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Walks serve a greater purpose than a potty break and way to burn off a little extra energy. They also serve as a form of socialization and mental stimulation, and they have the power to positively impact a dog’s
emotional state, behavior and bond with people.
Incorporating a few additions to your walk can have a big impact. Here are five ways to help unleash the full potential of your dog’s walk:
Instead of rushing through your walk, allow your dog time to sort through interesting smells he discovers. For
senior canines or those with limited mobility, the activity can allow enrichment without needing to cover much ground.
Just what kind of smells can interest a dog? One popular activity is checking their "
pee mail" (other dogs' eliminations) and leaving behind their own messages. When a
dog sniffs a spot, he is figuring out the history and current state of the area, including information like who has been there, what they were doing and where they went.
We may not understand what’s so intriguing about certain smells, like
animal droppings in the grass. But finding such smells is part of being a fulfilled dog. Allowing your dog to sniff provides mental stimulation and can even calm him in the process. Of course, not all walks are opportune for long bouts of sniffing. But providing some opportunities to stop and smell the roses (or fire hydrant) is important.
Many dogs may
ignore the person on the other end of the leash because in the moment, their surroundings are more interesting than their human. But one of the precursors to a dog’s inattention can be the distraction and disconnect of his human. When a person is on a cell phone, talking to someone else or mentally elsewhere, important moments can be missed.
If your dog engages and the moment of connection is missed, such as giving you
eye contact or orienting to be closer to you, these
rewardable moments can go unreinforced and subsequently become more infrequent. Being present with your dog, free of distractions, is essential for expecting the same from your pooch.
Once you're engaged, getting your dog’s attention can become easier by rewarding moments of focus and therefore adding interest to the walk.
One way to engage your
dog is by occasionally changing directions. Use a word like "turn" to inform your pooch you’re moving a different way, then slowly turn and reward your dog when he catches up at your side. Additionally, reward any moment when your dog is looking in your direction or giving eye contact. This can increase your dog's willingness to check in with you.
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