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Why Aren’t You Walking Your Dog?

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In addition to the cardiovascular benefits to you and the dog, a walk with your dog can be an enjoying and enriching bonding experience.  Why then are many dog owners are still unable or unwilling to partake in this activity?  There are a variety of reasons that I have heard from clients and there are also ways to overcome these barriers. 

I let my dog out in my backyard.  While this is a good practice for potty breaks and playtime, it does not replace the enrichment a dog receives from processing the fresh and novel aromas outside of your home and yard.  Walks are mentally stimulating for dogs.  Walks also keep your dog well socialized to humans and other dogs.  For dogs, the difference between being let out in the yard and a walk around the neighborhood is like the difference between me eating lunch in a cubicle under fluorescent lighting and eating lunch on the Champs Elysees.

My dog pulls.  By far, this is one of the most common reasons that dogs are left inside or in the yard.  A multitude of No-Pull harnesses have been developed to discourage dogs from pulling on their leashes.  The “Gentle Leader” is my favorite because it gives the handler the most leverage to prevent pulling.  For small dogs that are not powerful, the “Easy Walk Harness” is another option.  Both products come with DVDs that explain how to fit and use the products.  There are also some behavior modification techniques that can be implemented with the help of a trainer.

My dog is reactive to other dogs.  A reactive dog can present dangerous scenarios in public.  It is important to use appropriate leashes and collars and to stay under your dog’s threshold.  If you are not ready to manage the behavior with a dog training professional, there are some options to offer your dog a change of scenery and smell.  Try walking your dog during off peak or low traffic hours. Walk in a wide open park where you have more options to keep your dog from getting close to other dogs.  Go off the beaten path.  I have been to the nature trails at Markham Park and Plantation Heritage Park.  During off peak hours, I have not seen another person or dog on the trails.  Enlist the help of a friend to serve as lookout for other dogs to be safe. 

My dog is too old.  The amount of exercise a dog needs in his senior years should be determined by a veterinarian.  A senior dog will benefit from a leisurely stroll down your driveway and down a few houses if your veterinarian approves.  Again, dogs benefit from the mental stimulation of processing novel scents.  There are a multitude of strollers available for physically challenged dogs to partake in the sights and smells around the neighborhood.

It’s too hot.  During the winter months in South Florida, dogs and their owners can enjoy brisks walk on a cool days.  In the summer, a walk could be dangerous to brachycephalic (short nosed) dogs.  Products like the Kool Collar can keep your dog from overheating, but keep your walks short, shaded, and in the evening or morning.

I don’t have the time.  Pay now or pay later.  Many of the behaviors that my clients want me to “fix” can be attributed to lack of exercise, mental stimulation, and socialization.  The behaviors include barking, destructive behavior, aggression, fear, and more.  There is time and money involved in cleaning up after, or addressing these behaviors.  There are many professional dog walking companies that offer this service if you cannot find the time. 

So many people begin the new year with healthy resolutions that include exercise.  Why not include your dog?

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Written by dawnhanna

December 29, 2011 at 3:03 pm

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