There are many people who would like to adopt dogs but do not want to walk their dogs, at least not regularly. Walking their dogs, they feel, is an activity to do "when the mood strikes". At the very most, they take the dogs out on the weekends or on holidays, as if the walk were a luxury for the dogs, rather than a necessity. It has made us so paranoid that we may be sending our dogs to a life of imprisonment that we are hesitant to paper or pee-pad train our dogs!
Despite popular belief, the walk is not just so the dogs can go potty. So it does not matter if the dog is housebroken or if the dog has a large garden to do his business in. The dog may be a domesticated animal, but they still have some primal instincts. One of these is the need to walk. The dog, no matter how small, coiffed and cute he may be, is the descendant of the grey wolf. Wolves are nomads by nature and spend up to a third of their time on the move, sometimes covering more than 150km in search of food. This wanderlust is deeply ingrained in a dog's DNA. While the story of the lone wolf has been romanticized in stories, the wolf is mostly a pack animal. This pack mentality has also been passed on to the dog. Ever noticed how your dog gets really excited before a walk? This is a remnant of the pack behaviour from their wolf ancestors, where they exhibit the same excited behaviour as they work up adrenaline before a hunt.
While letting a dog run around the garden or at a dog run is good exercise, they are not substitutes for walking the dog. These activities do not provide the same mental stimulation a dog gets by investigating every sight, smell and sound on a stroll. A garden, no matter how big, is still a prison if the dog is not allowed outside the 4 walls. Can you imagine being on house arrest even if home was a large mansion? Can you blame dogs for developing neurotic behaviours if they get put on doggy house arrest for most, if not all, of their lives?
Walking a dog helps socialise the dog. The dog will get to meet other dogs and people on the trail. Even if the dog does not get to meet any other dogs on her walk, she will still learn about the other dogs who have been through the area by their pee. Dogs checking other dogs' pee is like humans checking updates on Facebook. This allows the dog to find out about who the other dog is, and what he has eaten that day and if he is feeling under the weather or not. All this information just from a sniff!
Regardless of whether there are other dogs in the family, the dog is still a pack animal. The humans in the household become part of the pack. Where along the hierarchy the humans fall into is dependent totally on the humans themselves. Walking the dog the right way helps to establish the human as the leader of the pack. The dogs will fall into place as long as the leader position is assumed. Otherwise, the dog may start to assert himself over the human if he feels that he has no leadership. This is the start of most, if not all, of a dog's behavioural issues. A well-walked dog is a well-behaved dog. Not only does the walk provide the dog with physical and mental stimulation and leave the dog contentedly tired, it also helps establish the human as the leader in this relationship.
The best part about walking a dog? It helps cultivate bonding between the human and the dog. Spending time with your dog discovering new places and sharing experiences strengthens and enriches your relationship with your dog. Not to mention that walking the dog has an indirect benefit of keeping you active and healthy!
So take hold of that leash and walk on, pack leader. May your walk be full of discoveries and wonders for both you and your dog!
Written by : Sam