Archer and I usually get our daily exercise in on the trails by our home or with a few good hikes, but in recent weeks the mosquitoes have taken over our usual haunts, and we’ve been reduced to leashed walks in our neighbourhood. That’s all well and good, but unlike trail walks, there’s fewer opportunities to explore and offer mental stimulation in addition to the physical aspect of our walks.
I began thinking of ways to make the walks more exciting for the both of us, but mostly more fun for her.
1. Change Your Route
Your daily walking route can get boring in a hurry. It’s the same smells, and the same houses with the same dogs that you pass over and over again. If your routes are limited, trying just doing your regular route backwards. Offer something that is unexpected. Do an extra block, or explore somewhere you haven’t before. It’s a nice way to really get to know the neighbourhood you live in, exploring with your pup at your side.
Bonus: Change the pace, too! Jog for 30 seconds at a pace both you and your dog are comfortable with, then resume your walk. Add in little changes to your speed here and there, and it will pull your dog’s attention back to you and get their legs really moving!
2. Make Stops and Encourage Sniffing
Sometimes it’s easy to get frustrated when a dog stops every 5-feet to check out a new smell, but considering how powerful their sense of smell is, this is a big deal to them. Stopping to allow your dog to smell offers mental stimulation, but also gives them a break. Maintaining a good pace on walks is great, but consider making some stops and letting your pup smell the roses (or fire hydrants, etc.)
3. Invite a Friend
If you have a friend with a dog that gets along well with your pup, why not invite them along? End the walk with a play session at an dog park or even the yard at your home. Give them something to get excited about.
Bonus: Having another dog around means you need to do less work to tire your own pup out. They usually manage to achieve that well enough on their own, chasing each other.
4. Incorporate Obedience & Training Exercises
There are loads of training exercises you can focus on while on a walk. Good leash work, heel, sit before crossing the road (at stop lights), etc. Bring treats for rewards to make it more enticing to your dog, but also to keep their attention on you during training exercises.
If you have a chance to work offleash, consider the training exercises Maria and Ody do to help with Ody’s love for agility exercises. All you need is a willing pup and some creativity, and you can make almost any urban environment into a stimulating training ground for your dog.
5. Plan a Destination
A walk for the sake of a walk can get boring regardless. If you can, try including a brief destination into your walk. Maybe it’s a short visit with a friend who lives nearby, maybe it’s some time at the offleash dog park for a game of fetch.
You may not always be able to incorporate a stop somewhere with each walk, but it’s certainly a nice change-up for your pup when you can. Even a brief stint in a park is exciting—it doesn’t have to be an hour. Whatever works for you!
This article was written on June 9, 2015 for Good Dogs & Co.