Regular walks are crucial for all dogs. They not only provide an opportunity for exercise and the release of pent-up energy. The daily walk is crucial for all dogs. It is important for your dog to receive daily physical exercise and mental enrichment not only for their overall health but to also prevent boredom. To find out how much exercise your particular dog needs daily see here.
Benefits of walks for dogs
Regular walks for your dog provide them with numerous benefits including physical health, weight management, mental and social stimulation and helps to prevent boredom.
Boredom is one of the major causes of behavior problems in dogs such as destructive behavior, nuisance barking, digging, and even escaping. Dogs that are walked regularly are less likely to develop unwanted behavior.
Regular walks and exercise also benefit your dog’s gut health and digestive system. In addition, it also helps to improve their sleep.
Regular exercise also has benefits for your dog’s mental and emotional health. A dog that is bored, frustrated, and full of pent-up energy is more likely to feel down or even depressed.
Walking your dog is also great for building and strengthening your bond. It is an ideal opportunity for training and behavioral development and will provide the foundation for a trusting relationship.
It is also an excellent opportunity for social contact with other people and dogs teaching your dog important social skills and increased confidence.
Taking your dog for a walk allows them to release some pent-up energy. In addition, it provides mental stimulation by way of the sights, sounds, and smells they come across as well as social enrichment. To learn about the six categories of mental enrichment for dogs see here.
The walk can also be used to provide even more mental stimulation and enrichment. This is not about walking further or for more time. It is about maximizing the benefits by walking smarter. Here are some suggestions to increase the amount of dog enrichment on walks.
Dog walking games
Tracking and scenting games
There are many simple nose games that you can incorporate into your walk. This can be something simple like playing Find it. Toss a treat or toy into some long grass or brushes and have them find it.
Or you can try some tracking games. An example of this would be to lay a trail of small treats with a larger bonus treat at the end as a reward. Show your dog where the trail starts At first lay small trails until your dog gets the idea of the game. As they become more proficient, increase the length of the trail or leave a bigger gap between treats.
For more ideas see “12 Scenting and Nose tracking games for dogs”
This is a good way to get your dog more attentive to your movements and will help with leash pulling. This can involve changing the speed you are walking. Start to walk quicker or jog and give your dog a command such as “faster”. Then slow down giving a similar command such as “slowly”. Or you can stop and start much like a game of Red light, Greenlight. Your dog will quickly recognize the commands and will be more attentive to you.
Use your imagination and use different changes such as changing the side they are walking on or walk in a zig-zag or completely change direction.
Mix the changes up and make the length of each burst unpredictable meaning your dog will need to be aware of what you are going to do next.
Urban agility or doggie parkour
Urban agility is where you use the normal surroundings to provide obstacles for your dog to run around, jump over or on to or crawl under. You can even use the playground or skateboard park as a source of obstacles.
Using your imagination you can turn the park into an obstacle course. Just be sure to ensure the activity is safe and within your dog’s ability. Having your dog do obstacles is not just a physical activity. It also provides a mental challenge.
If you have a dog that is very athletic you can try them with more advanced dog parkour-type techniques. This can include walking along a narrow surface or even climbing a tree.
Hide and Seek
This is pretty self-explanatory. Either put your dog in a sit-stay position or have someone hold them. Then find somewhere to hide behind a bush. Call your dog’s name and let them find you.
Recall games are a great way to really master your dog coming on command. Coming on command is not a signal that it is the end of the interaction. It is just the start of the fun. This can include activities such as going through your legs or circling around you.
Watch the video below for ideas on how this game works.
Ideas to increase dog enrichment on walks
One of the easiest ways to provide enrichment for your dog is to go to different places full of exciting and unfamiliar sights. If you are limited to the number of different places you can go, try mixing it up by walking the route back to front or walking on the other side of the road.
Allowing your dog to experience new places and situations helps to build confidence.
Allow your dog to sniff
Humans experience the world mainly visually. For dogs, the sense of smell is their most powerful sense. Choose to let your dog sniff as much as they want on a particular walk or at a stage during a walk. Sniffing is vital and rewarding for dogs. They receive massive amounts of information that is of importance to them.
Take toys with you
Take a favorite toy with you so you can have a game of something they like. This can be the old classic fetch or a quick game of tug of war. A frisbee or flying disc is a great toy for the park as it helps to burn off excess energy quickly.
Invite a friend for your dog
If you know someone with a dog ask if they can come with you. Playing with another dog is also a great energy burner. It is also a great opportunity for your dog to socialize. Dogs are social animals and social enrichment is important for them.
While out on the walk incorporate a quick training session. This can be teaching or practicing commands or learning tricks. Learning new things is a great way to mentally stimulate and tire a dog’s mind.
Hopefully, you have discovered some good dog enrichment ideas you can use on your next walk. Let us know in the comments ways you provide additional enrichment for your dog while out walking.
Give your dog the opportunity to spend time off-leash. This gives your dog an opportunity to be a dog in as stress-free and unstructured a environment as possible. Allow them the opportunity to be free to sniff, dig, roll, run, chase, explore and do all the doggie things they want. If your dog doesn’t have good recall, you can do this using a long lead.
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