Right up there with food, water, and shelter — walks are an essential need for dogs! In addition to the all-important potty break, dogs need walks for exercise, mental stimulation, enrichment, training, and more. Of course, these all don’t need to be separate. A good walk can combine different elements by giving your dog the time they need to do their business, get in a few good sniffs, and hit some of their exercise needs for the day. For a happier pup, consider working some of these types of walks into their routine.
5. The Potty Walk
A no-brainer of course — every dog needs potty walks to relieve themselves throughout the day. Exactly how many and for how long will depend on your individual dog but most healthy adult dogs need at least four potty breaks a day (puppies and seniors need more). Of course, this doesn’t always have to equate to an actual walk, we’re all familiar with those late-night “please go pee” whispers in the backyard.
For many dog owners, the sweet spot lies within longer walks to do their business in the morning and again in the late afternoon or early evening, plus a few short “pee breaks” sprinkled in throughout the day. The potty walk is an essential part of dog ownership and one of your pet’s most basic needs.
4. The Exercise Walk
All dogs need regular exercise to live happy, healthy lives. Exactly how much exercise a dog needs depends on several factors, including their breed, age, and overall health, but in general, recommendations for healthy adult dogs range from 30 minutes to 2 hours a day. And of course, walks can be a great way to help meet these needs.
Depending on your dog’s age, health, and fitness level, this can be a simple leisurely stroll down the street, a power walk through the park, or a tough trail hike. When thinking about starting more strenuous exercise sessions, always have a chat with your vet to make sure your dog can handle it and keep their size and breed in mind. A Belgian Malinois will hold up much better on a long hike than a Pomeranian. Certain dogs are better suited for certain activities!
3. The Sniff Walk
As the name implies, this is a walk where you simply allow your dog some time to satisfy one of their most natural instincts — sniffing! With over 100 million sensory receptors (far more than a human’s measly 6 million) dogs navigate the world through their noses. Sniffing not only gives dogs critical information about their environment, including who or what may be nearby, but it also provides important mental stimulation and can even increase dopamine levels — known as the “happy” hormone.
A good sniff walk can tire a dog out almost as much as an exercise walk, they just use their brain a bit more than their body. Both of which are equally important to exercise. Consider taking some time on walks to allow your dog to follow their nose (safely, of course — keep them leashed and look out for any potential hazards). A dog’s nose is an incredible navigation system, be sure to let them use it from time to time!
2. The Exploration Walk
Just like us humans, dogs can get bored of the same sights day after day. While daily walks around the neighborhood are still exciting for your dog, every once in a while, take them on an adventure! Dogs love visiting new places and taking in new sights, sounds, and smells. An exploration walk could be as simple as a short visit to a local park or a weekend trip to the beach or lake. For many dogs, the car ride there is also a big part of the fun!
When planning an outing for your dog, be sure the areas you’re going are dog-friendly, pack plenty of water, and always be mindful of the heat. In the summer, opt for early morning or late afternoon outings to avoid high temperatures and keep your dog safe.
1. The Training Walk
While most people equate training with puppies, all dogs can benefit from training. One of the easiest ways to incorporate that into your daily routine — the training walk! Next time you’re leashing up your dog, go ahead and grab that treat pouch as well. Walks are a great time to work on things like recall, leash pulling, and the “leave it” command. And yes, this goes for older dogs too. Contrary to popular belief, old dogs can learn new tricks and these types of walks will help keep them sharp!
If you have a reactive dog, training while on walks is an absolute must! Practice some counter-conditioning and desensitization techniques by tossing them a treat every time another dog passes (or a person, bicycle, or whatever your dog's triggers are). It’s also a good way to teach your dog to have patience when crossing the street. Use treats to teach a “sit” or “wait” position before crossing the road.
Being an active participant in your dog’s walk will not only keep your dog engaged and eager to learn but may ultimately help strengthen the bond you both share!