Did the announcement of tightening restrictions and another lockdown fill you with dread when you thought about walking your dog? If so, read on for some tips and ideas on how to provide a little variety and enrichment to your local lockdown walk.
Learn some new map reading skills and get online to look for new local routes. Providing variety in where you take your dog will keep the daily walk more interesting. If you are limited with where you can walk straight from home, then providing some variety can be as simple as going the opposite way. Do you usually leave the house and turn right? Well mix it up and turn left! Do you usually go straight to the local field or park? Get those paws pounding on the pavement and do some street walking instead.
Make your walk unpredictable; slow it down and take in the scenery or speed it up and get a workout! Being more unpredictable with your pace will also encourage your dog to pay more attention to what you are doing and where you are going.
Make your daily lockdown walk a lockdown sniffari! Allowing your dog a chance to sniff fulfils a major part of their sensory needs – as much as physical and mental exercise does and as much as play does. Sniffing also lowers bodily functions such as heart rate, helping to promote calm behaviour. Sniffing is also a great mental workout for your dog and allows them to express normal, natural behaviour, therefore, improving their welfare and mood
People often focus on the physical and forget about the mental when they think about exercise for their dog. But exercising your dog’s brain is just as important as exercising the rest of them. Does your dog need to brush up on its recall skills? Does he tend to try and drag you around on the end of the lead? Spend some time training! Maybe being in lockdown has got you thinking about doing a sport or activity with your dog when restrictions lift, well now is the ideal time to start the groundwork for that! Whether it is obedience or agility that has caught your eye, there are lots of resources online with tips on how to get started and introduce the basics.
We have already touched on the importance and benefits of getting your dog to use its nose. Spice up their walks by getting them to use their nose to search for food. Scattering a handful of treats into the grass is like using nature as a big snuffle mat. Just remember to decrease their daily allowance to compensate for any treats given, and if your dog has piled on the lockdown pounds, then use some of their daily food allowance or get them to search for their favourite toy.
Make walk time play time and take out your dog’s favourite toy. Don’t just think that it’s all about the chase either – in fact, just throwing a ball repeatedly may do more harm than good. Instead, try building some self-control and impulse control into your games by doing some blind retrieves. This will involve your dog using that powerful nose! Or maybe try building focus by playing a game of tug with your dog.
Many wildlife organisations or charities have various challenges or surveys taking place throughout the year. For example, the RSPB do a Wild Challenge and Plantlife ask people to volunteer to take part in The Great British Wildflower Hunt. Make things extra interesting and add a challenge. This could be anything, for example, every time you come across a particular flower, take a photo of your dog next to it
Most people have a mobile phone with a camera, make use of this and make some lockdown memories of you and your dog. Get up early and capture a sunrise. Or, for those night owls, get snapping a sunset. Pictures of your best friend against a dramatic sky – what could be better?
Take a good look at your local area. The world is a confidence course! If you come across a fallen branch, then get your dog to jump it, encourage them to sniff it – look for things that wobble, benches to go under etc. Make sure it is safe for your dog to do so and if he is uncertain, build his confidence.
Have you piled on the pounds this lockdown? Perhaps your dog has too. Now could be the perfect time to take up a dog sport. Lockdown walks don’t have to mean that you walk! Sports like Canicross are perfect for building fitness together. You can even use a tracker to record your dog’s steps and compare them to yours. And for the more competitive owners – challenge yourself to beat your dog’s daily steps.
Apps like Tractive and Rundogo will allow you to track where you have been and how far you have gone. Set yourself a challenge and go a little further every day. Rundogo is also perfect for those of you taking up a dog sport to liven your dog’s activity up during lockdown. These apps are also useful for mapping out your local area.
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