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Take Your Dog For a Walk – Even If You Don’t Have To
Many dog owners choose electronic pet fencing or other fencing as a means of keeping their dog safe in the yard and giving them the opportunity to use the bathroom. It also relieves dog owners of the requirement to regularly walk the dog. It’s a wonderful benefit to just open the door and let your pet run, play and relieve themselves without having to wait for someone else. Of course, he can probably run faster without being chained to one of us slow people, and he’ll probably get out and enjoy the fresh air a lot more often without having to wait for one of us busy people to stop what we’re doing, change . our shoes, take your coat and take it for a walk. All of these things are part of the benefits of knowing your dog will be safely contained by a quality fence.
But the above benefits can also facilitate a terrible disservice to the relationship you have with your dog. After reading several books on responsible dog ownership (1,2,3,4), it is clear that there are other benefits to walking a dog on a leash that have nothing to do with its immediate safety. Dog experts agree that a proper walk is good for your dog, you and your relationship with your dog.
I know that many dog owners continue to walk their dog regularly and some even use their dog as a jogging partner – but I also know that there are many owners like myself who have to admit that their dog only sees the lead when it’s time to go to the vet, hairdresser or kennel.
So for those of you like me, I would like to encourage you to consider regular walks with your dog. The benefits are potentially huge – if done right. Some books I’ve read prescribe two 30 minute walks a day! Well, there is no doubt that it may be ideal, but it may not be possible with your given schedule. But who couldn’t save time for two ten-minute walks a day? If you’re currently doing zero like me, anything is an improvement.
The advantages of proper dog walking are as follows:
1. Your dog needs exercise – just like we all do. You may have given your dog 1 or 2 acres of yard space, but watch what he does when he’s outside alone. Does it ever break while running or jogging? Or is he just doing his job and waiting by the back door for him to come back?
2. Your dog needs interesting experiences. Your dog’s domesticated life is much less demanding than the life it would have in the wild. While our dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years, there are still primal instincts that need to be satisfied. While we don’t want him to take down any wild deer, I’m sure he’ll appreciate the opportunity to check out new sights and smells with his trusty guide by his side.
3. Your dog must participate in pack activities. There is no other single activity that will more clearly remind your dog of his connection to the pack and his position in that pack (follower) than a properly guided walk on a leash.
Unused energy, boredom and a lack of understanding of his role in the pack are the cause of most dog behavior problems. All this can be solved by routine walks if done correctly.
Doug Rountree, a professional dog trainer and owner of a local Bark Busters Home Dog Training franchise, offers the following tips for properly walking your dog:
Since dogs are pack animals and seek leadership in their family pack, they should naturally want to follow our lead on walks. This means that the dog should be in a comfortable heel position throughout the walk without any tension on the leash. Yet many pet owners choose to compromise their leadership status by using retractable leads (which allows the dog to do whatever it wants to do) or simply choose not to walk their dog at all. As a result, not only does the owner fail to provide a proper outlet to release some of the dog’s energy, but more importantly, the owner fails to demonstrate proper leadership by showing the dog that he is in command and therefore the dog must follow. It is not unusual to find such dogs with several behavioral problems, as neither their physical needs (ie. release of energy) nor their safety needs (ie. leadership) are being met. This is why responsible dog ownership must include some type of walking, as the owner not only has the opportunity to show their dog leadership skills, but also has the chance to form a deep mutual bond by spending time with each other. once with your dog in the wild.
So enjoy the freedom and security you’ve given your dog by keeping him safe in his own backyard. But if you’re like me, it might be time to expand your dog’s horizons a bit by establishing a routine of regular walks. It also lends itself to many perennial New Year’s resolutions – more exercise.
1. Cesar’s Way, Cesar Millan, 2006
2. Be the leader of the pack, Cesar Millan, 2007
3. A Family Member, Cesar Millan, 2008
4. Training Dogs the Aussie Way, Danny and Sylvia Wilson, 2007.
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