If you’re a dog parent, you are no doubt well aware of the many benefits regular walks with your dogs offer both you and your dog. Sometimes, though, walking your dog may feel like a chore, especially if the weather is less than pleasant or if life is particularly busy.
Despite that, because you’re a diligent doggy mommy or daddy, you probably walk your dog–albeit grudgingly–in even the worst weather and at even the busiest times in your life. If you find yourself occasionally tempted to skip a walk that feels more like a pain than a pleasant pastime, consider these ways to ramp up the enjoyment of your walk, for both you and your dog.
Change Up Your Route
One way combat boredom during your walk is to vary your route. This increases interest and stimulation for both you and your dog. Turn left instead of right. Walk your route in reverse. You might even consider taking the extra time to drive to a new location and explore a local park, nature trail, or nearby neighborhood you don’t frequent.
Completing a route that allows for a loop instead of an out-and-back route can enhance interest for you and your dog. Instead of seeing the same scenery on your way out as you do on your way back, and smelling the same smells on the way out and as on the way back, your entire walk will be novel if the route is a loop.
Use Your Fashion Sense
One of the best pieces of advice for any dog parent struggling to take her dog for a walk in “bad” weather might be this: “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” You can enhance your comfort level during your walk simply by dressing appropriately. If it’s raining, wear a raincoat and rainboots to stay dry. If it’s cold, wear a warm hat, coat, and gloves. If it’s hot and sunny, wear sunscreen and breathable clothing. You are far more likely to enjoy a walk if you are physically comfortable. The same is true for Fido, so make sure he has adequate sweaters, jackets, or booties for all the weather possibilities he may encounter in your area.
Seize the Training Opportunity
One way to keep your mind– as well as your dog’s– engaged during a walk is to practice training commands. Basic commands like “heel,” “stop,” “sit,” and “leave it” are easy to practice during a walk, and can help communicate to your dog that he should listen to these commands in all situations–not just when he is in a training session or class.
You may also consider working on loose leash training, which can result in a safer, more comfortable walk for both you and Bingo.
Use the Right Equipment
As with any activity, using improper equipment can ruin the experience. Make sure you use the best leash, harness, and collar for you, your dog, and your walking situation. For example, if you walk at night, you may want to consider a reflective leash, harness, and collar. If your dog has a bad habit of pulling, a no-pull harness may be in order.
If you plan to practice training during your walk, you might want to consider bringing along a treat pouch to enhance your dog’s focus and motivation, as well as to reduce distractions.
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If you plan to take a long walk or to walk in the heat, be sure to bring water for both you and your dog. If either one of you becomes dehydrated, the walk will be far less enjoyable at best, and dangerous at worst.
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Regardless of where you walk, cleaning up after your dog is the responsible thing to do. Be prepared with poop bags, whether store-bought or reused from your local grocer. Make sure the bags are in good condition, without holes, as a damaged poop bag can definitely make your walk stink!
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Pick the Right Time of Day
Walk when you and your dog will enjoy the experience the most. Consider the weather, temperature, and lighting. For example, walking a husky in the heat of the afternoon may not be as enjoyable as walking him early in the morning, when temperatures might be cooler.
If your dog is social and friendly, you may want to try to walk him at times during the day when you have noticed other people and dogs out and about, to enhance his opportunity to socialize. Contrastingly, if your dog is reactive or dog aggressive, you may want to walk during a time of day when fewer people and dogs are out, such as early in the morning or after dark, to reduce his odds of having a dangerous run-in and your odds of experiencing anxiety.
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Pick the Right Place
Choosing the optimal location for your walk can be just as important as choosing the right time of day. If your dog chases cars, for example, avoid busy roads to spare him the danger and you the stress. If your dog is afraid of bikes, avoid places where cyclists often ride. If your dog is afraid of loud noises, opt for a quiet neighborhood or a wooded trail. If your dog is social and friendly, try to find a route that maximizes his opportunities to interact with other dogs. Seeing your dog happy can often make you very happy, as well, and finding a route that minimizes dangers and stressors while maximizing opportunities for positive experiences will make the walk a better one for you both.
If you and your dog enjoy company, consider improving the quality of your walk by inviting a buddy–human or canine–along for the stroll. A beloved human friend can offer your dog some excitement, and give you a conversation partner. A beloved canine friend can offer your dog some companionship and camaraderie, as well as a chance to engage in some good old fashioned dog talk.
If you and your dog do better when it’s just the two of you, talk to your dog. The sound of your voice is soothing to your dog and gives him the sense that you are paying attention to him. In addition, studies have shown that people who have dogs feel the same sense of companionship regarding their dog as they do regarding their human friends–so consider talking to your dog the same as talking to your best friend.
Finally, think of your dog walk as a way to meet and get to know your neighbors. Talk to the people you see out for runs, riding their bikes, getting their mail, mowing their lawns, washing their cars, or playing basketball in their driveways.
We can learn a lot from our dog’s enjoyment of a walk, including how to live in the moment. As you walk along, enhance your enjoyment of the walk by making a conscious effort to appreciate nature, relax, and be present in the moment. Instead of worrying over the day’s frustrations, ruminating on your to-do list, or rehashing that conversation you had at lunch, take a cue from your dog’s uninhibited joy at being out for a walk. Take deep breaths. Note the warmth of the sunshine on your skin in the spring or the crispness of a cool breeze in the fall. Savor the sound of the wind in the trees, the smile of a neighbor jogging by, the sound of your footfalls on the pavement.
Maximize Your Walk’s Workout Potential
If you want to improve the workout-worth of your walk, there are many things you can do to ramp up the fitness results of a walk with your dog. For example, get your heart rate up by marching or doing high knees instead of just walking. If you’d rather be a little less conspicuous, you can ramp up the intensity level of your walk by wearing ankle or wrist weights. When your dog stops to do his business, you don’t have to stop, too; instead, do calf lifts or march in place.
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Support Your Favorite Shelter
One way to help motivate you to keep walking may be to know that with every step you and Bingo take, you’re helping to support an animal in need. Download the Walk For A Dog App by Wooftrax and support a shelter with each step. The app tracks the distance and duration of each walk you and your dog enjoy and donates a certain amount of money to a shelter of your choosing at regular intervals.