How Often Do You Walk Your Dog?
There is no doubt the benefits walking your dog can have both for them and for us. You get to spend time together, your dog can investigate smells, see other people, other dogs, and new environments. Walking may reduce or delay obesity related problems in dogs, and in humans the health benefits from increased physical activity is well documented.
However, it’s worthwhile considering the impact that walking can have on stress levels for both you and your dog. Walking can increase arousal levels (both from good stress and bad stress) and can allow dogs to practice unwanted behaviours such as pulling on the lead, barking and lunging at other dogs.
It’s important to consider not only your dog’s physical needs but your dog’s emotional needs before deciding how long, where, and how often to walk.
Stress can be accumulative and can lead to ‘trigger stacking’. This is where stress accumulates due to exposure to multiple triggers, either simultaneously or close enough in time so that your dog doesn’t have enough time to process and can’t calm down again before facing the next trigger, which can result in an overreaction.
It can explain why sometimes your dog is doing really well on a walk passing multiple dogs and people very politely, then towards the end of the walk, barks and lunges at a person walking their dog.
To prevent your dog from rehearsing unwanted behaviour on a walk, you may choose to walk at quieter times of the day or go to more remote locations. But you also may choose to not walk your dog, and that is OK too.
In fact, dogs can benefit from ‘couch days’ where they don’t go out at all and just laze around. You could enrich your dog in other ways such as using puzzle toys, practicing training skills or just watching a movie together. This can allow stress levels to lower so your dog can cope better when they go out again.
The key is finding the balance for your individual dog, and for you.
So, how often do you walk your dog?