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The art of dog walking - A guide to successful walks

Updated: Mar 3


I was out with my dog Bailey today and we were enjoying some quiet time in the field, he was having a great time chasing a ball and sniffing for mice (his absolute favourite thing to do - unless there's a squirrel about...), and it got me thinking about the how's, why's and what's of walking our dogs.


I have 2 dogs and they both need completely different walks.


Walking our dogs shouldn't be just another chore, a quick stomp around the field, a whizz around the block, or if you have a dog that struggles with reactivity, a furtive walk trying to avoid everyone and everything and coming home stressed and frazzled (both you and your dog). Taking your dog for a walk is a chance to bond and have fun with your dog as well as give them an outlet to burn off energy and, most important of all sniff.


So here's a basic guide to the how's, why's and what's of successful dog walking. This is not a guide for dogs who suffer from reactivity/anxiety, I'll cover the basics for them in another blog.


  1. The How


Lead etiquette : Use a sturdy lead while ensuring it is the appropriate length for your dog's size and behaviour. Practice loose lead walking to prevent pulling and promote a relaxed stroll. Invest in a well-fitted, comfy harness with a front clip on the chest and avoid harnesses that tighten and pinch if your dog pulls.


Exploration time: Allow your dog time to mooch, sniff and even choose the route. Try to allow enough time so that you aren't stressed and rushing to get home. Sniffing is crucial to a dog's mental well-being and allows them to gather information about their environment.


Engagement: Encouraging your dog to 'check in' with you by rewarding them when they do will help create a 'conversation' between you both and ensure you are walking together as a team.


Breathe: Stopping to allow you and your dog to take in the environment together is a great way to calm things down, reconnect with your dog and take in the scenery.


Have fun: Playing with your dog on a walk is a great way to engage and have fun together. A game of chase, fetch or find the treat/toy, exploring new places/holes/leaf piles, depending on your dog's age and physical ability.


Responsibility: If your dog has poor or patchy recall then using a long line is imperative for safety. As an owner, it is your responsibility to ensure both the safety of your dog and others.


Consideration: Be considerate to other walkers, do not allow your dog to run up to people or dogs, pick up after your dog and shut gates behind you, and keep your dog on a lead around livestock.


2. Why?


Physical exercise: Regular walks provide essential physical exercise, keeping your dog healthy and preventing obesity. The intensity and duration will depend on your dog's age, breed and health.


Mental stimulation: Dogs need mental stimulation as much as physical exercise. Exploring new scents and environments engaged their minds preventing boredom.


Socialisation: Encountering other dogs and people helps your dog become more socialised, reducing the likelihood of behavioural issues.

3. What?


Varied routes: Keep walks interesting by changing where you go. This prevents monotony and keeps life interesting.


Interactive Toys: Bring along some interactive toys and treats for a mini-training session mid-walk. This will add an extra layer of engagement.


Weather: Adjust the length of the walk based on the weather and your dog's breed. In extreme heat or cold be mindful of your dog's safety and avoid walking if the weather is unsuitable.


4. When not to walk your dog


Anxious dogs: If your dog shows signs of extreme anxiety when out on a walk or at the sight of their lead such as hiding, shaking, excessive panting, lip licking or 'whale eye' then do not force them out, after all a walk is meant to be fun, not terrifying.


Reactive dogs: If your dog is reactive to other dogs or stimulation then they will benefit from being walked in quiet times of the day in secluded areas, or alternatives to walks such as play and enrichment at home and in the garden.


Older dogs: If you have an elderly dog who struggles, and is stiff or limping then they may find walks painful. Do not drag your dog out if they are lagging behind and struggling to keep up. Shorter walks or just a plod up the road may be sufficient.


As a dog behaviourist, I can assist with helping you build a tailored walking routine for you and your dog. Please reach out if you need support.






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