Friday, February 18, 2011

Birds Fly, Fish Swim, Dogs Walk!

Walking is one of the most important activities you do with your dog. I'd even go so far to say if you don't want to walk everyday, you probably shouldn't have a dog!

Walking for a dog is primal. It's what they do and they love doing it. And you can too! Walking can be a special bonding time with your dog. It's a chance to get out and meet your neighbours and also to meet other dogs in the area. And it is great exercise for us and our dogs.

You should aim for 2 or 3 walks a day for at least 30 minutes (this can and will vary depending on the breed, size, age and the energy level of your dog). Imagine sitting at home for 7 to 9 hours a day with nothing to do. On average that's what we ask our dogs to do every single day. We owe it to them to get out of the house every morning for a good walk to relieve themselves and burn off some energy. In turn when it's time for you to go to work, they will be ready to settle down and rest. In nature, dogs migrate, hunt, eat and then rest or play. So go for a walk first and then feed when you get back home. You will fulfill your dog's instinct of working for his food and he will naturally settle down after.

And after a long day of waiting for you, the best reward you can give your dog is a good walk when you get home from work! This is a great time for all family members to get together and walk as a pack. If you have had a stressful or tiring day, this walk will clear your mind and energize you for the evening ahead. And again walk first, feed after and your pooch will be ready to settle down while you go about your evening chores or activities.

If your dog is very high energy you will have to step it up on your walks. During your walk you can do some training exercises (sit, stay, heel). Or go around trees, guide them to jump up on rocks, picnic tables or benches. Next time you go for a walk, look around and think about what you can use to stimulate your dog mentally as well as physically. You can also bike or rollerblade with your dog to burn even more energy. Please use common sense if you've worked your dog very hard during your walk and give them time to calm down before feeding. I highly recommend educating yourself on the subject of "Bloat" in dogs.

Dogs love routine but also need variety so change it up. Do your favourite route backwards or walk down the opposite side of the street (there are different smells there). Have a few routes to choose from so that neither of you get bored. Take your dog to dog parks, trails and even downtown or around other neighbourhoods. Going somewhere new is as exciting for your dog as it is for you, especially if it includes a ride in the car!

Wherever you do walk, make sure you keep your dog on the opposite side of traffic at all times. A six foot leash is the best as it gives your dog room to explore but also gives you control when you need it. Ideally you want your dog to walk either beside you or behind you. Stay tuned for tips on "Loose Leash Walking".

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