Benefits of Dog Walking - For Dog and Family. Happy Dog Expert Explains
Written by Patricia Darder, published on April 18, 2023
A walk is one of the most important moments for the emotional and mental balance of a dog. It is also a good source of physical exercise and a playful time for both the dog and its human family. There are numerous benefits of going on walks with your dog, for both of you!
Benefits of walks - for the dog
- It allows dogs to express necessary natural behaviours, such as exploring and sniffing, marking their territory, playing or interacting socially.
- It is a fundamental source of physical exercise and mental stimulation.
- It allows dogs to acquire and maintain awareness of the environment (both objects they come across and other animals).
- It strengthens communication and bonds with the family.
Benefits of walks - for the family
- It benefits your physical and mental health.
- Being out walking encourages social interaction.
- It strengthens communication and the bond with your dog.
A dog should go out of its home environment to walk several times a day. For the walk to be really beneficial for your dog, there are 4 basic objectives;
- First of all, make the walk a playful, fun and positive experience for your dog. For this, we must make sure that from beginning to end, they are perceiving the experience in a positive way.
- Allow your dog to relate appropriately to the environment. That is, promote communication and social contact with the different stimuli of the walk.
- A walk is an ideal time to provide physical activity and mental stimulation for your dog, through sniffing, play and social interaction.
- It is an opportunity for your dog to carry out its toileting needs outside of the house. This purpose is usually the one that is given the most importance, however, for the emotional well-being of your dog, it is the least relevant.
It can be difficult to achieve these goals if, as caregivers, we do not follow specific guidelines; these should be aimed at achieving a balance between the welfare of your dog and the comfort and safety of the family during the walk. It is also interesting to note that, if your usual dog walk is a good quality walk, your dog will behave better indoors, which favours the creation of a harmonious family environment.
Useful tips for dog walks
- Choose a comfortable leash and collar / harness system. Your dog should be comfortable when they walk, run, move or play. Think of the leash and collar as simple safety tools, and choose the lightest and most comfortable option according to the size and energy of your dog.
- Always adopt gentle leash handling. Avoid jerking and systematic tension on the leash, to prevent your dog from establishing negative associations with its surroundings while walking. The softer your leash handling, the more comfortable and confident your dog will be.
- Allow your dog to sniff all they want, and for as long as they want. In this way, they can freely explore the environment and capture all of the available information through sniffing which can regulate their level of arousal.
- Establish communication with your dog while you walk. Indicate changes of direction, ask them to sit when waiting to cross roads, reinforce any good behaviour with words in a positive tone, or reward them every time your dog looks at you or approaches you. You and your dog must be connected during walks in this way, they will come to you every time they are scared or are in a situation that is stressful for them.
- Do not force your dog to go to places that they do not want to. The busy street can sometimes be a stressful or threatening environment for dogs, especially puppies that are just starting out. If we force a dog to pass near a stimulus that does not generate confidence or that scares them, we can run the risk of sensitising the dog to this stimulus that is, making them increasingly fearful of the stimulus.
- Allow your dog to interact with people and dogs if they wish. Social contact is a necessity for dogs, and one of the occasions that they have to express this is during a walk. In addition, it is a good way to maintain the socialisation of your dog since we avoid social isolation and to reduce the probability of reactions due to frustration, often manifested by sudden pulling of the leash or barking.
- Take your dog to woodlands, fields or parks from time to time, and if possible, let them off the leash so they can enjoy running, exploring freely or looking for trails. It will be a good dose of physical and mental stimulation, and you will enjoy yourself too.
- Avoid hyper-stimulated or very noisy environments, such as the city centre at peak times. Your dog will not enjoy these places as much as they will when in other quieter environments and may become frightened or overwhelmed by so many different stimuli. If you have to routinely walk in these areas, try to look for quieter times of the day.
- Encourage appropriate behaviours such as sniffing, walking quietly, or relating properly to other dogs or people by rewarding your dog with praise or gentle strokes. If you reward positive behaviours in this way, your dog will tend to repeat them.
Taking this information into account and adopting these simple guidelines on walks, you will see that your dog responds favourably and behaves appropriately on outings. You can then enjoy each other even more as you go out and about.
Following our expert tips will help to ensure your bond with your dog goes from strength to strength.
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