Walking (with) your dog can be a fun and engaging physical and mental exercise. It’s also the time for you and your dog to bond. Yes it means take a break from your phone and just talk to your dog – by talk I mean engage with – though I do often converse with my dog during our walk. If you don’t want to talk to your dog and look like a crazy dog parent, you can always incorporate games into your walking routine.
‘Touch’ command or Target Training is where you teach your dog to touch an object with their nose or paw. Have a treat inside your hand and say ‘Touch’. When your dog’s nose touches your hand, mark it (by a clicker or saying ‘Yes’) and release the treat from your hand. Once your dog gets a hang of it, you can phase out the treat from your hand and start having fun with it, eg. put your hand up high so your dog needs to jump to touch it, put your hand in between your legs so your dog needs to weave through them, put your hand on a pole or a tree, and so on. Don’t forget to reward your dog, and keep it short and fun!
Playing a game of catch is a great way to get your dog’s focus and attention on you. You can throw a treat or a toy for your dog to catch. When your dog starts to get distracted or seems to forget that you’re even there, you can play a couple rounds of Catch Game to remind them how fun and interesting you are!
Is your dog great in heeling? Do they get distracted easily by people and other dogs? Why don’t we make heeling fun by turning it into a game! Change your walking pace randomly, engage your dog with an upbeat voice to walk as fast as you, then go slow and fast again, and stop and sit, and so on. Change direction or walk in zig zags – the combinations are endless! Don’t forget to reward your dog for playing the game.
Find-it (or Search) Game
This is one of our favourite games to play and training my dog this exercise has got me out of a jam numerous times! I have taught my dog to find our car (very handy!), my husband, home, and so on. You can start by teaching your dog to find or search for treats. Simply toss a treat on the ground nearby and ask your dog to ‘Find-it’ or ‘Search’. This is a great game for anxious, fearful or over-excited dogs that need to be distracted from potential triggers like approaching dogs or people. It gives them something else to focus on and do.
Last but not least, take your dog on a Sniffari walk. Let your dog sniff whatever they want and lead you wherever they want to go. It’s amazing how many little things we miss and how much more in-tune we are with our surroundings after this Sniffari walk. Plus, it’s so mentally enriching and relaxing for the dogs, and a good enough reason for being late for work!
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