Does My Dog Need to be Walked Daily?

State of Mind Matters

Walking should be a calmness activity for the dog, but unfortunately for many dogs, going for a walk creates overarousal. Depending on the dog, this over-arousal may be in the form pulling, lunging, whining and/or barking, as a result of over-excitement, frustration, lack of impulse control, hypervigilance, anxiety or fear. These are all unhealthy states of mind for your dog to be in, and continuing to walk a dog in this state of mind and displaying these behaviours, only serves to reinforce and strengthen this state of mind and behaviour.

 

Your dog’s walk starts from the moment you start getting ready for the walk. If your dog starts to jump around and whine when they see you put on your walking shoes, or when you get their lead out, and you proceed with getting them on the lead, then allow them to drag you through the front door, you have already set the tone of the walk, before you even leave the yard. You have reinforced that over-excited, demanding behaviour gets the reward of going for a walk, and you have reinforced that pulling on the lead and not listening or engaging with you gets them out of the door.

 

As we then proceed with the walk, we then continue to reinforce that pulling works, because when they pull, they succeed in getting to where they want to go and sniff what they want to sniff. We continue to let them practice ignoring us and allow them to learn that the environment and its distractions are way more valuable and rewarding than us. We also continue reinforce the unhealthy, over-aroused state of mind that the dog is in.

 

Going for a walk should be a time of calm and enjoyment for both you and you dog. We often hear of owners taking their high-energy dog for a walk to try and wear them out, only to come home and be left with a dog that is still jumping off the walls. They then feel like they need to take their dog for another walk, or walk for longer next time. Walking the over-aroused dog is going to provide very little benefit if you continue to walk them with this behaviour.

 

Is your dog a Reactive Rover?

In the absence of understanding how to train a reactive dog, if you have the dog that is highly reactive on the lead (for example, the dog that barks, lunges, or shows aggression towards other dogs, people or vehicles), continuing to walk this dog in areas that exposes them to their triggers is only going to allow them to keep practicing and strengthening this reactivity.

 

But my dog is a nightmare to live with if I don’t walk it every day!

This is a common misconception amongst dog owners. Now, we are not saying to stop walking your dog, leave them in the yard and do nothing with them. But if you have a leash reactive dog, or even just a dog that pulls like a freight train and walking them has become the most dreaded part of your day, the good news is, is that you can stop walking your dog, PLUS at the same time have a calmer, more effectively exhausted dog.

 

If you are currently, for example, taking 30 minutes out of your day to go on that stressful walk that you feel you need to, instead of going for that walk that is only serving to reinforce unwanted behaviour, you now have 30 minutes to TRAIN your dog. When you first start training, an example training session may look like:

  • Burning some initial energy with a game of tug-o-war (much more effective in burning energy than fetching a ball) for 5 mintues
  • Place training to help the dog switch from high arousal to low arousal
  • 5-10 minutes of loose leash walking training in the backyard
  • A quick break from walking training with some more tug-o-war or engagement games if your dog is struggling to follow and engage with you in their loose leash walking training, or otherwise a few minutes of obedience training (eg. Sit, Down or Stay)
  • Another 5-10 minutes of loose leash walking training
  • Followed by 5 minutes or so of obedience training or engagement
  • Another 5-10 minutes of loose leash walking training
  • And so on, until you have run out of time, or until you recognise your dog’s training limit (it is always important to finish the session before your dog is too tired and gives up)

During this example training session, you have not even left your backyard, but at the end of this time, you will have a dog that is much calmer and more tired, than if you had taken them for a 30 minute, over-aroused walk. This is because you have provided them with an appropriate mix of both mental and physical stimulation, that they do not receive by dragging you mindlessly around the block. Instead of rewarding pulling, reactivity, not listening and disengagement from you, during this 30 minutes your dog has:

  • Built focus, engagement & relationship with you
  • Had calm leash behaviour and loose leash walking reinforced
  • Strengthened obedience skills
  • Practiced impulse control and switching between high & low arousal
  • Through the tug-o-war, been provided with an appropriate outlet for chasing, biting and chewing behaviours

Phew! Time for a sleep!

 

Is it time for a walk yet?

With the implementation of an appropriate training program,  your training sessions will progress out of the back yard, and into the front yard. Once your dog can do everything well in the front yard, you will progress out onto the footpath, and step-by-step, with patience and consistency, you and your dog will be enjoying those much coveted, relaxed, loose leash walks.

Get In Contact With Us Today

Eleanor (Ellie) Todd

The Obedience Specialist

Eleanor has been a dog lover and owner for as long as she can remember. Her career in dog training started out with some light volunteer work for Katrina a couple of years ago and she hasn’t looked back since. Having completed her Certificate III in Dog Training & Behaviour in 2018 through National Dog Trainers Federation of Australia, Eleanor has been a part of the Think Canine team since 2019. Her focus is primarily in areas of dog training are obedience, and trick training. She loves working with dogs and teaching them skills (that are both useful for the owners and fun for the dogs as well). She is also a doggy mum to an 8 year old Border Collie-Kelpie named Frodo.

Katrina Diem

Your Local Dog Trainer and Behaviour Consultant

As an Accredited Dog Trainer through the National Dog Trainers Federation of Australia, Katrina brings extensive knowledge of canine learning theory and conducts her training sessions based on scientifically proven methods. The team regularly attend workshops that feature renowned trainers and behaviourists from around Australia and the world – to help keep up to date on the latest training techniques and behaviour modification programs.
Katrina is also a qualified Veterinary Nurse with over 18 years experience in Brisbane and Toowoomba, with a focus on general practice and emergency nursing.