I think if our dogs could speak and give us a laundry list of their “ideal lifestyle,” the answer to this question would be a “howling” YES!
But, the reality as we humans live busy lives. In my opinion, way busier than our dogs or we would like.
So, in short, the answer to this question is “no.” If you take a strategic approach, you don't have to walk your dog everyday.
Unless you want your dog to turn the inside of your home into a toilet, you absolutely must walk your dog everyday!
Okay, so now that I've made my lame joke for the day, let's get into some real discussion on the importance of walks, types of walks, and their pros and cons.
At the end, I'll share an enrichment plan, including walks you can modify to suit the needs of you and your dog. So keep reading!
4 Benefits of Walking Your Dog Regularly
- Regular walks have proven mental and physical benefits for both humans and dogs.
- Dog walking expeditions positively affect the dog-human bond, adding mental stimulation for dogs, increasing energy, reducing blood pressure, and promoting weight loss.
- Varying the types of walks can serve as excellent enrichment opportunities for our canine friends. As well as prevent behavior problems that can occur due to boredom.
- Training different cues for various walks can provide calming predictability and offer dogs the power of choice.
Why is Walking Your Dog Important?
Walks offer the following to both dogs and their humans:
- Novelty of new and familiar environments, people, and other dogs.
- Stimulation of the five senses.
- Physical exercise and health benefits
- Deepening of the canine-human bond
- Social interaction opportunities
Walking as Enrichment
Walks of all kinds are an essential part of enriching the lives of our dogs. Many dogs who live in fenced yards rarely leave those spaces, leading to under-stimulated and bored dogs.
Taking a strategic view of walks is essential to making them a practical part of enriching captive dogs' lives.
Imagine you were not allowed to leave your home. I think all of us can relate to some degree since the global lockdown of 2020.
Speaking of 2020, this survey of 6000 dog owners by Dogs Trust in the UK, shows not only how lockdown measures resulted in fewer walks, but it also highlights that owners reported an increase in unwanted behaviors like jumping up and nipping during play.
Think about this for a moment…
Wild and street dogs may not have the life of luxury our dogs do, but they have ample stimulation and enrichment. I'm by no means suggesting we should allow our dogs to roam free!
Although, adding a variety of different walks to our dogs' schedules is an excellent tool to offer stimulation and manage their enrichment.
Not only that, but it's also most certainly a way to positively modify their behavior and build a robust training plan.
3 Types of Everyday Walks
- Potty Walks
- Human-led expedition walks
- Dog-led expedition walks
Potty walks are short 5 to 10-minute walks. These can be on or off-leash. And even if your dog is doing their potty walks inside a secure yard, it's still considered a potty walk.
The purpose of a potty walk is pretty self-explanatory. Its goal is to allow your dog the opportunity to relieve themselves. It's a practical walk with a short term goal in mind.
Believe it or not, you can teach your dog to relieve themselves on cue. This is extremely helpful when the weather is unpleasant, you're in an unfamiliar area, or you need to collect a poop or pee sample for the vet.
The potential cues you can train and practice for potty walks depend on you and what other cues your dog already knows. The options are endless and below are just a few examples.
- “Go potty,” “Do your business.”
- “Are we finished?”
- “Let's go.”
Pros + Cons of Potty Walks
- Your dog has the opportunity to relieve themselves.
- These quick and easy walk makes it efficient for busy dog owners.
- An excellent way to practice a reliable recall and potty cue.
- Provides insufficient time for a dog to explore and sniff.
Does not provide an acceptable amount for exercise.
Human-led Expedition Walks
The type of walk can be a jog, run, hike, or a brisk walk led by a human. Usually, these expedition walks last between 30 minutes and 1 hour. Many areas are explored during this type of walk, and it can be on or off-leash.
The primary purpose of the human-led expedition walk is for physical exercise. The benefits of these walks are numerous. Exercise releases natural opioids and endorphins in the brain and supports a feeling of wellbeing.
Human-led expedition walks are an excellent way to practice proximity cues. Below are just a few examples of proximity cues you can train and practice with your dog.
- “With me.”
- “Leave it.”
- “Watch,” “Look at me.”
- “Let's go.”
Pros + Cons of Human-led Expedition Walks
- Dogs have the freedom to run, trot, or jog alongside their human.
- Exercise is an excellent way to boost health and longevity.
- These walks mentally stimulate both humans and their dogs.
- Proximity cues can be trained and practiced to make walks more efficient.
- Both dogs and humans can become bored.
- Human-led walks can be time-intensive.
- Some humans and dogs may have a hard time keeping up with their walking partner.
Dog-led Expedition Walk
These walks are also known as “sniffle walks” and are 100% led by the dog. These walks can be on or off-leash and last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, and several areas are explored – nose first, of course!
The primary purpose of dog-led expedition walks is for dogs to scent, smell, mark, trot, and walk to their heart's content. And if the dog is comfortable, greet other dogs and people along the way.
Practicing proximity cues and rewards for checking in often are excellent ways to cement these crucial skills in our dogs. This is especially the case when a dog is off-leash.
Some ideas for cues to train, practice, and reward handsomely for are the following,
- “Go explore.”
- “Leave it,” “Look at me.”
- “All done?”
- “Let's go.”
Pros + Cons of Dog-led Expedition Walks
- Highly stimulating because the dog has ample opportunity to explore.
- Fun, energy-burning, and new adventures
- It promotes deep bonding between dog and human, especially when the human is encouraging.
- Dog-led walks are often boring for humans, especially when there's a lot of stopping.
- These walks are time-intensive and consuming.
- If the human is not comfortable allowing leash space, the dog will pull, reinforcing leash-pulling.
Everyday Walks and Enrichment Plan
Below is an example of an everyday walk and enrichment plan. Use this as a guide to make design a plan with weekly walks and other enrichment activities you and your dog love the most.
If you're looking for some activity ideas to include in your enrichment plan, here are a few to consider…