With lockdown affecting a lot of the country and limited daylight, we asked dog trainer and owner of Paw Skills, Rosie (@PawSkillsDogTraining and @wanderlustwoofs), to give us some top tips on how to utilise your dog walks...
During lockdown there’s less we can do with our dogs to enrich their day to day lives so we need to think outside the box and look further into every day walks and how they can be used to our advantage!
Look around on your walk and see each thing you cross as an obstacle in a fun and exciting adventure for you and your dog. Make sure you head out on a walk armed with plenty of treats for some fun and games. If your dog isn’t foodie then you can replace treats in each exercise with their favourite toy.
Lampposts make great training aids. Set yourself and your dog a challenge! From the first lamppost on the street to the second you will work on your loose lead walking with your dog, making sure you reward lots along the way. From the second to the third you will ask your dog for 4 sits in between the posts and from the third to the fourth lamppost you will cross the road politely with your dog 3 times.
This then changes a boring straight line walk into a fun training exercise; practicing good manners with your dog while making it much more interesting and helping you and your dog bond
Trees make great hide and seek areas! When practicing your recall with your dog, hide behind a tree for that added game so they have to work even harder to find you!
Hide and seek can also become a scent game by hiding treats, such as Wilsons' cold pressed dog food, in the bark around the trunk of the tree for your dog to sniff out. You can make the hides higher for a good shoulder stretch and lower for a back stretch; keeping your pet in shape too!
Fallen down trees make great obstacles. You can work on your dog’s proprioception by asking your dog to jump on the tree, crawl under it and jump over it (at a safe height).
Grass is an all natural snuffle mat. Find a lovely patch of long grass and scatter some treats around so your dog has to use their nose to find them.
Creating a positive game out of walking on different surfaces is an important game to be playing with your dog.
Gravel can often feel very strange to dogs as it moves, is cold and isn’t a stable surface for them to walk on. By using positive encouragement and treats for doing so, getting your dog to walk over gravel (and many other surfaces for that matter) helps them learn that different surfaces feel different, they have to trust the surface and engage core muscles to be able to support themselves.
When I began teaching my dogs tricks I often used the empty goal posts at the local football field as an object for them to go around. I’d send them left to right and right to left, giving them a visual target of the post and helping them engage their core muscles by manoeuvring around the posts.
Dogs love to leave their scent and often do so by weeing, I like to think of this as them leaving peemail for the next dog to come along! Sniffing is so fulfilling for dogs, instead of getting them to stop sniffing and get to the park, let them read their messages and reply if they want to! It gets their brains working and benefits them too! It doesn’t matter if it adds on 10 minutes to the walk, the benefits of sniffing outweigh the time spent getting there.
Where ground is soft and damp, scent stays a lot longer. Wildlife often drink from streams and source food nearby so leave lots of interesting smells along streams.
A stream area not only makes for great sniffing but safe splashing play makes a great game for your dog. Just don’t forget your wellies!
This time of year is fantastic for rich coloured, crunchy autumn leaves! Not only do these feel different and provide a different texture and surface for your dog to walk on you can scatter some treats around and your dog will enjoy snuffling through the leaves to find the treats. Taking a handful of leaves and letting them fall is a free and easy catch game for your dog too!
So refresh your usual walk and turn it into a fun obstacle course for you and your dog so brains and noses are engaged and you will have a happy, tired dog!