Walking our dogs is the first thing that most people say when asked “what activities do you do with your dog?” For those who have easy to handle dogs, walking is a stroll through the neighborhood.
There are dog owners, however, who dread taking their dogs out in public! Whether the case being the dog is constantly pulling, barking at every person or animal they see, or zigzagging all over the place. Not every dog naturally knows how to handle being polite on walks. This blog posts is meant to help the latter group of dog owners out with how to help your excited dogs navigate the outside world.
How far are you travelling?
The first thing to note is when we are walking easily excitable dogs, do not worry about how far you need to go out on a walk. The goal of your walk is not to get them physical exercise, but for them to get some exposure to the outside world. So how do we strike the balance between getting them out on walks and not having our dogs cause a scene?
Keep It Simple!
One thing is using the K.I.S.S. method for our walks. Keep It Short and Sweet. Walks with reactive dogs should be no more than 15 minutes. If you are walking these excitable dogs for long periods of time, you may notice that at a certain point in the walk our dog becomes more reactive, unruly, or pulls even more. This is because our dog’s ability to be behaved and use their brain to process the environment deteriorates over time. The more stimuli, or exciting things, you come across on a walk, the shorter that time frame of good behavior gets.
By making your walks shorter, we allow our dogs to experience walks without getting mentally exhausted from trying to process the outside world. Be conscious about the route you take, and plan on making back to your front door right at the 15 minute mark. This time frame is perfect amount to get your dog the mental stimulation and interaction with the outside environment and not have them go over the top from being exhausted. Keeping this kind of regimented walk schedule will allow for your dog to develop the experience of being on walks an it be a positive experience, instead of it turning into a frustrating experience for both you and your dogs.
What if you need more?
With dogs that are super excited about walks, one of the things we want to practice is letting them use their nose. If they want to stop and smell a lamppost, or a mailbox, or a single blade of grass, let them. That is not to say we let them drag you all over the place in order to sniff everything, but if you are walking and they stop to sniff, let them sniff!
Remember that these walks are for our dogs, and if they prefer to sniff a lot we want to encourage them using their nose. A dog’s nose is one of its biggest tools they use to figure out what is going on around them. By allowing our dogs to use their nose, it gets their brain working via processing information. Allowing our dogs to do this processing, it allows them to saturate their surroundings, and getting more comfortable over time and repetition.
You can practice the skill of having your dog use their nose in the home as well! Scent work exercises are a great way to get your dog to use their natural tracking instincts, and use their nose to process and find things. You can set a little scavenger hunt around a room by placing treats in random places, and letting your dog search out for the treats. You can also play a shell cup game with your dog and help them use their nose. Place the cookie under the same cup to also encourage shape and color recognition as well.
These are fun things designed to challenge our dogs in a way to promote using their brain in constructive ways rather than get overly excited about nothing.
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