The power of walking your dog
Why is walking with your dog good for your health?
Every dog needs daily exercise to stay healthy. The amount of exercise your dog needs, varies for each breed. Some dogs cannot get enough of long walks, while other dogs prefer a short stroll. This all depends on the breed and age of your dog. For obvious reasons, older dogs do not need as much exercise as young puppies.
A great advantage of walking your dog is the health benefits that it brings, not only for your dog, but also for yourself. Walking has a positive effect on both the cardiovascular system and the musculoskeletal system and joints.[p] [p]Besides the need for daily exercise, dogs also need to be stimulated mentally. During your walks, you and your dog will be exposed to new stimulants such as: discovering new scents, exploring new surroundings and experiencing new sensations.
There are ways to stimulate physical activity while walking your dog. You can encourage your dog to jump over tree trunks or climb up a fallen tree for example. In this case, dog boots can come in very handy. It is also possible to take your dog with you while riding your bike or when you go for a run.
How can you make the dog walks more challenging and interactive?
Do you often find yourself walking the same route? Below you will find a few tips and tricks to make your dog walks more challenging and fun.
To keep your dog alert during walks you can teach him various commands. For example, ask your dog to sit and stay, after which you walk a few steps. See if your dog can control its enthusiasm. Teach your dog to walk to you after you give him the command ‘free’ or ‘come’. By doing this, your dog will come to learn to be obedient in a challenging environment.
You can also let your dog walk alongside you for a while. This way, your dog will not be distracted by all the things in front of him. By walking alongside of you, instead of in front of you, your dog will learn how to focus.
Another good exercise is to frequently call your dog. It is important to keep your dog well under control at all times and that you are able to get your dog’s attention while he is occupied with other things. Practice this on shorter distances while your dog is walking in front of you. Slowly increase the distance and wait for when your dog is focussing on something else. You can change the difficulty level this way, as dogs find it harder to listen when they are focused on something different.
This challenge helps to keep your dog under control and ensures your dog will keep his or her attention. You will notice that the bond between yourself and your dog will improve and your dog will walk closer to you when walking outside. Your dog will also have less tendency to walk away when it is busy doing other things.
Walking on a leash versus walking freely
Most people prefer to let their dog run freely during walks. However, it can also be very convenient and educational to have your dog on a leash sometimes. When your dog is walking on a leash, it will adjust its speed to the walking speed of its owner. This takes effort and energy. This way, you can use walking freely as a reward for good behaviour on the leash. Your dog will also learn that not every walk is the same, which makes walking outside more challenging and fun.
Let your dog work with its instincts and hide different treats inside the forest. While you are hiding treats , command your dog to sit and wait. Once you give the command to search, your dog can begin to look for the delicious hidden treats. If your dog has a hard time finding the snacks, you can help him a bit. The more your dog practices this routine, the better he will become. You can make this challenge more difficult by placing treats inside a plastic cup and then hiding them. Once your dog brings back the plastic cup he will get the rewards inside. Your dog will be mentally stimulated and it will active its instinctive ability to smell.
Is your dog able to fetch? Take a dummy, dog toy ball or other dog fetch toy with you in the forest. Throw a ball or other toy and let your dog retrieve it. When your dog does this correctly you can reward him with delicious treats, such as those made by Farm Food (these can be found on our website). Once your dog has mastered fetching a ball or other dummy it is time for the next step. You can hide the dummy after which your dog has to search, find it and retrieve it.
If you are trying to teach your dog how to fetch correctly, choose a narrow forest trail which is vegetated well on both side (so your dog is unable to run away). Lay down the dummy at around 2 meters and give the command ‘retrieve’ or ‘fetch’. Most likely, your dog will run towards the dummy. Try to get your dog to come to you and lure him with some treats. When this is done successfully, you can increase the distance and eventually try different places. Some dogs rather keep the dummy with them and try to run away with it. If your dog is likely to run away with its fetch toy then first practice this at home. It is important to train your dog to return the fetch toy back to you and celebrate when this happens. It is important that your dog understands the concept of giving back its toy once it has found it.
Additional physical exercise
Does your dog love water? Then keep an eye out for spots where your dog can swim. Fetching games can be played on land as well as in the water. Water toys for dogs are available on our website and can be used to play in the water during hot summer days. An additional benefit is that swimming has a less straining effect on your elderly dog than running. Special hip belts and harnesses such as the Ezydog Road Runner Leash, Trixie Waist Belt or Ruffwear Omnijore harness make running or cycling with your dog a lot easier.
Choose a different route
It sounds very obvious: choosing a different route or area to walk your dog to keep things interesting. Plenty of dog owners walk the same route every day, which can make walking your dog a bit dull. There are many different new and exciting routes to be found online or by using an old-fashioned route map. Discover new places and enjoy new experiences! If you always visit the forest and let your dog run freely, then you could perhaps try to walk your dog on a leash in a bit crowder area. Alternatively, you can walk your ‘normal’ route the other way around.
Company of other dogs
Do you know any friends or relatives that also own a dog? Perhaps it is a fun idea to start walking your dog together! It is smart to check if both dogs can get along before you start walking together. If they get along well then let them enjoy each other’s company.
Senior dogs and puppies
Please note that the information above is not suitable for all types of dogs. For example, it is not smart to walk great distances with a small puppy. It is also not recommended to let your puppy or senior dog jump on tree trunks. We always advise keeping your dog’s physical limitations into consideration when exercising or walking.
Because puppies are still growing, it is recommended not to put too much stress on their joints. As a general rule of thumb, you can walk your pup the number of minutes of its age in weeks. A 20 week-year-old puppy, for example, could walk for 20 minutes. It is better to walk multiple shorter distances in a day than one long walk. An optimal frequency would be 4 to 5 small strolls a day. For example: for a pup of 12 weeks old, it would be perfect to walk 4 to 5 times for 12 minutes. A small walk is already very tiring for puppies as they continuously take in new stimulants and experiences. While walking your dog you can practice simple obedience exercises, like simple commands as ‘sit’. Changing your walking route is sufficient challenge for your pup. As said before, it requires plenty of energy to process all the new impressions and smells. If you would like to challenge your puppy mentally, then you can order a sniffing mat, which is available on our website.
For obvious reasons, old dogs are not able to walk long distances as young dogs can. To compensate this you can mentally stimulate your dog. Detective work can be a fun alternative to challenge your dog in a different way. Swimming is another good option for your elderly dog as this takes away the burden on joints and muscles. To challenge your older dog at home, you can choose dog toys such as a KONG Wobbler or a sniffing mat.