Why Walks Are So Important…Or Are They??

“A tired dog is a good dog.”

“I walk my dog about 3 hours a day because he never seems to be able to calm down unless he’s exhausted.”

“Sure, my dog overreacts to other dogs on every walk, but I HAVE to walk her, right??”

Dogs are our best friends, our companions, they make us laugh, get us outside when maybe we don’t feel like it and can be a never-ending source of love. As their caregivers, it’s our responsibility to ensure that their basic, fundamental needs are met. These needs fall into five categories (Copyright 2015-2019 Linda Michaels): Biological, Emotional, Social, Force Free Training and Cognitive Needs.

As you can see, their biological needs cover the largest portion of what their needs are and one of the key aspects of keeping our dogs healthy is exercise. You’ll notice the word “exercise” is used, not “walks”. And there is a reason for this! Not all walks are created equal and if your dog struggles with over-reactivity on walks, going for walks every day could be making things worse. Let’s talk about the different kinds of walks.

A potty walk is a walk where the main purpose is for the dog to potty. Either in the morning before work or before bedtime. These walks are usually shorter walks and both human and dog understand the pattern. Outside, toilet, turn around and come back home.

A stroll around the neighbourhood walk is the most common one. These are usually human-led and are in a rectangle or square nature; you turn right at the corner, right at the next corner, etc. Even if that pattern isn’t followed, the meandering is led by the human picking the direction.

A sniffy walk is a way to reduce stress in dogs by allowing them to explore their surroundings and interact with their environment without any specific agenda. These walks are often taken in natural settings such as forests, beaches, or parks, where dogs can explore new scents, sights, and sounds but you can do a sniffy walk in your neighbourhood too. The most important thing to remember….follow your dog’s nose!

Why are sniffy walks important?

When we “allow” a dog to do doggie things, things that come naturally to them, it essentially allows them to reset. Our dogs live in our modern world with constant stimulation, stress and demands on them (whether on purpose or not). Humans, on average, make 30,000 choices a day (consciously and subconsciously). Think about how many choices your dog has. But, when we take our dogs for a sniffy walk, that walk is all about them and their choices.

Here are just a few reasons why I love a sniffy walk and some, of many, benefits to taking a sniffy:

1. Mental stimulation: allows them to use their senses and engage their minds (which is exhausting)

2. Physical exercise: provides the physical movement they need

3. Bonding time: an excellent opportunity for owners to bond with their dogs. It’s a time to disconnect from the distractions of everyday life and just BE. Be with nature, be with your dog, just be! (We all need to be out in nature more!)

4. Opportunity to reset and recharge: Can help alleviate stress because the dog just gets to be a dog and is using their most powerful learning tool to their heart’s content.

Tips for a successful sniffy walk

1. Let your dog lead: It’s important to let your dog lead the way. Allow them to explore and sniff around without any specific agenda. Giving them choice is of the utmost importance.

2. Stay relaxed: Dogs can sense their owner’s energy, so it’s important to stay relaxed and calm during the walk.

3. Stay safe: Always keep your dog on a leash (I recommend a long line) but allow them to go wherever it’s safe for them to do so (so pattern or lineal walks – zig zag, cross the street, go through fields if you’re not already in one, etc.).

4. Be patient: If your dog chooses to sniff a fire hydrant or a bunch of grass, let them. For as long as they want to. Remember, this walk is for them.

In conclusion, the type of walk you take with your dog is important and each fulfills a function for everyone involved. So, the next time you take your furry friend for a walk, consider a sniffy walk, and watch the positive benefits unfold.

Article by Mariana Jones

Based in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, Mariana Jones (MJ to all that know her) was the first Family Dog Mediator® in Ontario! One thing, that as an FDM® she is very passionate about, is bridging the gap between what our dogs need and what we, as their caregivers, want. 

The goal for MJ and My Girl Friday (MGF) is to empower every dog and human to live together with understanding, kindness, compassion, empathy, trust and love. MJ helps humans to understand WHY a behaviour may be happening, based on the L.E.G.S® (Learning, Environment, Genetics and Self) of the dog. Once we know WHY the behaviour is happening, we can figure out HOW to help the dog and what we need to teach them so they can thrive in our human world.

MJ currently shares her life with her two children (Victor and Bella), three dogs (Happy, Joy and Maximum) and two cats (Monster and Magic). Every dog in her life teaches, inspires and brings joy to her every single day!

Website: My-girl-friday.ca 

Facebook: My Girl Friday – Dog Training

Instagram: mjatmgf