired when you come home, you know you’ve fulfilled his need.
Once you have a walking schedule that works, be consistent. You will notice the bond with your dog become stronger and stronger with every walk.
With my two dogs, we take a short walk in the morning around the block and a long 2-3 mile walk in the evening. When we get home after that 3-mile walk, they are zonked out! Mission accomplished! I highly recommend getting a leash that is comfortable to walk your dog, our leather leashes have lasted over a decade.
And when it’s too cold or poring rain, we opt for inside games to keep their minds stimulated. Here are some great indoor games to try with your dog.
It is so important to walk your dog every day. But, I will admit, in my early days of having a dog, I did not walk them as often as I should have. I didn’t realize how many benefits there are in daily walks. My dogs were still well behaved for the most part. But I can only imagine how much better their life would have been if I wasn’t naive to these benefits of walking my dogs.
Perhaps the most obvious, walking your dog creates a healthier dog and healthier you. Your dog will feel better, be more energetic, and best of all, experience less behavioral issues.
Your walk should consist of your dog walking by your side 90% of the time. The other 10% is to allow him to sniff and go potty. Use your walks as a training session, not a time for him to chase after squirrels, sniff every tree, or pee on every fire hydrant!
Our personal dogs are always at a loose leash heal, and we like to stop at every corner or crossing. Each time we stop, our dogs are expected to automatically sit next to me. I will give them praise, look for traffic and continue on our walk. This not only allows me to train the AUTOMATIC SIT, but time for my dog to stop, slow his mind down and think about what I am doing.
If your dog never sees anything but your house and yard; strangers, kids playing, bike riders, will all seem like threats. Giving your dog exposure to new sights and experiences will show him the outside life is not threatening.
We’ve had several foster dogs come to us afraid of simple things like bushes and large boulders on our first few walks because they’ve never experienced the walk before!
You have control of the walk and you have control of your dog. This relationship will help build your bond and leadership with your dog. He learns that you are in control by walking next to your side. Read: What does it mean to be the pack leader for your dog.
Going back to the mental exercise, use the walk to train your dog. Adding commands like SIT anytime you come to a stop. You can practice a SIT STAY with another dog walking by, or stop and talk to a friend and put your dog on a DOWN STAY. And of course, practice healing by your side when walking.
Okay, so now you understand the reasons why and how often to walk your dog. But if you are like the majority of dog owners, and your dog pulls on the leash, barks at other dogs, or is leash aggressive, you may not want to take your dog for a walk.
Do you feel like it’s more work than it’s worth? I get it, really I do. Many of our foster dogs come to us not trained to walk on a leash nicely. They pull, and pull, which makes the walk so unpleasant I wonder why I even bother sometimes.
Let’s start with the tools for walking your dog. I highly recommend investing in a quality leather leash. Six-foot in length is the best… this is long enough to allow your dog to go potty and short enough you can walk your dog next to you.
Do NOT use a flexi retractable leash on your walks, this gives your dog the control of the walk.
The game changer for us, the prong collar. I know everyone cringes at the word prong, but before placing judgment, please read my post The Prong Collar, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I go in-depth about the use of a prong collar to train a dog. With a prong collar, I can instantly start training a dog not to pull on the leash. It’s important to note, not all prong collars are created equal, please read more here.
Now if you are dead set against using a prong collar, I totally understand. I am not here to say you have to use it, just to inform dog owners of the great tool and promising possibility of using a prong collar for training. There are other tools you can use, and you need to find the one that works for you and your dog. Some dog owners swear by gentle leaders, which can work… but I personally have never used one.
Keep in mind that a harness will NOT FIX the pulling, it simply manipulates your dog to not pull, it does not teach him anything. And a front clip harness promotes pulling. Whereas the prong collar is a TOOL to teach the dog not to pull, which will eventually allow you to use a simple flat collar after the training is complete.
P.S. Now it’s your turn… Leave a comment below to tell me how you take advantage of walking your dog. Do you struggle with your dog pulling? I always reply to comments, so let’s start a conversation… it could help someone else with the same problem or question.
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Debi McKee is a mom of three kids, two dogs and the creator of Rescue Dogs 101... where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She also volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society.