Walking the dog-how are you doing it?

By Dr. Karen Becker comments by Diane Weinmann

Thinking About Dog Walks in a Whole New Way

 

Many pet parents tend to look at dog walks as chores to be quickly finished, and I think part of the reason is they’re simply in a rut. They’re not using their imaginations. There are actually lots of ways to change up your dog walking routine that can make it fun for both you and your canine BFF, and something you look forward to. Different types of dog walks:

1. Purposeful walks — These are typically short and have a specific goal, for example, walking your dog to her potty spot.

2. Training walks — These walks can be about improving leash manners, learning basic or advanced obedience commands, ongoing socialization, or anything else you can think of that can be done on a leashed walk. Be sure to bring some healthy training treats on these outings.

Ongoing training throughout your dog’s life is a great way to keep his faculties sharp and boredom at bay. It’s also a wonderful way to strengthen the bond between you and your pet.

3. Power walks — Power walks keep your dog’s frame strong, his weight in check, and help alleviate arthritis and other degenerative joint diseases. These walks can also be an essential method for ensuring your dog gets the exercise he needs, as long as you’re consistent with them.

Remember: A healthy dog needs to exercise an absolute minimum of every three days (every other day is better; every day is ideal) at an intensity that elevates his heart rate for 20 minutes to maintain cardiovascular conditioning and muscle tone. If your dog is out of shape, you’ll need to start slow and build gradually to 20 minutes per power walk.

4. Mentally stimulating walks — Most leashed dogs don’t get to spend nearly as much time sniffing and investigating as they would like, so allowing your pet some time to explore is good mental stimulation for her. These walks allow her to stop, sniff, investigate, and pick up and send pee-mail. Dogs accumulate knowledge about the world through their noses.  Take them to the woods—it’s great for their mind and body.  They sniff all kinds of stimulating smells, walk over logs and branches which gently helps with coordination and they can find treasures of leaves and rocks and if lucky, maybe a glimpse of wildlife.  The woods is a treasure trove of activity for your pet to enjoy just remember to leave the leash on!

5. Sniffaris — I don’t know who coined this term, but I love it! Sniffaris are walks during which your dog takes the lead, you follow, and he gets to sniff whatever he pleases. Sniffaris are upgraded mentally stimulating walks, more or less, with your dog making all the navigational and investigational decisions!

6. Change-of-scenery walks — Instead of heading outside in the same old direction, instead, buckle your dog in and drive a few blocks away or to a neighborhood park or nearby hiking trail for your walk. Both you and she will find new things to see, smell and experience.

7. Walks with friends — If your dog is comfortable around other dogs, consider meeting up with neighbors or friends with dogs for group walks. Everyone on two legs and four gets to socialize and exercise simultaneously, and dog parents can also be valuable resources for one another.

8. Different dog-walker walks — Everyone walks a dog a little differently, so the more members of your household who walk your dog, the more variety she’ll enjoy. And since walks done right are bonding experiences, everyone in the family gets to spend one-on-one time with the dog.

A variation on this if you work outside the home is to hire a professional dog walker a few times a week or ask a willing friend or neighbor to take your dog out for a walk in your absence.

One of the most important things you can give your dog whenever you interact with him, including on walks, is your undivided attention. Put down the phone and other distractions and let your dog know through your focus on him how much he means to you.

Carri Westgarth, Ph.D., a research fellow at the University of Liverpool and the lead author of a 2017 study titled “I Walk My Dog Because It Makes Me Happy: A Qualitative Study to Understand Why Dogs Motivate Walking and Improved Health”3 also suggests leaving your cell phone behind to thoroughly enjoy the walk and the time with your dog.

“Dog walking can be really important for our mental health, and there is no joy like seeing your dog having a good time,” Westgarth told Health Newsletter. “In this age of information and work overload, let’s thank our dogs for — in the main — being such a positive influence on our well-being … leave the mobile and worries at home and try to focus on observing our dog and appreciating our surroundings.”4

 

 

Walking Your Dog vs. Just Letting Your Dog Out in the Backyard

By Paula Fitzsimmons and comments by Diane Weinmann

Letting your dog use your fenced-in backyard for potty breaks and exercise is convenient, especially when life gets hectic. It’s also a great way for her to get fresh air and exercise in a safe environment.

 

Walking your dog, however, is associated with a myriad of physical and mental benefits, which contributes to your dog’s well-being. Learn how to balance the backyard with the sidewalk to make sure your pup gets the exercise and bonding time she needs.

 

Is a Backyard Enough for Your Dog?

 

Letting your dog run around in the backyard is a beneficial supplement to walking your dog. But dogs thrive on variety, says Dr. Pam Reid, a certified applied animal behaviorist (CAAB) and vice president of the ASPCA Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team. “Most dogs enjoy seeing different things, smelling new smells, feeling novel substrates under their feet and hearing unfamiliar sounds.”

 

Relying solely on the backyard for your dog’s exercise can lead to problems. “It is not uncommon for these dogs to become bored and frustrated, which can lead to destructive behaviors, barking, repetitive behaviors (like perimeter circling, and even escape attempts. It is also common for many backyard dogs to begin showing territorial behaviors like barking, rushing at the fence and running the fence when people or other dogs pass by,” says Jenn Fiendish, a veterinary behavior technician who runs Happy Power Behavior and Training in Portland, Oregon.

 

If solely kept in enclosed spaces, they can also become sheltered, says Dr. Ari Zabell, a Vancouver, Washington-based veterinarian with Banfield Pet Hospital. As a result, “They can become less confident and comfortable with new people, pets and experiences that they aren’t exposed to on a regular basis.”

 

While walking your dog does provide them with exercise, a fenced-in backyard can, too. “The backyard is the safest option to let the dog run full tilt and burn off some steam, so both activities should be incorporated into a happy dog’s lifestyle,” says Dr. Reid.

 

Be sure that you have a secure, fenced yard so that animals cannot escape. You should also microchip your pet, as many animals get out through small holes or by digging under fences.

 

What Walks Provide That Backyards Don’t

 

Aside from the physical health benefits, dog walking provides opportunities for enrichment, socialization and training that a backyard may not. “Dogs are, by nature, curious explorers, so going on a walk or hike is a great way to let them explore,” says Fiendish.

 

Dr. Reid agrees: “Walks are great for providing the mental stimulation that comes from visiting places outside of the familiar backyard. Sniff walks (allowing the dog to set the pace and stop and sniff whenever she likes) are particularly gratifying to dogs.”

 

Walking your dog on a dog leash also plays an important role in developing her social skills, she adds. “They see, and perhaps even get to meet, unfamiliar adults, children, dogs and other pets. They become comfortable with motorcycles and bicycles zipping by, kids on skateboards, and just about anything else you can imagine!”

 

Leash walking requires you to be with your dog, providing an opportunity to strengthen your bond, says Dr. Reid. “It’s no fun walking a dog that pulls on leash or zigzags back and forth all over the place, so you’ll be motivated to work on training your dog to be more mannerly while on leash.”

 

Finding the Right Balance Between the Backyard and Walking Your Dog

 

The right balance of yard and walk time is unique to every pet, family, home environment, neighborhood and lifestyle, says Dr. Zabell. “Exercise is an important component of every well-rounded dog’s life, but young, high-energy dogs, for example, will likely require more walks (or runs) than low-energy or geriatric dogs.”

 

Some dogs prefer the familiarity of a backyard, but still need the exposure that leash walking provides, while others quickly become bored and thrive when walked, says Dr. Reid. “Also, if you’re in a hurry to make sure your dog is ‘empty’ before heading out for a few hours, walking is by far the best option for encouraging the dog to empty his bladder and bowels. The sustained movement plus the novel vegetation that invariably contain the smells of other dogs’ eliminations will quickly prompt your dog to urinate and defecate.”

 

Walking Your Dog for Maximum Benefits

 

How often should you walk your dog? Fiendish recommends at least one 15 to 20 minute session each day, and “more if your dog doesn’t have a backyard to be in.” (Experts recommend speaking with your vet if your dog has health problems to determine the appropriate walk duration.)

 

Any dog collar or harness you use should be comfortable, fit properly and be safe for your dog, she adds. “It is not recommended to use products that cause pain or discomfort as these can inhibit learning, cause fear and harm the human-animal bond.”

 

If your dog has a tendency to pull, a dog harness has an advantage over a collar because it relieves pressure from her neck, says Laura Hills, certified dog trainer and owner of The Dogs’ Spot, based in North Kansas, Missouri. “In addition, many harnesses have a place in the front, on the dog’s chest, to clip the leash. When used in this way, a dog that pulls will find themselves turned back toward the person holding the leash. This makes pulling more difficult, as it causes the dog to be slightly off balance, and like training wheels, is a great aid while working on loose leash walking.”

 

If your dog doesn’t typically pull, a flat collar may be a good option, she says. And if you typically walk your dog in the evenings, “Collars and harnesses that are reflective will help dogs be seen better in lower light, which is especially good during the shorter days of winter.”

 

Learning how to properly exercise your dog includes knowing how to balance walks and yard time. Your vet or dog training professional is in the best position to help. “Your veterinarian should be able to advise you on the best ways to keep your pet safe, exercised and socialized, based on their individual needs, characteristics and lifestyle,” advises Dr. Zabell.

Diane plays with her dog in the backyard, spends time relaxing and reading there with her dog, even having dinner/lunch outside in the company of her dog; however, they go to the park daily (weather permitting) for the enrichment aspect to her dog’s life.  Many experiences, good or bad, cannot be found anywhere but on a walk in the park, neighborhood or woods.  Walk with a friend today!

 

How to Stop Your Dog From Barking at Other Dogs

How to Stop Your Dog From Barking at Other Dogs

From PetPav and comments by Diane Weinmann

 

Dogs will bark for many reasons as it is their way to communicate and react.  And we never want our dogs to stop barking as it can help us to understand how our dogs are feeling or if there is a threat nearby.  However, if your dog constantly barks at other dogs, it can be a headache for you and distressing.  There are many things you can do to get your dog to stop barking at other dogs.

Below are some of the things you can try to keep your dog from barking at other dogs.  As always, consistency and repetition is key to stop the barking and/or any unwanted behavior.   You and all family members need to be on-board with the same behavior techniques to keep the training consistent.

Remove the motivation that causes your dog to bark

Your dog gets some kind of reward when he barks. Even if it is just attention from you.  If you can figure out what he gets out of barking and remove it, it’s the simplest deterrent.

If your dog barks at other dogs passing by the living room window, manage your dog’s behavior by closing the curtains or putting your dog in another room.  If you live in an apartment, try keeping the music or TV on to mask the barking sounds.

Block your dog’s access to doors and windows while he is indoors so he can’t see outside if the barking is continuous or put him in another room as other dogs pass by (at least while you are training).

There are also some devices that you can use that create a loud noise when your dog starts barking like the Doggie Don’t Device which are very effective to stop the barking.

Ignore the barking

Ignore your dog’s barking for as long as it takes him to stop. Which means don’t give him any attention at all while he’s barking; don’t talk to him and don’t even look at him. When your dog finally quiets down, than reward him with a treat or a hug.  The point is that when the barking is done, all is good!

Be patient even if he barks for a very long time…just let the barking session end and then reward your dog at the end.  Your dog will learn that he gets the reward when he stops barking.  In other words –catch him doing something good and reward him!

Desensitize your dog to the stimulus which in this case means other dogs

Gradually get your dog used to whatever is causing him to bark or in this case, other dogs.  Try to get your dog used to the idea that merely hearing and seeing other dogs does not mean (or allow) barking.

A training technique that works is to have someone, a friend, relative who owns a dog to have his or her dog on a leash and walk towards you.  When your friend approaches, let her feed your dog treats.  When the dog walks away, you stop feeding your dog treats and therefore the dog will learn that when another dog is visible and your dog does not bark is a good thing!   And they are rewarded.

This can take some time so be patient and it’s a big behavior to learn.  It could take weeks or months but consistency is key.

Use the “quiet” command when your dog barks

When your dog starts to bark, teach him the “quiet” command.  When he starts barking, say “quiet” and stick a treat in front of his face. Praise him for being quiet and give him the treat.  Your dog will learn that “quiet” gets a treat and positive reinforcement.  If your dog masters the quiet command, you can apply it to other times when he starts barking.  Praise and reinforce the good, quiet behavior and don’t yell “quiet”- it will scare your dog and he won’t understand it.  Be aware that depending on the excitement level or stimulus all the training in the world may not make this effective 100% of the time.

Ask your dog for an incompatible behavior while barking

When your dog starts barking, ask him to do something that’s incompatible with barking. Teach your dog to react to barking with something that stops him from barking, such as lying down in his bed or chasing his favorite toy or ball.  In fact, you can even give him a toy or a chew toy to put in his mouth which will certainly stop the barking.  Barking, chew toy – no sound!  Again this will only work in the house or yard verses out on a walk.

Make sure that your dog isn’t bored and gets daily exercise

Make sure your dog is getting enough physical and mental exercise every day. A tired dog is a good dog (we’ve all seen the commercials) and one who is less likely to bark from boredom or frustration.  Exercising is important for your dog for so many reasons and it can also help to control the barking.

If none of the above work and you really need more help, it’s best to hire a trainer who can work with you and your dog to stop the barking.   Always keep the training positive and don’t overdue the treats so your dog gains weight.  A hug and a ‘good boy’ is great for positive reinforcement too.

If training doesn’t seem to work you can always call me, an animal communicator to see if we are dealing with a root cause that is just not the normal and expected greetings from one being to another.  Sometimes there is a deeper motivation that we need to understand in order to combat it.  Additionally, if your dog is reactive on walks using bach flower essences before a trip into the public can help curb unwanted behaviors like barking, pulling and jumping.  Again contact me, Diane Weinmann at Dianefortheloveofanimals@yahoo.com if you need a custom bach flower essence treatment bottle.