|Posted on May 4, 2014 at 11:55 AM|
Everyone needs to and should be walking their dog daily but rarely do most people think about the quality of this time we spend with our dog. A common approach is that we must physically exhaust our dog on the walk to satisfy their needs. Our dogs obviously do need physical exercises daily but we must be aware of what habit we are creating for our dogs.
Your dog’s mental state can be the cause of so many unsocial and dangerous behaviours. This is why some dog trainers only ever recommend doing training exercises after extensive physical exercise. The reason for this is to help remove adrenaline from the body and physically exhaust the dog to the point they have little energy remaining. This can make training exercises much easier and should only be used in my opinion a few times and with care. As the dog physically has less energy they will be less likely to have the intensity behind their responses. A dog over-adrenalized can be extremely erratic, due to this they can be a danger to themselves and others.
“There are no intentions in an over-adrenalized dog, only actions. "Intention" implies deliberate choice. A dog in this state is not capable of deliberate action.” – Chad Mackin, Pack to Basics
Dogs will and should have an adrenaline response when necessary just like humans. I described in an earlier blog “Adrenaline should only be produced as a response from the body to help you deal with a dangerous or alerted situation. If it is produced regularly at any other time it is mentally and physically unhealthy” - www.pawsforwalkies.com/apps/blog/show/39515281-is-your-dog-an-adrenaline-junkie-
One of the problems of the physical exhaustion approach when used too often or for excessive periods we start building stamina and creating an athlete in our dog. The approach that I use and recommend is focusing on the quality of our daily walks and monitoring your dog’s mental state. You should see this as your chance to work your dog every day. As a society time is a concept that is always in the forefront of our thoughts. For example we start our dog walk off with a preconceived route and time which we must adhere to in order to continue our already busy lifestyle. What I am suggesting is that we slow things down a little and start teaching our dogs the behaviour we want from them. Family dog owners will always have a limited time that they can spend on walks due to other commitments but we do not need complete our defined route. We can turn around or change our route if you are restricted for time, try to focus on your interaction rather than walking a route.
So, where to start?
One of the most important parts of your walk is the build up to leaving the house. If this is uncontrolled and your dog is already over stimulated this will continue on to the walk. Teaching your dog to be calm and attentive before you leave the house cannot be underestimated. The best advice I can offer without meeting your individual dog at this point is to take your time when doing your rituals of shoes, jacket and lead etc. We do not need to encourage any high energy responses at this point by saying anything to the dog. DO NOT BUILD EXCITEMENT. Ideally give the dog one place to stay while you prepare and every time they move from the area stop what you’re doing and instruct them back. Practise this exercise when leaving the house also. If you do not have the time to practice when you are less restricted for time, then think of this time spent as part of the walk. DO NOT RUSH OUT THE DOOR. Please take the time to create a new calm habit with your dog.
“When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still” -Svatmarama, Hatha Yoga Pradipika
I would highly recommend going to different environments with your dog and allowing them to observe it. Initially try to do this with your dog in quiet environments. Ideally once your dog relaxes we can reward this behaviour. If your dog is relaxed in the lower level environments you should look to gradually increase the distraction levels possibly by going to different areas. What we want to do is teach our dog to be relaxed on the walks and in different environments. Below is a quote centred on Yoga which has a profound connection with my ethos on walking a dog.
“The autonomic nervous system is divided into the sympathetic system, which is often identified with the fight-or-flight response, and the parasympathetic, which is identified with what’s been called the relaxation response. When you do yoga — the deep breathing, the stretching, the movements that release muscle tension, the relaxed focus on being present in your body — you initiate a process that turns the fight-or-flight system off and the relaxation response on. That has a dramatic effect on the body. The heartbeat slows, respiration decreases, blood pressure decreases. The body seizes this chance to turn on the healing mechanisms” - Richard Faulds
I want to have relaxing walks with my dogs. By doing these simple steps and slowing our walks down we teach our dogs to cope with their environment out of adrenaline. In my view training and teaching these habits remove the need for extreme physical exhaustion in our dog’s daily life. We must always fulfil our dogs need for physical and mental exercise but the quality of that stimulation should always be the priority.
Paws for Walkies