Does your dog really need a walk?
This month’s blog is touching on the interesting topic around walking your dog. Inspiration for this post has come from dog trainer Niki French & her book “STOP walking your dog”. On 2nd of April we saw the second national “Don’t walk your dog” day in the UK. So I thought what better month to look into the arguments for walking and not walking your dog.
Firstly, lets think about the reasons why we take our dogs out for a walk.
- Socialising with dog friends
- Socialising with people
- Enrichment from the environment
So these are all great reasons of why to take your dog out for a walk, but do you agree that a dog doesn’t need a walk everyday? Have you considered the benefits of not walking your dog every day?
Perhaps your dog is reactive – the reactive dog may be to dogs, people, the environment and all of these things lead to increased cortisol production (the stress hormone). Would a daily walk be of benefit to a dog who is overly stressed at the process of the walk? The science behind cortisol has shown that it can take up to 48 hours for the stress chemical to reduce. By walking a stressed dog daily the opportunity for this chemical to reduce is being delayed.
Maybe you are running late and now everyone, and their dog is over the local park out to stretch their legs, your dog doesn’t like dogs in their space, so why not skip the walk for some exercise in the garden?
Your people reactive dog probably doesn’t enjoy walks in areas of high pedestrian activity such as when the schools finish, so again why not use the opportunity to work on a bit of training at home?
Environmental reactivity could be caused by fireworks, so why not skip that walk for sniffer enrichment ball in the living room with taiko drums playing instead?
The weather outside is frightful. Bracken hates the rain, loves a puddle, but hates the rain, so why take her out for a walk when it is raining cats & dogs outside. Does she enjoy that type of walk? No. Is she a happy and contented dog after that walk? No. Am I miserable because I am also wet & cold? Yes. So sometimes in the winter months we will skip a walk if we don’t feel like going out, and guess what, that has lead to having a happier dog in the home!
The weather outside is roasting! On the other end of the spectrum we have that it is simply too hot to walk your dog safely. Dogs are only able to cool themselves down through sweating out of their paws & panting, both of which mean that they are ineffective at cooling. Why take the risk of heatstroke and the damage this can do to your dog (including death) when you can both relax in shade of the garden with a paddling pool or hose (side note is to make sure you monitor in water for signs of water intoxication).
Rest / Recovery before & after intense physical activity such as flyball. Rest days before & after flyball competitions & training benefit your dog by allowing their cortisol levels to lower. It has been found that raised cortisol levels can cause a host of problems for your dog and reduce the speed that muscles can be repaired.
Young dogs require less physical activity to a fully grown dog. Puppies also learn more effectively when they have had sufficient rest. So, you may benefit from skipping the evening walk to help your puppy digest the days training.
We hope this blog has got you thinking about whether a daily walk is the best answer for you & your dog, or whether there will be occasions now where you think “nope we don’t need to go on a walk today”.