Every dog owner goes out for a walk with his pet every day. At least he should. This is a very important element of creating a bond with our pet. Remember that a walk should not be a boring stroll. A good walk should meet the multiple needs of your dog. I’m thinking of course about basic needs related to movement or dealing with physiological needs, but walking is something more for a dog. It is an opportunity to explore the environment, socialize with other dogs and spend a nice time with his guardian. In addition to movement, the dog also needs intellectual challenges. It’s also nice to activate the dog’s nose. In this blog, I will take you for an active walk in every season of the year and show you some ideas for a cool and fully satisfying time — for both you and your dog. You will see that after such an active walk your dogs will be much more tired than after ordinary running!
Owning a dog is not just about walking, filling the bowl and occasionally visiting the vet. For full happiness and proper development, the animal needs above all our commitment and joint adventures.
This is probably the most important need for a dog during a walk. During sniffing, the pooch collects information about other dogs that were in the same places, tracks their paths of travel, also collects information about other animals that ran on meadows and bushes, e.g. hares, voles, birds or rats. It can be said that it is just as important for a dog as it is for us to get news from the world — reading newspapers, books, watching TV or surfing the internet.
So how long should the dog be left sniffing?
The best answer is probably to follow through with those comparisons.
How long should someone be left to look at a picture in an art gallery before being asked to move along? The answer is “as long as they want to keep looking”. For as long as they continue to gaze at the picture, they are obviously enjoying the sight of the work of art.
And how long should someone be left listening to a song? The answer is “as long as they want to keep listening”. Nobody wants to have the radio turned off in the middle of an enjoyable piece of music. Nobody wants to be dragged away from music while they are still appreciating the sound.
And so it is for dogs sniffing in the undergrowth. Give them as long as they want. Wrap up warmly so that you don’t mind waiting around, and let them have a drawn-out, lengthy, indulgent, deep inhalation. It’s one of their favourite pastimes, so don’t rush them off. Take a long pause, and let them enjoy those sniffing sensations.
It is worth noting that dogs need a space to sniff freely. The point is not to visit meadows and fields of many hectares, but to give the dog a lot of freedom to explore. I remember a young Jack Russel terrier visiting me during training with his lady. The guardian seemed to be very reasonable and engaged in working with her dog — she played with him a lot, she trained him. Despite this, the pooch looked overactive and very excited. I asked what the average dog walk looks like. It turned out that it is not detachable from a leash. Thus, the walks of this volcano of energy were limited to walking on a 1.5-meter string. Because of this, the pooch could not satisfy his basic and natural needs related to sniffing, he could not run from bush to bush, with one-stop for a little longer, to the run-up to the next tuft of grass more dynamically. I suggested using a 10-meter line from time to time. After a week, you could see that the animal is much calmer on a daily basis.
Treats on the bush
This is one of my dog’s favourite games. I am looking for a small bush and stuff delicacies on its branches. Soft pieces of sausage or yellow cheese work well here. The dogs’ task is of course to find all the delicacies. The fun thing about this game is that Snow learns to search not only on the ground but also on higher levels. It is definitely a nice variety for them. I like to prepare such surprises especially in those moments when the dogs move away from me and start to deal with their affairs. It gives me some time to prepare the twig with delicacies. Then I call for dogs and urge you to look. After such fun, they stick to me close. You never know when I will discover another bush full of treats.
Searching for items
Another idea for activating the dog’s nose and muscles is to hide various objects:
in the snow
under the leaves
in the bushes
in the grass
between the roots of the trees
It can be a favourite toy, aport, or a simple glove. It is important that we have the opportunity to give the dog a sniff to smell. The doggy just needs to know what to look for. That’s why I often use gloves in this game. I hide one when Snow doesn’t pay attention to me, and the other I give him to smell. It is interesting that he does not have to sniff the gloves in my hand in any particular way. A few fragrance particles are enough for him to know what to look for. I suppose that his great sense of smell developed thanks to attending detection classes — I recommend it!
You can also get the dog to lie down and stay, and hide his favourite toy in the grass. Then ask the dog to sniff it and find it. In this way you provide him with a variety of activities — the pursuit is interspersed with calm waiting and silencing or sniffing.
Sometimes it is enough to sprinkle a handful of treats in the tall grass so that the dog’s nose and mind have a task for a few minutes. Such mental work is very motivating for the dog and improves his confidence. It is also a great effort for the dog’s brain and you can be sure that after solving a few of these olfactory puzzles, your dog will come home tired but happy and will only dream of sleeping well.
Meetings with other dogs
Each pooch also has larger or smaller social needs. If there is a dog that is suitable for your dog to walk, let them go crazy for a while. It is important that both dogs want to play and that this game is symmetrical. That means no dog would be too pushy in play. During crazy races, it’s sometimes worth dismissing a dog and rewarding it generously for coming, and then let it play again. In this way, we remind him of our existence. We also teach him that coming to us does not mean the end of fun with a second dog.
Oh, this is my favourite game! When Snow is very busy with his dog matters and individuals, he hides too far from me, I hide behind a nearby tree or bush. As soon as he notices that I’m gone, he starts looking intensively. Obviously, when he finds me I always give him great rewards in the form of food or fun. After this fun hide-and-seek, he stays close to me and is more attentive. He makes sure that he spots his crazy guardian somewhere. Of course, I play only in safe places where there are no roads with cars etc. I do not recommend this type of game if you have a fearful dog or one who can panic when he realizes that his guardian has disappeared. If you do not fully trust your dog without a leash (e.g. Strong hunting instinct), use a very long rope — the dog has complete freedom of movement and you feel safer with leaving the dog alone. I use a 20-meter line in the woods.
You can also play tag with your dog, fool around, running and playing in the leaves together.
If you want to do dynamic exercises with your dog, e.g. bypassing various trees in the park or jumping over obstacles (we use fallen trees and hurdles on walking routes), remember to warm up for the dog. A good idea will be about 10–15 minutes of free running. To give your pet’s muscles and even better warm-up, your dog can train, for example, slalom between his legs — during this trick the dog warms up and stretches many muscle parts. A good idea might also be the “skip” trick, slalom between legs or the so-called “Dog pushups” (changes from standing to lying and lying down). When your dog’s muscles are warmed up, you can start training more dynamic elements, such as skipping trees or jumping objects.
During longer walks, I like to work out the basics of obedience with my dog. I always put the most emphasis on focusing on me, walking on a loose leash, or summoning. Remember that learning should be both fun for you and the dog, not a boring and stressful drill. That is why the best idea is to intertwine basic obedience exercises with great fun. During puppy classes, I teach dogs a trick “go back”, which involves running around an obstacle. This is a very useful skill, especially when the pooch gets tangled up on a leash against a tree or other obstacle. Just say “go back” and the dog will untangle itself. After several such repetitions, the dogs start to watch themselves so as not to get entangled in anything
Fast walking or slow jogging
An ordinary walk is usually a dog’s routine and, as a result, it’s not a big attraction for him. It’s enough to increase the pace a bit to make the walk an adventure. It’s best when you choose a different route each time and explore the area together. Of course, for many dogs, normal running will also work, but here you must have in mind the size, health and physical fitness of your pet. If your dog is not an athlete, it is recommended to use walking intervals, i.e. 10 minutes of slow walking, 2 minutes of running, 10 minutes of slow walking, etc.
Remember to give your dog access to fresh water on such a walk, and then watch it for any ticks!
Balancing and climbing objects
For some, a fallen tree trunk is just a piece of dead wood. For me, it is a great opportunity to practice the balance of my dog. I guide the dog with a treat in such a way that four paws are on the trunk. Then I ask him to take a few steps forward. You can also ask your dog to lean on the object with only two paws. My dog loves this type of challenge. They are quite difficult for him and require focus. The greater is his joy when he manages to complete the task. Therefore, these types of activities are great for building dog confidence.
By the way, we also train the dog’s muscles, mind, sense of balance, body awareness and build a cool relationship based on trust. The doggy also learns that you can spend time in the fresh air with your guide. If a man is boring and only yells at the dog, “leave it!” “Come back!”, “Spit it out!”, then fastens the dog on a leash and goes home, it is not surprising that the dog will be more interested in the environment and other dogs than connecting with his guardian. So we should invent as many different interesting activities as possible for our dogs during walks and become cool companions for them to play.
After stimulating activities, it is worth offering the dog a calming exercise, e.g. a quiet walk (6–8 minutes until the breath calms down) or looking for a lost treasure that will allow your pet to concentrate on a quiet task and calm down after more stimulating activities. It is fun for every dog — just with a less advanced pooch you can lay footprints of several meters, and with a more advanced pointer — even about 100 meters.
I am very curious how do you organize walks for your dogs? Maybe you have some nice ideas for joint activities with your dog? If so, please write about it in the comments below this post.