There are many ways to go for a walk and we will obviously take into account the physical abilities of our dogs. At 3 months a puppy can walk for 10 minutes a day, we then add 5 minutes each month until the age of +/- 6 months. An older dog is no longer able to walk as long as before or on uneven surfaces. Let’s take into account each and every dog’s abilities!
We will also consider the emotional needs of our dog. If our dog is reactive to horses or cars, we will choose suitable places for our walks (without horses / cars) if our goal is to offer a relaxing and exploratory trip. The exercises to accustom our dog to something are to be organized separately to these relaxed walks.
It is important that the equipment be adapted to our dog:
- the leash must be long enough to allow the dog to discover his surroundings: 3 meters minimum. A training session can be helpful before using a long leash with our dog;
- the harness must respect his morphology (throat, scapula and armpits);
- the clip is attached to the harness so that the snap is positioned upwards (not towards the back of the dog).
- Why use a harness? More info ->
Scapulae, armpits and throat are free
If we prefer to walk our dog without a leash, it is a good idea to keep the leash on until his muscles have warmed up (at least 10 minutes).
Let’s regularly offer our dog new places for his walk (city, forest, parking lots, building sites, …), and keep in mind that, depending on the weather or the season, these places have a different smell and set-up.
A field freshly cut during spring or the same field in the rain in fall are two different places to “re”discover with the nose and also through his paws. The children’s school rhythm is also an example of a change of atmosphere in a neighborhood or a village, depending on the time of the day or the time of the year.
Be careful that in very cold or hot weather, pavements can be irritating for the pads (frozen sidewalks or burning tarmac for example).
Going for walks together, just the two of us, or sharing it with other people and / or other dogs, is also an option for a pleasant change.
Why not take a break and sit on a bench to watch the world go by!, Doing nothing and yet doing so much with every sense in motion
Those who cope
During these walks, our dog has learned to face new sensations, new situations, new objects, … All these victories build his confidence in his own abilities… and his trust in us.
If the goal of the walk is to explore, the pace of the walk has to be very slow. Let’s watch our dog as he explores, observes , smells, listens, moves forward a little to see and smell better, and then moves on with his walk – we do all this at this pace. The more we walk slowly, the more we let our dog take his time to explore and discover the world.
When our dog stops, it is important that we stop as well. The message we give him when we stop is “I will wait for you, take your time”. If our dog has stopped for something that does not worry him (eg to toilet or to inspect a blade of grass) and we continue our walk, whilst he is busy, he will feel obliged to catch up with us, without having finished analysing this wonderful smell that had attracted so much of his attention.
Our dog will also stop to observe (with all his senses) something that raises his curiosity or scares him. By stopping, we give him the time he needs to check that there is no danger and we stayed and did not flee the situation either.
It is always helpful to make a hand signal (il faut un “lien”au signe de la main ici) especially if our dog seems hesitant.
Those who do not cope
It is important to be aware that some dogs will not be able to handle something that is too scary for them: they will then become reactive (growling, barking, lunging, trying to flee, …). It is urgent to get our dog out of the situation that overwhelms him and to put the necessary distance between him and what he is not coping with.
If our dog has become reactive to certain things (such as rubbish bags, butterflies, noise, walkers, joggers, dogs, horses, planes, cars, …), habituation walks can be organized but it is better to ask the help of a trainer, counsellor or behaviourist who only uses positive reinforcement methods
The criteria for a habituation walk are:
- a few minutes,
- at a sufficient distance from the difficulty (each dog has his own safety distance),
- in a secure environment,
- ends on a positive note,
- respects the evolution of our dog.
LET’S KEEP IN MIND that :
- Relaxing walks and challenging walks have opposite objectives, they require a different organization;
- We use force-free equipment (long leash and harness adapted to our dog’s morphology – armpits, throat and shoulders free);
- We walk slowly = allowing our dog to use all his senses;
- We should have plenty of variety;
- Our dog needs to learn to how he can overcome challenges, whilst feeling safe;
- We can go for a walk and/or watch the world go by.