Most dog owners understand how important it is to take their dogs outside for daily walks. However, plain old walks – just marching your dog around the block on a short leash – don’t really cut it for many dogs. They’re boring, they’re too short, and they don’t allow enough freedom. So, can a walk help with dog training?
Of course, many of our dogs would love a 1-2 hour hike in nature every day. But that’s simply not a reality for many of us. Whether we don’t have the time, live too far from nature, or simply don’t want to go hiking every day, that’s not a good compromise for many of us.
My favorite remedy for short urban walks is using a walk to help with dog training. You don’t need to get your heart rate up, spend hours of every day, or buy a ton of equipment. Below are a few of my favorite options.
The Urban Sniffari
This is a sniffing-focused mental exercise for your pup. You’ll be amazed how much more tired a well-sniffed dog can be versus a well-walked dogs.
Benefits: Exercises your dog’s mind by engaging his nose. This helps soothe excitable dogs and doesn’t require anything from you.
Materials Needed: A 10+ foot leash, a back-clip harness, patience, and (maybe) treats.
How to Play: Start by simply walking and allowing your dog to sniff as much as he wants. Help guide your route towards hot sniffing spots – vertical trees, tall patches of grass, etc. You’ll learn what piques your dog’s interest. You might only make it a block in 20 minutes – and that’s ok. If your dog is a hardcore puller who doesn’t seem interested in sniffing, tossing treats intermittently in long grass can help get your dog started.
This training exercises your dog’s mind and body using the objects you find on your walk.
Benefits: Teach your dog fun new tricks, builds strength, and exercises her mind.
Materials Needed: Treats, a leash, some imagination.
How to Play: Start asking your dog to engage with objects that you find on your walk. Can he put his front paws up on the mailbox? Jump over that fallen log? Wriggle under the playground slide? Balance on the decorative rock? You can easily lure your dog into most of these tricks using a treat. Just be careful not to put your dog in any dangerous positions, like slipping from a high perch.
Staring contest builds engagement with your dog by practicing heelwork on walks.
Benefits: Teach your dog to walk ultra-politely and help teach her to ignore distractions.
Materials Needed: Treats, a leash, a smile. Clicker optional.
How to Play: Start in a super quiet area. For younger or untrained dogs, this might be your living room. Simply reward your dog for any passing eye contact. Slowly build up duration before treats – ask your dog to look at you for ½ second, then 1 second, then 3, and so on. Once your dog is able to make eye contact for 5 seconds, start to move but continue rewarding your dog for glancing up at you. Frequent direction changes (walking erratically) can help. Slowly add in distractions – taking your dog to more and more places. You can continue this training by making it a game for your dog. Changing direction, walking in a circle, side-stepping, or changing pace make it more interesting while constantly rewarding your dog for eye contact and staying with you.
Tips: Don’t punish your dog for pulling. Remember, this is a game, after all! Swap sides to help avoid making your dog’s neck sore. And be enthusiastic!
You really don’t need much time or many supplies to help take your dog’s daily walk to the next level with dog training. Now go enjoy and have fun!
Find more training tips here.