Editor’s Note: The Local Woof is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff of Woofs! Dog Training Center. Woofs! has full-service dog training, boarding, and daycare facilities, near Shirlington and Ballston.
Walking the dog is an integral part of the dog owners day, especially for those of us who don’t have a yard. And for many of us it has become a rote behavior, but walking your dog is an opportunity. It is quality one-on-one time that should not be wasted. Here are some ways to make the most of your daily dog walks:
1. Forget about the distance.
It doesn’t matter how far you walk. Unless you are jogging, walking is not good exercise for your dog. Your time is better spent exploring. Instead of a forced march, allow your dog to sniff to their hearts content. Your dog experiences their world primarily through scent, and a large portion of their brain is dedicated to deciphering scent. That means that sniffing is a full brain workout and can tire your dog out very effectively.
2. Train your dog.
Instead of giving your dog breakfast for free in a bowl, make them work for it. Carry their breakfast with you on the morning walk and ask for some simple behaviors like sits, downs and hand touches. As they get better and better, start asking for more advanced behaviors. Practice good manners with a neighborhood dog (sit before greeting). Whatever they don’t eat on the walk, they get afterwards.
3. Let the dog choose the route.
Ask them which way they want to go and be willing to follow their lead once in awhile. They will almost certainly be following their nose.
4. Pay attention to your dog’s body language.
What do they notice? Pay special attention to their ears and tail. Are they nervous? Scared? Excited? Do they want to keep walking or do they want to go home? Would they prefer a game of fetch in the field? Take the time to ask the dog what they want to do.
5. Maintain their socialization, aka introduce them to new things.
Socialization is the ability to adapt to new things, so taking your dog to new places and meeting new people can help them to maintain their socialization status. Are there opportunities to meet other dogs (with permission of course)? Can your dog jump on a big rock? Walk along a bench?
6. Hide some treats along the path.
It only takes a few minutes to place some milk bones under a bush for a simple game of nose work. As you dog gets better and better at finding them, increase the difficulty of the hide.
Have something else you have fun with on a walk? Let us know! The bottom line is to make your one-on-one time fun. As Thanksgiving approaches, show your pup how thankful you are to have them in your life by taking them on a super walk. The more time you spend having fun the better your relationship will be, and relationship is the foundation to better training.
The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.