You will inevitably hear the phrase “A happy dog is a tired dog” somewhere in your life as someone interested in dogs. This phrase is true, but a dog owner will not see true results unless they take this at more than face value.
By this I mean that if you train your dog to walk a treadmill and you put him on one for an hour twice a day you may be meeting his physical needs, but you are not doing any more than that. On walks your dog not only burns energy and exercises, they interact with their environment through all of their senses! If you limit your dog to a treadmill walk you would be limiting their interactions with their world. This is the same for people who carry their dogs on walks or who run the course of their trail and never allow the dog to smell or stop to do anything more than eliminate. By doing any or all of these things you are not truly allowing your dog to be a part of their own world and territory, and you could unintentionally be creating an anxious and unsure dog.
Rather, allow your dog to smell, to “mark”, and to look at things. This does not mean that you should stand at the same corner for 5 minutes. Rather, try the following.
-Vary your routes as much as possible so that no walk is the same twice in a row. Humans are creatures of habit and so this will not only allow your dog to experience new things, but it will cause you to be aware during the walk. I should also note that in my opinion, walks should be technology free zones. This makes sure you are not distracted in the moment where your dog might get himself in trouble.
-If your dog finds something of interest stop and allow them to investigate, but not for more than one minute. The dog should know that you are in control of the walk and that when you say “let’s go” (or a similar command) that they are to leave what they’re investigating.
-Use walks as a way to train in the real world. This will allow you to see how well your dog “gets” the concept. That is because your dog will be distracted by the sights, sounds, and smells of new things and your dog will have to have true focus and trust in you to listen in these situations.
In addition to exercising your dog physically, do doing these you’re exercising your dog mentally. You’ll be not only asking them to think and challenge themselves (training in distracted situations) but you’ll be allowing them to think on their own for themselves (by experiencing through sight, sound, and smell).