All dogs need a certain level of exercise to stay mentally and physically healthy. Imagine being kept in the same house your whole life never being able to explore any more than the yard outside of it. You would go stir-crazy right? Now consider your dog. Your dog’s life consists of your home (and yard if you have one), but he/she knows there is a whole world out there to be explored. It is important to take the time to go out and walk your dog, let them sniff things out, see new places. It does not only get them moving instead of sleeping all day, but it gives their brain a workout. It challenges them by giving them new smells to determine and socializing with passers-by, whether it be people, cats, squirrels or other dogs. It will also help you bond and make the most out of your relationship with them.
Walking your dog is also a great training tool! When walking your dog, you allow them to do their own thing, but you can’t just have them wandering around you. It is the opportunity to teach them leash manners, socialization skills, and in turn, strengthens the bond you have as their owner. It can teach them to come to you if they are nervous about something instead of them following their flight instincts and running away. If your dog is over-zealous when meeting new people or other dogs, you can teach them to be patient and wait politely for permission to interact. It is the ideal time to correct them when they go crazy over that person they so badly want to meet. It is important to help them learn a level of self-control to prevent accidents.
When walking your dog, it is very important to make sure that the collar or harness you choose to use fits properly. To prevent your pet from getting away from you. The collar should fit tightly enough that you cannot slip it over the pets head but still put two fingers underneath without choking. Harnesses should be tight enough that the pet cannot step or slide backwards out of it but should not be too restricting. There are different types of collars you can use to help keep your dogs attention when walking too. In our experience, one of the best types is head-halter. The head-halter allows you to redirect your dogs’ attention easily while also preventing them from pulling. The leash attaches to a loop that goes around the dog’s snout so when your dog tries to run forward the tugging on the leash turns their head so that they see you and can be reminded that they need to seek your approval before they run up to whatever it is that is exciting. Another type is the martingale. It is a flat collar attached to a separate loop (of material or chain). The leash attaches the separate loop so that if the leash is pulled, the loop pulls the collar tighten around the dog’s neck. When the pressure is released, the collar loosens again. The pressure is just enough to remind your pet that you are there with them and that they need to stay with you (it does not choke them if the collar is fitted properly). Prong collars and chain collars are options as well. However, if these collars are used incorrectly not only will they be ineffective, but they could also harm your dog. If you wish for more information on these collars, please discuss with your vet.
Active dogs need exercise to function normally! Some dogs are lazy, whereas some need a high amount of physical activity. It is important to learn and recognize the amount of exercise your dog needs in a day. Taking your dog on a walk will help expel excess energy and reduce the amount of unwanted or destructive behaviours they express. If you do not walk your dog every day, it is the perfect time to start. Studies show that even just 20 minutes a day (split into two walks) can make a huge difference in your dog’s happiness and behaviour. However, some dogs need more. Large breeds and working dogs (such as Huskies, Collies, Shepherds, Heelers, etc.) need more stimulation. Dogs like this usually require an hour or more of exercise a day. Keeping dogs cooped in the house all day can give them the opportunity to destroy furniture, shoes, toys or other belongings if they get bored. If you work long hours or there is no one home during the day consider using doggy daycares or building an outdoor run with adequate food, water and insulated shelters and space for them to burn some energy while you are gone (Use discretion with amount of time alone, weather warnings, extreme temperatures and surfaces).
Once you begin a walking regime, you may be surprised at how more relaxed and happy your dog is. Remember to choose the correct collars and harness to get the most out of your walks. Different dogs need different levels of physical activity in a day, make sure you are meeting your dog’s needs. Busy dogs are happy dogs; keeping them stimulated will prevent unwanted and destructive behaviours. Walking your dog will build your relationship with them and help them live a full life with you by their side.
If you have any questions, give us a call at 780.539.0636.
Written by: Bailey Nadeau, RVT