Do you really need to walk your dog daily?

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Do all dogs need to be walked every day? Niki French, dog trainer and founder of Pup Talk, weighs in…

Walking a dog every day is essential if you have a dog, right? Most of the time – yes absolutely. But there are instances where it might not be the right thing to do.

Are daily walks right for all dogs?
Most dogs love their walks. Time outside the home is often the most interesting and stimulating part of our dog’s day. Physical and mental exercise is essential for all dogs and if your dog is confident and happy, a walk or park time is one of the best ways to do this.But if you have a dog that struggles in the outside world, daily walks might actually make life harder for your dog (and for you).

Constantly exposing a dog to situations where they feel nervous or anxious and get reactive in, is not a good idea. For example, if your dog feels the need to bark and lunge at dogs or strangers and they do this on 50% or more of your walks, they are getting more practised at this behaviour. They are reacting because of how the situation is making them feel.

The aim is a calm and gently tired dog after a walk; not an exhausted, overtired one

Why are daily walks so beneficial?
There are so many benefits to daily walks with your dog:

  •       Physical exercise to keep their bodies fit, strong and supple. It also helps to maintain a lean and healthy weight.
  •       Opportunities for sniffing and exploring generally means calmer happier dogs, the rest of the time at home.
  •       Dogs that don’t get enough physical and mental exercise and enrichment can become more destructive around the home and garden. They have needs that are not being met, therefore they have to do something else!
  •       Boosting your relationship with your dog. They are having a good time and it’s associated with you.
  •       Your mental and physical health – being with your dog, preferably in nature, can decrease your stress and lower your blood pressure as well as keeping you active every day.

The aim is a calm and gently tired dog after a walk; not an exhausted, overtired one. Note: Repetitive ball throwing can raise levels of adrenaline and actually make some dogs more hyper-active at home. Plus it is not recommended due to increased wear and tear on their joints, potential arthritis, and risk of injuries.

Why wouldn’t you walk your dog?
Although the sights, sounds and smells in the outside world are wonderful for most dogs, there are times when it might not be the best thing to do. The most obvious one is when it’s too hot to walk them safely. Having a range of games and activities to do at home indoors or in the shade.

Dogs with flat faces (brachycephalic), black fur, thick coats, elderly and bigger breeds are even more at risk of heatstroke. It comes on suddenly and can be fatal. Please don’t take the risk. What about other weather extremes – snow and ice, or even if your dog hates the rain?

Some dogs really struggle in the outside world. They might be barking and lunging at something or cowering and flattening to the floor. This is most likely coming from being worry or fear (even if they look ‘aggressive’) and regularly exposing them to scary things tends to make it worse. It’s not just a case of ‘oh they’ll get used to it.’

There are so many fun activities and training games that you can play at home with your dog

What if you’re physically unable to walk your dog as much as normal, and you’re struggling to get help? Having some activities you can do with your dog at home can be so helpful.

If you’ve got a bitch in season, replacing walks with some activities at home is a great idea too. She might be feeling anxious, or amorous due to hormones. Either way, even on-lead walks can be more of a challenge. Even dogs that are very over-excitable can benefit from less, rather than more walks.

Playing training games at home that involve their brain, their nose and focusing on you can help them grow the skills they need to not get so excited when they do go out.

What can you do if daily walks aren’t possible or beneficial? There are so many fun activities and training games that you can play at home with your dog. Make a treasure trail by hiding treats or a toy. Start simple and help them ‘find it’. You can increase the difficulty as they get better at the game.

Make a homemade ‘snuffle mat’ by scattering some of your dog’s food on an old towel and scrunch up so that the food is nestling in the folds. Release your dog to the towel to forage for their breakfast or dinner.

Working on basics like Sit, Down and Stand. Mix up the order of the cues; dogs are often predicting what they think we want, or they want to do, instead of listening to verbal or visual cues. If that’s too easy, add in other tricks, like left and right spins. These are all great for a full-body workout without chasing around.Get help from an experienced dog trainer or behaviourist for more ideas that are right for your dog.

This is a guest essay by Niki French. Want to write for us? Visit www.dogstodaymagazine.co.uk/essay-submission or email editorial@dogstodaymagazine.co.uk.

6 COMMENTS

  1. I have a dog that is is reactive 100% of the time when out walks.If she even smells another dog in the vicinity she gets stressed.I have to take her out when its quiet ie.less dogs about.If i see one i hide out if the way until that dog is out if sight.If we happen to engage with a dog she goes absolutely berserk ,barking lunging and in a complete world of her own.At those times she usually comes home exhausted with the behaviour and the stress.Its a dilemma as i know she loves her walks .I try for a walk every day but sometimes every other day depending on time of the year.Summer is worse as there are mire dogs about.On lead but worst of all off lead.Its not pleasant for either my little dog or myself.I think we end up both as stressed as each other some of the time.

  2. Sorry, it if you have a few give dog, surely, as responsible dog owners, it’s your responsible responsibility to train him or her to stop. You have to find out why it’s being reactive. Is it fear? Why is it frightened? What happened etc! If a dog is nervous on a walk, find somewhere quieter to walk them! i had all these issues when I got my rehomed dog. I’ve worked with him and now he really enjoys his walks. He is wary of bigger dogs, it we just avoid them.
    Those of us who live in apartments done have the luxury of a garden. So even if it’s just a loo break, they still have to have a walk. As the owners, it is our responsibility to make sure they are happy and healthy and enjoy going out. If a problem arises, we have to sort it out and train them or get help. It annoys me when people walk past me and allow their reactive dogs to bark at mine and either laugh or just do nothing.

  3. I had a reactive dog and we would walk undercover of Darkness. If we did come across another dog we would do a u turn if possible , hide behind a car or hedge or go up a long driveway. I would treat like crazy when the other dog was nearby.

  4. I think a daily walk is a cheap and easy way of ‘entertaining’ a dog. A little bit like sitting a young child in front of the tv, or sitting on a bench whilst he plays in the play park. No harm as an occasional activity, but some people seem to rely on ‘the daily walk’ as a dog’s only source of enrichment. Is it really enough? Particularly when it is paired to a human then going off to work and leaving his dog at home.
    I think we overegg the importance of a walk providing fitness. In any case, how fit does a sedentary, pet dog need to be? Any more than an office worker needs to go running to be able to do his job.
    The majority of dogs, I would suggest would be infinitely better served mentally and physically with an occasional road walk, an occasional romp in the park, an occasional visit to a sole use paddock, a regular class/acitivity of interest and appropriate to the particular breed specifics and, most important of all a guardian who is present and attentive for much or most of the time.

  5. Sorry, but regularly exposing a dog to something they hate doesn’t make it worse it makes them better. You’re passing on human emotion and anxiety onto your dog. I had a very reactive dog to everything so I simply overexposed her. She is perfect with everything now, from people to loud vehicles passing and this has been done through overexposure.
    The problem we do is pass on our own worries instead of reassuring a dog that’s its ok. This is done through overexposure of the situation. Also having the correct leads and collars is essential for this. Most dogs lunge as they are on the wrong lead/harness and usually held by someone who doesn’t represent pack leader status and probably wearing flip flops.
    There are some great tips in this article so please don’t take my criticism to heart, just from my own personal experience of working with rescues and disabled dogs not exposing a dog to their fears is not great advice. Especially when we start to humanise a dogs emotions.

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