1.) Practice off-lead walking
When you’re in a safe area let your dog run free and practice some off-lead control work. Keep these sessions short because they need lots of concentration and discipline (on both parts). They can also be kept exciting by adding changes of speed and direction. It’s important to make this training as ‘game-like’ as possible to keep your dog interested. Making sure you reward them with treats or a favourite toy to keep them motivated, especially if there are lots of distractions.
2.) Lead tricks
Keep your dog alert by switching directions or speeds during your walk. Try zigzagging, circling or alternating speeds to add that element of unpredictability while walking on the lead.
3.) Take a toy
Take a favourite toy along along for an off lead walk , and from time to time invite your dog to play a short, fun game. Stopping while their in the swing of things will leave them wanting more and keep their senses alert. You’ll find it also encourages them to keep an eye on you incase the game re-commences, so he’ll be less likely to stray too far.
If your dog likes chasing after balls, it can be tempting to use a ball launcher or tennis racket to send it a long distance, but shorter throws by hand keep your dog closer to you and involve more exciting chases. Longer throws can encourage boredom, especially if you have a dog with a short attention span!
4.) Variety is the spice of life
If you have a limited number of everyday routes, simple things like walking on the other side of the road can really spice up the walk for your dog as there will be different scents around.
Use your imagination to help add variety to your walks, walking on the grass, or taking the cross country route now and again, or even doing some make-shift agility like weaving in and out of fence posts create welcome challenges to your dog on their walk and help keep their minds alert.
5.) Practice training
Include a few training exercises while out on walks, both when on and off the lead. It’s important to do the work in a variety of environments so your dog learns how to react outside of training classes or at home. Include sits, stays, downs, heel work, and any tricks your dog knows, rewarding him between each exercise with praise, a treat, just as you would ordinarily. Even though they might be able to perform an exercise really well at home, it can be much harder for them when out in a distracting environment so be prepared to need extra motivating praise to reward them. This is also the perfect time to practice recalls if you have a safe space to do so. If your dog only learns when to come back to you at the end of the walk they will quickly learn that this means home time and the end of fun – so understandably will stop responding to your command.
6.) Practice walking
This may seem really obvious and boring but some dogs prefer to take their owners for a walk rather than the other way around! Teaching your dog to walk well on the lead benefits both of you. You don’t get pulled and your dog doesn’t get a sore neck. It’s a winning combination. If your dog is very strong and you’re really struggling, harnesses and head collars can help you adjust this pulling, but if not, its best to ask a professional and don’t forget to praise them when they walk well.
7.) Visit a new place
Visit an area you’ve never been to. Maybe you have a wood nearby, or a beach. If not, check out your local area – there are often hidden walking gems right under our noses. Or travel to a new destination if possible, walk along a riverbank and ask other dog walkers for recommended walking spots! New scenery is great for both of you.
8.) Find a walking friend
Finding a companion to walk with can liven up walks, making it easier to practice training and play games, as well as giving you some company. Obviously the dogs need to be compatible, and get along well but if all is well its a great way to liven up the walk for both of you. If you don’t have any friends with dogs, try asking at your training club to see if anyone local is interested in joining you, or even ask someone you chat to on your usual route!
9.) Don’t walk!
If your dog is high energy and seems bored by your usual walking routine, try taking them to do a completely different form of exercise like swimming, flyball, a relay event or agility training. You could also take your dog running, or cycling. Both of which encourage your dog to a different pace, burning more energy off than standard walk.
10.) Engage with your dog
Take an interest in what your dogs doing. If he starts to sniff wildly at something, don’t automatically pull him away to keep up with your own pace. Walking benefits you both but is primarily for your dog and a big part of the enjoyment for them is sniffing, so take an interest in what their doing, and let them follow a scent trail to see where it leads. You may be surprised at what you find and enjoy your walk even more than usual.