The whole world is an adventure
So why always take the same routes together? How boring would that be! And not just for us people, but for our dogs too. Yet it’s as easy as pie to turn a walk into a shared adventure.
We’ve all seen them – dog owners on their phones or yapping with their friends as they wander through the fields with barely a minute to spare for their four-legged companion. In the meantime, the dog does what he wants, runs across the field and into the woods, eating things that he shouldn’t and getting up to all kinds of mischief. It’s not surprising – he’s bored and is making his own entertainment.
However, the owner seldom recognises this as the problem and scolds his “disobedient” dog instead. That kind of walk is no fun for either the dog or his owner, and both are sure to get frustrated. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With deliberate planning, a walk can really challenge and stimulate your dog, leaving absolutely no room for boredom. The whole world is an adventure, so get out there and discover it with your beloved four-legged friend!
Enjoy nature with your eyes open
You don’t have to go and discover a completely new route every day to make future walks more enjoyable for both you and your dog. Obviously it’s fun for your dog to explore new paths and it’s incredible how much there is out there to sniff out and discover. However, nobody can offer their dog an alternative route each and every day, which is why it makes sense to jazz up your tried and tested trails a bit. To do this, you only need to keep your eyes open when you’re out in nature and you’ll find lots of things along the way to incorporate into your walk and make it more fun. For example, if you come across a fallen tree trunk, get your dog to jump over it or see if he can balance on top. The latter task has the additional benefit of training your pet’s sense of balance.
Make sure you only use large tree trunks that are lying in a stable position on the ground. A pile of tree trunks would be unsuitable as you run the risk of them breaking apart and starting to roll. Bear in mind that these kinds of games are only appropriate in fine weather too, because your dog won’t be able to get any grip on a wet tree trunk.
• Large rocks are excellent for easy obedience exercises – let your dog climb onto a boulder and then get him to “sit” or “lie down”. Again, please be sure to check the rock’s stability beforehand and only practise the exercise in dry weather.
• Depending on how they are made, park benches can be good for getting your dog to crawl underneath and out the other side.
• Trees or bushes that stand close together make a great slalom course for your dog, and you can incorporate your own legs as obstacles too. Or you could make a course by sticking branches into the ground with an appropriate distance in between.
• Why not lay sticks on the ground in a square and get him to “sit” in the box?
Get creative and use what your surroundings have to offer.
Dogs love searching games
You can have enormous fun outside with different searching games.
• For example, get him to look for a ball, one of his other toys or a stick – whatever motivates your four-legged friend the most. Hide it in some long grass or in a bush and let him seek it out.
Your dog can have fun working his food
A walk will be particularly exciting for your dog when he has to work for some of his food. Lots of dog owners swear by giving their dog at least one daily meal when they’re out walking.
• Get your dog to search for food on command. But be careful: This is not an exercise for particularly hungry dogs such as Labradors, as the idea is to teach them that they are not allowed to search for every available edible thing. And you shouldn’t just scatter the food along the path as you walk either, getting him to go off and search for it. This will only encourage him to eat things off the side of the road, which you definitely don’t want to promote. After all, next time it could be poisonous bait. No matter which exercise you use, you should be the only person to give your dog his reward. Bring along a food bag, such as a small pouch, which you can fill with dry food or treats and then hide away. This will motivate your dog to search for it and also to retrieve it, as he’ll need to get his owner to undo the zip before he can get to his reward.
• If you want to raise the bar a little and at the same time train your dog’s impulse control, you can teach him that he is only allowed to run and fetch the food dummy (or his ball/toy) when you say “Go!”, “Okay!” or “Fetch!” This exercise is excellent for training your dog’s obedience skills. He will also learn self-control and to trust your word. You’ll see how much fun he has when he’s finally allowed to run.
Great ideas for more excitement
Incidentally, there’s also a way for you to make sure that your dog concentrates on you more when you are out walking together in the future. How? Simply by constantly surprising your pet with something unexpected.
• Do a little magic: Dogs love it when you’re out on a walk and you suddenly produce something “out of your hat” to entertain them. Most dogs love to chase and fetch a Frisbee, for example. A ball or a squeaker is just as good – just make really sure that your dog doesn’t notice you hiding the toy. If you always have a surprise at the ready, you will be a constant source of fascination for your dog and he will pay much more attention to you knowing that something exciting could happen at any moment. Play hide and seek: Does your dog run ahead without showing much interest in you? Try hiding behind a tree or a bush and calling your pet to you. He’ll be pretty surprised when he finds he can no longer see you and will come looking for you. Remember to give him a friendly rallying call, and don’t put too much distance between you and your dog otherwise he might start to worry that you’ve really disappeared and run home in a panic. To be on the safe side, leave him on the training leash and call to him before it becomes taut.
• This game becomes even more exciting when there are three of you out and about. Show your dog a treat (a ball or his favourite toy) and then run away with it and hide. Meanwhile, your dog is kept on the leash by a helper and is only allowed to run and find you when you or your friend gives the command. He then gets the reward when he finds you. In the beginning you can help your dog by calling him repeatedly. Later you can make the game more difficult, but also more fun, when you let him find you by tracking your scent. As a matter of fact, that’s how search dogs are trained. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with simply having fun with your dog – not everything that you do together has to be an obedience exercise in disguise.
• For example, if it’s still warm come the autumn you could wade through a shallow stream together. Dogs find it really fun when their owner gets into cold water with them.
• Go stomping through piles of autumn leaves and dig around in them together! This is also a great place to hide a toy for your dog to find.
• If you’re the type who really enjoys romping about and being silly with their dog, then play tag with him around the bushes and trees. Sometimes you’ll hunt your dog and sometimes he’ll hunt you! Watch his eyes sparkle with excitement.
• Dogs who don’t immediately gain the upper hand with this game might well enjoy playing tug-of-war instead. And even if you’re stronger than your four-legged play pal, let him win a few times and enjoy his enthusiasm.
Sure, walks like these mean you need to pay a lot more attention than simply trotting alongside your dog letting him do his own thing. And sure, you’ll have to work a bit sometimes. But it really is worth it, because not only will you have a dog who is well and truly exercised, but also one who is much more oriented towards you, who will stay near you and will watch what you are doing. After all, he knows that something fantastic could happen at any time!
Call into your local store today to discuss your dog’s personal needs with our Maxi Zoo Pet Experts