Our dogs seem to know the routine by now… It gets to a certain time of the day, and they are waiting by their lead before we even have a chance to get our walking shoes on.
Walking your dog is a fantastic way to stay in shape and clear your mind from all the stress of the day. A brisk walk or jog along the path in the park sounds like a fun fitness routine for both of you, AND you’re getting your four-legged friend out the house. It sounds like a win-win! But is it?
Us humans are busier than ever, between juggling a pandemic, working from home, possibly home-schooling… the list seems to be endless these days. Getting to the gym hasn’t been an option for a while, so using the time we take to walk the dog is the perfect opportunity to get our workout done and dusted.
Here’s the thing, while we may think getting out of the house means a non-stop jog to increase our heart rate and improve fitness, our dogs see it as an opportunity to catch up on local news because absolutely everything has a scent. Yes, they will love a walk regardless of the speed, it’s time spent with their favourite person, inspecting the world outside – what could be better than that?
While we can appreciate some of the stronger smells on our walks like freshly cut grass, the bakery on the corner, and the cows in the field, dogs are getting a much wider variety of smells that they are programmed to interpret in much more detail than we are. Dogs have over 300 million olfactory receptors in their nose, compared to approximately 6 million in ours. And the part of their brain that is devoted to analysing smells is 40 times greater than a human. So, a smell is not just a smell to them.
They process scents like we process colours. While we see rainbows in the sky, they smell “rainbows” in the grass and on the lamp post! Think of smells being like your dog’s version of social media, allowing them to catch up on the latest news, see what the dog next door has been doing, and discover who has “checked in” to the neighbourhood.
Since you and your dog each want something different from your time together outside, this can cause some frustration on either end of the leash. While you want to run at a steady pace, they might keep pulling you to every lamp post you pass. Or if they want to go for a lengthy sniff at the tree, you keep pulling them towards the walking path.
A little compromise, and a slight change of mindset, goes a long way. It’s important to remember who the walk is intended for. Our dogs spend most of their time between the walls of our house, so this outing means more to them than it does for us. If we want to keep them happy and healthy, we need to see this time as their time that we are lucky enough to be part of.
But that, of course, does not mean we can’t benefit from it and get the same amount of joy from the outing. There are ways to make this time about both of you. By splitting the outing into two activities – a brisk walk or jog with your dog beside you, followed by a slow walk allowing them to finally sniff and catch up on the local news, you are getting the exercise you need and you are stimulating their mind by letting them follow scents and discover the world around them.
It’s completely possible to allow your dog to take the lead without losing control. Try letting them follow their nose and see where it leads you. By doing this you are making sure that your dog gets the stimulation they need as well as reducing their stress levels, burning energy, and boosting their mood.
Changing your perspective and expectations on your walks will help you be there for your dog and build your connection. Too often, dog-walks happen with our headphones on or while talking on the phone. Our walks should be a time to connect with our dogs and to be 100% present. Not only will you benefit from some tech downtime, but your dog will definitely appreciate the extra attention.
30 MAY - BIG DOG WALK, LEICESTERSHIRE
Belvoir Castle is located in the heart of the Vale of Belvoir, nestled between Nottingham and Grantham, with close links to the A1, A52 and A607.
6 JUNE - BIG DOG WALK, SURREY
Loseley Park is nestled in the Surrey countryside, conveniently located just off the A3 on the outskirts of Guildford.
13 JUNE - BIG DOG WALK, SUSSEX
Borde Hill is just north of Haywards Heath and can be accessed from the A23. It's a short 30 minutes away from Horsham and the beautiful seafront city of Brighton.
27 JUNE - BIG DOG WALK, YORKSHIRE
Harewood House is nestled in West Yorkshire between Leeds and the beautiful spa town of Harrogate and just a stone's throw from Wetherby and the A1.
3 OCTOBER - BIG DOG WALK KENT
St Clere is situated in the lovely town of Sevenoaks, just off the M26. It is in the westerly side of Kent, a county that has been coined the Garden of England.
17 OCTOBER BIG DOG WALK ESSEX
Hylands Park is situated in Chelmsford, in the heart of Essex, just a short journey from North London.
Learn more about The Big Dog Walk Series 2021