What is a decompression walk and why are we talking about them with every single one of our clients? Since we work with many different behaviors, we have to say that decompression walks are the single most important thing you can do for your dogs behavioral wellness. As dog trainers, we spend most of our time talking about communication, and what your dog is doing and why. We talk about the things that owners can do to change their behavior for the better, but at the end of the day, its the clients that commit to decompression walks with their dogs that see the most improvement in their dogs behavior during their programs.
What is a decompression walk?
This is a period of time where your dog gets to be a dog, unimpeded from us. Dogs need to sniff, track, chase, dig, chew, shred, and run. When you allow your dog to do these very natural behaviors, they are not digging your garden, chewing your shoes, or running down the street away from you. On a decompression walk, you allow your dog to have some freedom to make choices. They have the choice to sniff a plant for 20 minutes, they can run into a puddle, chew a stick and it doesn’t matter to you because this is your dogs time to be a dog.
We recommend a long leash and large natural area to decompress. You want to be out for a minimum of 45 minutes. If you have a tiny dog, a field at a school or church is ideal. If your dog is larger, you may need a state park or a natural area that is a few acres. Having your dog on a long leash allows you to still comply with local leash laws but still give your dog some freedom.
Why do these walks make such a difference?
I have been talking quite a bit about “meeting your dogs needs.” Many of my clients had complaints about excessive barking, pacing, and general non compliance in their dogs. Decompression walks allow the dog to exercise both his body and mind in a way that is stress relieving instead of stress inducing. Walking in the neighborhood is difficult for most dogs because there are so many smells in a small area and your dog is restricted from exploring because of courtesy and safety. Many of the dogs we work with have barky lungy behaviors towards the neighbors or dogs which makes a neighborhood difficult to manage for your stressed out dog.
Decompression walks allow the dog to check out from the stressful things and just sniff and be a dog for a bit. Just like we enjoy our “self care” time, reading or taking a bath, this is your dog’s self care. Sniffing is the most enjoyable thing for your dog. Allowing them to sniff whatever they want, allows them to regroup from all the stressful situations that you didn’t know existed for your dog.
Every dog can benefit from a regular decompression walk. Living in an urban environment is difficult so allowing them some time away helps them cope with that living situation a bit better. My dogs get decompression walks every week, sometimes twice a week. This helps with the alert barking at the neighbors or thinking they hear something outside. They settle better in their kennels and are more likely to nap than bug me for something. Science also says time in nature is good for people, so reward yourself with a decompression walk also!