Walking your dog day in and day out can get b-o-r-i-n-g. We’ve got five simple ways to make your dog’s walk more fun – for both of you!
Dogs need to go for walks, no question about it. Not only do your daily walks help your dog get proper exercise, they also offer the perfect opportunity for the two of you to bond and spend some quality time together.
Walks aren’t only for the body. Walks stimulate your dog’s senses and give them a mental workout at the same time. Plus, potty breaks.
Got a large fenced yard? You dog still needs the benefits a leashed walk with their favorite human can provide.
No two experts have the exact same recommendations, but some agree that most dogs need at minimum two 20-30 min. walks per day. Of course, this will depend on your dog’s breed, health conditions and age. Some high-energy dogs (like Australian Shepherds) will need a lot more exercise and some lower-energy dogs (like Bassett Hounds) will need less.
Puppies have a lot more energy than adult dogs, but because they are still in the developmental stage, they should have several shorter walks throughout the day instead of one long walk. And your senior canine companion? They will probably be more interested in a rambling stroll than a quick paced walk. But seniors definitely need to keep active. You know your dog best, so just watch and see how much exercise is appropriate for your best friend.
If you’re anything like me, walking day after day on the same route, at the same time, doing the same things can get tedious. Boredom can set in and possibly entice you to skip the walk altogether.
That’s why Chloe and I have come up with five simple ways you and your dog can spice up your walking routine.
Before we get in to what we do, let me just mention the obvious ways you can make things more interesting on your dog walks. Add them to your repertoire and see what happens:
- Change up your normal route. Walk it backwards, cross-streets, cut across fields, drive to a new neighborhood, walk at a school or park, etc.
- Walk at a different time of day. Late evening walks can be full of new smells, sights and sounds.
- Walk with a friend, with or without another dog if your pup is okay with that.
- Bring a bag and pick up trash. Your dog will be very curious.
We do all of the above as well to make our dog walk more fun. And the five ideas below?
- They help keep your dog balanced and focused and using those brains. Mental stimulation will tire out a dog almost as much as physical exercise.
- They increase the bond and trust between the two of you.
- And they help YOU by keeping your dog walks intentional. You’ll get the benefit of slowing down, breathing deep and tuning in to your surroundings.
- Plus help build YOUR confidence as a calm, loving leader for your dog.
1. “I’m Leading”
Chloe and I alternate between this and the next idea. All dogs need to be able to walk on a loose leash comfortably, allowing you to lead. So many time, we unconsciously allow our dogs to pull ahead, out in front and in the open.
Seriously, it’s easy to do that, right? We just kinda zone out and follow our dog’s lead. Especially if they like to pull, it takes effort to reign it in. But out front, our dogs feel the need to be on the lookout, assessing the situation and the environment and making decisions they are just not competent enough to make.
Have your dog practice loose leash walking beside you. Tell your dog “I’m leading now” and have them maintain their place next to you. Reward generously with treats and praise when they stay beside you. Remind them you’re leading if they speed ahead. You can do this with a quick 180 degree turn and begin walking in the opposite direction. Then reward like a slot machine with treats and praise when they are by your side.
When you do this exercise, you are telling your dog that you’ve got them. This lets them know that you are in charge and are looking out for their well-being. You are in front as the loving leader. When you act calmly in a potentially scary situation (noisy machinery or a larger barking dog) you are sending that energy down the leash. Your doggo’s trust will skyrocket.
2. “Go Sniff”
Walks aren’t all about obedience, though. And it’s not all about hurry, hurry, hurry. Your dog needs some freedom to do what dogs do best – explore their environment and learn about it. Sniffing is the word to make your dog walk more fun.
When we’ve walked a bit side by side, and we’re in a good area for it, I let Chloe know it’s okay for her to take the lead now. “Go Sniff” is a good cue for us. Now it’s my time to follow her around.
Let your dog take her time and follow her nose. If you have a doggo who isn’t in to sniffing, you can try scattering a handful or treats or kibble on the grass. That should encourage them to put nose to the grindstone!
Little dogs often don’t have much interest in exploring. Sometimes that’s because they’ve never had the experience! Just allow them time to figure it out on their own. This is their time to be large and in charge.
Believe it or not, your dog is paying attention. To YOU. They get it that you are following along (they are pack animals, after all) and doing things with them they like to do.
3. Practice Some Tricks
Walks are perfect opportunities to practice any obedience commands or tricks that your dog knows. (Don’t know any? Time to learn some!)
Walk, walk, walk. “Sit!” Walk, walk, walk. “Down!” Walk, walk, walk. “Spin.”
You get the picture. Being able to perform cues outdoors with a myriad of distractions helps your dog to refine their focus and pay attention.
4. Outdoor Agility
…or you could say working those large muscle groups! Find objects on your walk your dog can practice jumping over, climbing, walking on, going under. Safety first, but things like park benches, fallen logs, low walls, etc, can easily make your dog walk more fun.
5. Just Be
“But I thought I was walking the dog to get some exercise?” Yes, you are. But walks for your dog are more than that. Our society has taught us that everything needs to be done at top speed. Get it done. Just do it.
Your dog probably feels the speed of your lifestyle, too. Dogs, however, if given the chance, will love to stop. And just be. To sit, quietly and watch the world go by.
Try and find a restful spot on your daily walk. Maybe it’s by a stream. Maybe it’s on a park bench. Perhaps it’s leaning on a neighbor’s fence and chatting with them for a few moments. Ask your dog to just sit and relax and take in the scenery.
This is YOUR time to unplug and recharge. Take a moment. Listen to the wind or the birds. Smell the fresh cut grass. Feel the breeze. This is your walk, too.
Our quick-start walking routine…
Variety is the spice of life, but here’s a quick view of how we like to make our dog walk more fun.
One word on potty breaks: don’t rush them. I like to see if Chloe will potty at our own yard before we begin our walk. Y’know, better than carrying a poop bag. So give your dog a minute to see if they can get the job done before you take off. No big deal if it doesn’t happen. Some dogs need to move a bit before they’re ready.
- Begin with “I’m Leading.” Gives you both the clear direction that YOU are in charge for now. Walking together as a ‘pack’ gets your dog’s mind and body in rhythm and takes the decision-making process off her shoulders.
- As soon as we reach a safe, open area, I have Chloe sit and then I tell her “Go Sniff.” Now she knows she can take the lead and I’ll follow wherever she chooses. Allow your dog some time here. Don’t let them pull you but keep up with them.
- After Chloe’s had some sniff time, we move back to “I’m Leading” and we pick up the pace. Dogs like to move along at a brisk speed and Chloe thinks I’m too slow. Moving together as a unit helps her refocus on the two of us. Throw in some obedience commands and tricks every so often. Keep your dog guessing what you’ll ask next and when you’ll pause for a moment for a sit-stay or a trick.
- Start looking for some Outdoor Agility objects to use.
- At the halfway point, we do another “Go Sniff” or take a long break to enjoy the view and do nothing.
- Heading back is a great time to do “I’m Leading.” Chloe pretty much knows when we’re heading back. If we’ve done it right and she’s used up a lot of physical and mental energy, she’s very happy to walk along with me.
And there you have it – five ways to spice up your daily dog walks. Try them and see how much more fun you can have together.
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