The daily walk is likely to be the high point of your dog’s day, whether it is likely to be the high point of your day will depend upon a number of factors! Some days nothing goes wrong and your walk is relaxing and perfect, whereas other days everything goes wrong.
You have probably noticed that your dog behaves differently depending upon where you go. Thinking about where you walk might even the odds a little for you and set your dog up to succeed.
- Whilst walks along canal paths, narrow footpaths, or narrow paths though woods are lovely, these locations can be confrontational when you meet other dogs etc head-on. These walks may not be suitable for all dogs, especially at busy times.
- Town parks are often very busy with other dogs, owners and often children. All of these can distract dogs.
- Groups of dog walkers often converge and chat in parks and whilst that may be great for them and most of the dogs, some dogs will be getting into trouble. A purposeful momentum can avoid myriad problems.
- Some walks provide the opportunity to usefully observe and get used to wildlife and livestock. Some dogs will be tempted to do more than observe.
- Wide open spaces where there is clear visibility all round can allow owners more chance of manoeuvring their dogs away from potentially troublesome situations in advance of these developing. The beach seems to be one of the best places to walk and I have lost count of the number of times an owner has said ‘when we are on the beach, they’re golden’ – even owners relax on the beach!
- Although street walks can be problematic for many dogs, with good handling and pre-emptive actions, these can make positive walks for some difficult dogs. All other dogs will be on the lead too, and with a bit of manoeuvring, enough space can often be found to make the vast majority of encounters into positive experiences.
- Beware the ‘pinch point’. There is often a part of a walk that grows very narrow, my friends live at our local pinch point, now they have a dog of their own they finally understand why our dogs don’t always behave as well as I might like when we stop to chat!
Beyond this, certain times of the day are obviously busier than others and if your dog is sensitive to other dogs, strangers, bicycles, children, traffic, scooters, or runners out and about, it may be best to walk at quiet times.
If owners can’t change the time of day that they walk they can potentially change the destination. For many dogs, having a break from constantly feeling that they must react to every dog, stranger, bicycle, child, traffic, scooter, or runner that they meet is very stressful. Inevitably this means that they are more likely to react to the next ‘trigger’ that they see – see ‘trigger stacking’. Giving a dog a break by walking in quieter areas will allow stress levels to come down. This is a good way to start behavioural therapy. In evitably, your own state of mind will have a bearing on your dog’s behaviour – you may find my mindfulness and mindfulness for dogs articles helpful
What I’m trying to say, dear reader, is that whilst some dogs will behave perfectly on all these walks, probably most are likely struggle in one or more of the above situations. By understanding your dog and looking at the different areas in which you can walk and the different properties each of these walk provide can help set you and your dog up for success so that you are less likely to have a stressful walk, even on the bad days!