More often than not I see dogs who really, truly, don't enjoy their daily walks.
Especially dogs who are in my behaviour programs, walks can actually add additional stress to their daily lives.
As part of the Stress Detox program it is essential that we find alternative methods for exercise and stimulation.
Here are the top signs that a dog may not be having a blast when out and about.
Hyper-vigilance- Typically they walk with their heads up, constantly scanning their surroundings. Quite often they are looking for triggers: other dogs, people, skateboards, birds, blowing leaves, etc. And they can spot these triggers from blocks away sometimes.
They may be listening to everything. Dogs bark, kids playing and screaming, car alarms and honking horns, diesel trucks (especially turbos). These sounds can be heard from several blocks away, if not more.
Not sniffing- Dogs are meant to see the world through their noses. They should have their heads down, sniffing as they meander side-to-side down the street. A dog who is stressed will show little to no interest in sniffing popular pee spots: trees, hydrants, bushes, etc.
Full speed ahead- Anxious dogs walk fast, like they're on a mission to be somewhere important. Walks that involve a lot of sniffing are very stop-and-go, walking quickly to the next sniff spot, then stopping to investigate thoroughly.
Body Language- Anxious and stressed dogs will walk with their ears back, or frequently alternating between forward and pinned back. Their tail may be low, even tucked.
Anxious dogs will lip lick and yawn. Their eyebrows may be furrowed.
Did you know... you don't actually HAVE TO walk your dog daily? At least not in the traditional sense of what we typically think of walks.
This is especially true if your dog is struggling with reactivity and walks end in frustration, on both ends of the leash.
Find areas that are open and quiet. Open areas allow you to see potential triggers coming at a distance and allow you to adjust accordingly.
Some options are:
- industrial areas
- quiet corners at the park
- around shopping centre parking lots when stores are closed
- out in the country on quiet roads (keep your dog leashed and pick up after them!!!)
Enrichment and Mental Stimulation
Walks don't just provide physical exercise, they also provide mental stimulation. Mental stimulation is really efficient at burning energy.
- treat puzzles and balls
- snuffle mats
- sprinkling treats around the house and/or yard for your dog to search for
- training tricks and obedience behaviours
Check out the Facebook Group Canine Enrichment for endless ideas on providing mental stimulation.
Reduce Overall Stress
Use management around your home and yard to reduce overall stress.
If your dog is constantly reacting at your big living room window, close the blinds or cover with a frosted film to eliminate visual stimuli.
If your dog is reactive to sounds outside (cars, dogs barking, etc) keep music or the T.V. on. My animals love Relax My Dog on YouTube or shows like Planet Earth :)
Provide a quiet space for your dog to compress and relax. Place kennels in quiet corners of the house, or in a separate room. Dog beds can be placed around the house to provide options.
If your dog can see through your fence, or areas of your fence, create a smaller in the yard that keeps them away from trouble areas (ex: at the gate where they can see other dogs walk by).
Management is not always a long term option. Use management to reduce the number of triggers in the meantime while you work to counter condition your dog to them.
Does your dog enjoy walks? Let us know in the comments.