There are a thousand ways to go for a walk. We will obviously take into account the physical abilities of our dogs. A puppy can walk: 10 minutes if he is 3 months, adding 5 minutes per month of age. An older dog is no longer able to walk as long as before or on uneven surfaces. Each dog needs his walk!
We will also consider the emotional abilities of our dog. If our dog is reactive to horses or cars, we will choose suitable places for 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 outside the relaxing walk.
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 underarms);
- the carabiner clip is attached to the harness so that the clutch is positioned upwards (not towards the back of the dog).
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Scapulae, armpits, throat are free
If we prefer to walk our dog without a leash, let’s keep the leash on until his muscles are warmed up (at least 10 minutes).
Let’s regularly offer our dog new places for his walk (city, forest, parking, 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 under the rain in fall are two different places to rediscover with the nose, but also by touching the ground with the legs. 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 we go there.
Be careful that in very cold or hot weather, pavement 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 sit on a bench, to take a break, and watch the world go by! All the senses in action, seeming to do nothing.
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 abilities… and 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: stares, smells, listens, moves forward a little to see and feel better, and then move on with his walk 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 to stop too. 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 pose any problem (to do his needs or to analyse a blade of grass) and we continue our walk, while our dog is busy, he will feel obliged to catch up with us, without having finished analysing this wonderful smell that had attracted so much 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 verify that this thing is not dangerous: we stayed and did not fled.
It is always helpful to make a hand signal 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 this situation if they are facing something that is too scary for them: they will then become reactive (grunting, barking, throwing themselves forward, trying to flee, …). It is urgent to get our dog out of the situation that overwhelms him: put the necessary distance between our dog and what he cannot manage.
If our dog has become reactive to certain things (non-exhaustive list: trash bag, butterflies, noise, walker, jogger, dogs, horses, planes, cars, …), habituation walks can be organized but it is better to ask the help of a monitor, counsellor or behaviourist who uses non-binding and non-violent 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.
- Relaxing walks and habituation walks: opposite aims / different organisation;
- We need non-coercitive material (long leash and ergonomic harness – armpits, throat et scapulae are free);
- To walk slowly = To allow our dogs to use all their senses;
- To vary the enjoyment;
- Learning to cope safety the difficulties;
- Walking or watching the world go by.