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.