Walk This Way Week 1

Types of Walks

Humans and dogs experience the world in different ways but each benefits from the exploration equally.  When on a walk, humans take in the world first by sight than sound, touch, smell, and taste.  Dogs, on the other hand, will start with the smell, linger there for a while, and then move onto sight, sound, touch, and taste.  Sadly, humans primarily focus on their own experience putting very little thought into that of their canine companion.  By improving our dog’s walk we will also be enhancing the walk for ourselves and, more importantly, our relationship with our dog.  Walks with your dog should be for mental enrichment, physical exercise, acclimation to new environments, and practicing safety skills.  They are meant to improve health, mentally and physically, for both species.

If a dog is fearful, anxious, or otherwise stressed on a walk it is not considered healthy.  This negative experience for the dog can travel up the leash to the human making it an undesirable experience for both.  I consider each handler and dog pair as a team and when one gets frustrated it doesn’t take long for the other to join them.  This can be avoided by ensuring that the needs of each team member are being met and communication is clear.

Signs your dog may be stressed on a walk: barking, whining or lunging at people, dogs or other stimuli, hypervigilant, walking on a tense leash, tail is tucked or held high and rigid, refusing to move, trembling, trying to hide or run away, unable to respond to trained cue’s, hackles raised, and may not take food.

There are various adventures that you and your dog can go on together and each have a different effect on your dog’s well-being.  Let’s take a look at each of these outings to ensure that you get the maximum benefit from your regimen.

Decompression Walk– Take a nature walk with your dog!  Get out and explore a natural environment like hiking in the woods, rummaging through fields, or combing the beach.  These walks are best-had off-leash or on a long line so your dog has plenty of freedom to explore at their natural pace.  These outings can be for just you and your dog or you can invite friends along to join you.  The overall goal of the walk is to go until your dog is visibly relaxed and then continue going for at least another 30 minutes.  These walks should take place 5-7 days a week.

Urban Decompression Walk– These are designed for the city dogs that cannot access nature easily.  I encourage you to get out and explore your city.  Find an area that is less populated than the rest and walk it off-leash (if safe) or on a long line so that your dog can explore it at their natural pace.  These outings can be for just you and your dog or you can invite friends along to join you.  The overall goal of the walk is to go until your dog is visibly relaxed and then continue going for at least another 30 minutes. These walks should take place 5-7 days a week.

Traffic Walk– High traffic areas such as neighborhoods, city parks, or downtown are great for acclimating your dog to different environments, getting them used to sudden environmental changes, and practicing safety skills.  The dog should be practicing their loose leash walking skills and be on a 4-6 ft. leash.  As these walks can be overwhelming on the senses they are ideal only a few times a week, or less.

Training Walk– This is an outing specifically to work on training skills, engagement, or behavior modification plans.  The goal of this walk is to meet a specific training goal rather than a distance or duration goal. They can take place anywhere that is appropriate for your specific training goal and are ideal 1-3 times per week.

This video demonstrates both a traffic walk and training walk: