November 19th, 2020 by
As we approach the coldest months and potentially bad weather, you may be finding dog walks become more of a chore than something to look forward to. While our pooches may not mind getting muddy and wet, it’s something that many of us dread, not to mention the cleaning off and drying afterwards! If you’re not enjoying winter dog walks as much as summer ones, here are some of our top tips to get the most out of a dog walk, for both us and our dogs!
Change up your route
Walking the same route day in, day out, can be boring not only for us but also for our four-legged friends. Look for local nature reserves, country parks, or even just take a different route closer to home. During the lockdown, many of us explored more of our local area and found some brilliant places to walk our dogs that don’t require us getting in the car and driving somewhere!
Structure your walk
Structured walks are beneficial for our pooches because it teaches them to be calm and tires them out both physically and mentally. A structured walk is when you walk with your dog in a heel position and don’t allow them to sniff, mark or give attention to any distractions – they must simply walk beside you with their focus on you and moving with you. I’m sure there will be a few people who see this as ‘cruel,’ after all, sniffing is a natural part of a dog’s life. A structured walk teaches and reinforces good walking and lead manners, and teaches your dog to remain calm around distractions – so why not give it a try!
This is more for us humans to enjoy our dog walks – trying out some mindfulness exercises will allow us to feel more grounded, and will also allow us to bond with our dog more. Try going for a walk and leaving your phone at home – criminal I know! Leaving your phone at home takes away the temptation to check social media or look at and reply to emails, and allows you to spend more time focusing on your dog. Take some time to appreciate your surroundings. What can you smell? What can you see? What can you hear? How does being out with your dog make you feel? Taking deep breaths and a few minutes to focus on these small but important things will help you to feel calm and allow you to enjoy your surroundings.
Play scent games
Scent games are a brilliant way to tire your dog out. If you have a local park or field that you can take your dog to, this is a perfect place to periodically throw treats out onto the grass and ask your pooch to sniff them out! They will have fun, get some tasty treats – and you can enjoy the fact your dog is having a great time! Allowing your dog to sniff has been proven to reduce any stress they may be feeling – so if you have a particularly anxious dog, you can use scent games to get them used to new environments and increase their confidence.
Use the time for training
A dog walk can be the perfect time to brush up on some training. Loose lead walking is only achievable through practice and reinforcement, so why not focus on this as you walk. Having a dog that is focused on you and walking nicely at your side makes the walk much more enjoyable for us, as opposed to being dragged along the street! If you are struggling with getting your dog to heel, try using a shorter lead, give your dog a treat every time they are positioned at your side, and either stop dead or change direction when they start pulling. This should teach them that they only get to go forward in the direction they want to when they are positioned at your side.
Other commands that can easily be practised on a walk include sit, down, leave it, and recall if you are allowing them off the lead. Practising these in all different situations and environments will allow you to reinforce them, and make your dog more responsive. It will also use their brain so will help to tire them out mentally too!
Not to say that your dog isn’t good enough company, but sometimes human interaction can make walks more enjoyable! The majority of dog owners are friendly folk, so a quick hello, good morning or afternoon could be the start of a new friendship! If you walk in a similar area each day you may see the same people with their dogs, and not only could you end up getting to know each other, but your pooches may become the best of friends too – and who doesn’t like to see their dog running around and playing with other dogs at the park?! Just remember you should always ask another owner if your dogs can play together – just because your dog is friendly doesn’t mean every dog you see is!
Dress for the weather
I once read somewhere that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing! It definitely makes us feel rubbish when we return from a dog walk, covered in mud, soaked through and with soggy socks! Investing in some really good waterproofs, and either a good pair of wellies or walking boots are a must for winter dog walking! Having the right clothing will definitely make you feel more inclined to go out in even the worst weather – and will make drying off time when you get home a lot more manageable!
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