How to Make the Most of Your Walks

training tips walking Apr 09, 2024
Woman walking doodle puppy on sidewalk in front of dock on lake

Walking dogs is an essential part of dog ownership. The reasons why we walk our dogs may vary, though. For some, we do it out of habit. For others, its an attempt to meet our dogs' exercise needs or address behavior issues that appear to stem from excess energy.

No matter the reason that drives us to get out, walks often end up looking like this - we put a harness or collar on the dog and allow them to pull us at their chosen pace, towards things that they find interesting, along a pre-designated loop that they walk everyday. They know exactly where they're headed before they even walk out the door. They know how long the walk will be, they know exactly which neighborhood dogs they'll smell along the way, which fence lines they'll walk past, which parks they'll pass, etc.

We dedicate so much time to these walks, yet we don't capitalize on their potential as training opportunities. One of the common concerns we hear from potential clients is that they want to get the most out of training, but they're worried that they won't have enough time to dedicate to training sessions. Most of these same clients walk their dogs upwards of 2 to 3 times per day in an attempt to manage problematic behavior. Luckily for them, and for you, there are many small changes you can make to your walks to turn them into training opportunities and get more out of time you're already dedicating to your dogs!

Here are five simple ways that you can make the most out of your walks:

  1. Bring your dog's food along! 
    Instead of feeding your dog out of a bowl, throw their meal in a treat pouch and bring it along on your walk. Reward your dog for engagement and eye contact, throw in some training, lure them onto playground equipment, scatter some food in grass and allow your dog to search it out using their nose... the options for how to utilize food on your walks are truly endless!
  2. Make your walks more dynamic!
    If your dog knows exactly where they're going, they don't have any reason to pay attention to you. Make walks more interesting by changing up your route, changing the pace at which you walk, changing direction in the middle of the sidewalk, etc. Every time you do something unexpected, your dog will have to look to you for guidance. You can also make your walk more dynamic by changing up your walking style. Alternate between a loose leash walk, heel, and a relaxed flexi walk. Shifting gears like this will not only force your dog to use their brain, but it will also allow them more freedom at times than they might otherwise have on walks if you normally keep a tight rein on them.
  3. Stop along the way for a training or play session - or combine them! 
    Walks don't have to be just for walking! Pausing along the way at a park, parking lot, or cul-de-sac can be a great way to break up your walk. During these stops, consider running through some position changes, practicing tricks, or throwing in some recalls. If you bring a toy along on your walk, stopping for a quick play session can be a great way to add some fun, work through reactivity, or help your dog get comfortable in an environment that otherwise stresses them out. Bonus points if you combine training with play by using a toy as a reward for some obedience work!
  4. Make use of obstacles along the way!
    Get creative on your walks! So often we restrict dogs to walking on the sidewalk and the first foot or two of grass on either side. Next time you go out for a walk, take note of objects that your dog could climb on or traverse. Low brick wall that your dog could walk along? Playground equipment they could climb on? Metal grate that they could walk across? Bench that they could practice positions on? All perfect opportunities for building confidence and pushing your dog's training to the next level!
  5. Walk with a friend!
    Want to challenge your dog? Go on a walk with a dog friend. Practice walking alongside the other dog and handler, walking in front, walking behind, etc. Even if your dog normally heels beautifully or walks nicely on a loose leash, adding a dog distraction in close proximity may be difficult for them. If you take your time and work through the distraction, your dog will be much better off as a result! There are few traits more desirable in a dog than neutrality. Don't have any dog friends to practice with? Come out to group class! This is exactly what our group classes are intended to help with.

Walking your dog should be an enjoyable activity. Why not also make walks productive?! We hope these tips will help you get the most out of time you're already spending walking your dog. And if you need more help with making walks manageable, make sure to check out our training programs and online courses! No matter your dog's age, breed, or temperament, we can help you live an optimal life together.



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