Thursday, August 29, 2013

Walk Your Dog in Natural Surroundings!

I elected to start taking my golden retriever mix on walks along the Gitchi Gami bike trail, which runs along the highway beside my grandmother's house.  He's awfully cramped up inside the room that we stay in, which is horribly unfair to him, and as you can imagine, the living situation has caused him to try to relieve his anxiety by chewing on...

Well, pretty much everything.

He's stressed, and that needs to stop.  So I started taking him for walks.  This, after all, is much more environmentally friendly than, say, collars that smell like lavender, or coats that hug a dog's body in an attempt to calm them.

Yep, those things really do exist.

Walking on the bike trail, surrounded by nature, is much preferable.  Aside from being more environmentally friendly, it's also healthier for both you and your pet.  I mean, obviously it's good exercise, but the benefits go beyond that:

Emotional Health - Spending time outside in a natural environment relieves stress.  Indeed,
"Researchers found that people experienced the largest boosts to their mood and self-esteem after just spending five minutes outside doing some form of light exercise, like walking." (source)
Intellectual Health - Natural surroundings increase creativity in children, as I mentioned in a previous blog post.  From conversations I've had with adults that spend some time walking along hiking trails, the same applies to adults.  Walking in natural surroundings frees your mind, allowing you to set your mind free.

Still not convinced?  You probably need to hear more about the benefits in relation to walking your dog specifically, right? 

No worries.  I would, too.

In the beginning, your dog will drive you nuts.  Dogs that aren't used to going out for long, those that are cramped up in a small space for too long, and those that are rarely on a leash can be a bit... unruly.

Aw, heck...  

They're just outright anger-inducing for their owners.  Anyone who says differently is a liar.  They pull at the leash, they bolt off toward every single movement along the path, and they jump in fear whenever anything even slightly removes them from their comfort zone.  This naturally causes the owner to feel as though it isn't worth it.

But it is.

Because after a while, your dog starts to fall into the rhythm of things.  You begin to assert your...

1.  Leadership.  
    Your dog begins to realize that it goes where you decide, and it begins to pull on the leash less and less, until eventually no pulling happens at all.  Your dog is finally happy.  This happiness begins to grow, and you begin to acquire a state of...

2.  Confidence.
     This confidence takes root during these walks with your dog in nature, true, but just like everything else that we find in nature, it grows.  It expands.  The confidence eventually becomes so strong that it expands out into other areas in your life, bringing you a greater sense of accomplishment in your life, overall. 

And it all happened because you forced yourself to get through the first steps, which took a lot of...

3.  Patience.
     That's an important aspect of this, perhaps the most important, and it's not easy.  My dog has an extraordinarily submissive personality.  He wants someone to lead him, and he's not happy unless that's happening.  It doesn't take a lot to get him to do what you want - pointing at him and saying "no" will cause him to stop whatever he's doing without a second thought.

Yet even with him, it took about a week to get him walking on a loose leash at all times.  Remember: He's highly submissive.  It would take most dogs much longer to achieve this state.

The trick is to focus on "your mission."  In my case, it was getting us both to the boat launch, which is about a mile away.  That took a few days, because he just couldn't handle the walk.  He was used to doing absolutely nothing, remember?

Every dog is different, just as every human is different.  

Don't stress about how long it takes to get to the 'loose leash' point.  My dog is not the norm.  Most dogs will take longer to reach this state.  My tiny, 15 pound dog still hasn't even come close to this state!

Give yourself - and your dog - a chance.  Go out onto a hiking trail or bike trail, like I did, and go walk your dog out in natural surroundings.



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2 comments:

jenna fortin said...

Daily walks provide your dog with positive attention from you and a chance to be with you doing something he loves. Dogs do not self-entertain. If you put your dog outside in your fenced-in yard, he will not exercise himself (unless there is another dog to play with). It is also a great workout for us or if you don't have enough time you can also hire any dog walking service .

Rebecca Foster said...

I agree with you one hundred percent, Jenna!

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