Ideal for the disillusioned dog walker.

When the sun is shining, the temperature clement and the country’s mood buoyant, there’s nothing better than taking your dog for a saunter. You answer every ‘how old is she?’ with unbridled enthusiasm, you relish those tangles with the other canines (and their owners), and you even take a weird sort of pleasure in the warm, freshly laid feeling of picking up their poop.

During winter, it’s a very different story; an occasion to be braved rather than savoured, with none of the good cheer and camaraderie that defines those summer strolls.

If you’re needing a little push during these colder, less hospitable months, then read on; here are 5 tips for falling back in love with dog walking, IDEAL for the disillusioned dog walker.

IT’S A SHARED EXPERIENCE 

Don’t think of it as you, the human, taking them, the dog, for a walk. As The Conversation points out, “Dogs, like other animals, are sentient beings that think, feel and have their own personalities – and we need to “listen” to and negotiate with them about how the walk is experienced. The walk is a shared experience, after all.”

As such, they recommend adapting “the timing, length and location of the walks depending on the perceived personality of the dog and what they think the dogs like and dislike the most”. Don’t do this thing out of a sense of obligation or duty; rather, relish in this shared time together.

Just as your dog needs the exercise, so too remember that this is a healthy activity for you, too. According to Harvard Health, walking the dog does indeed count as exercise. In 2017, they reported; ”A new study suggests that the added activity counts toward recommended physical activity goals’.

‘The study included 86 adults ages 65 or older, half of whom owned a dog. All the participants wore activity trackers and were monitored continuously for three week-long periods over the course of one year. Dog owners walked an average of 20 more minutes a day and took about 2,700 additional steps compared with people who did not have a dog at home.”

So, embrace the chance that dog walking brings for you to get your step count up and get some fresh air in your lungs!

BE THE DOG

Paws for thought and put yourself in your dog’s shoes for a moment. Not that they wear shoes, but anyway. 

Your dog is stuck at home for most of the day, doing nothing (sound familiar?) and those walkies are one of the only times they get out there, socialise with other dogs and enjoy themselves. 

It’s not only a time to relieve themselves, but a time to stretch those four legs and be mentally stimulated. It’s the one time of day they get to go out and explore. As such, let your dog sniff and explore around, don’t rush their bathroom breaks or temper their curiosity. Your dog deserves some ‘me time’ away from the domestic space; so let them run wild and savour those moments of tranquillity for yourself, too.

GET YOUR DOG TRAINED 

Sure, it’s vital that you give your dog some space and freedom on your walks, but if those strolls are consistently leaving you both annoyed and frustrated, and you’re consistently coming home with an aching shoulder from pulling and a sore throat from calling for your dog, then an intervention might be required. 

At this stage, you might want to consider dog training classes. Speak to an appropriate dog trainer about issues of your pup pulling on the lead and hesitating at every tree, lamp post and shrub on your walk (if that’s what they do, of course) and any of your concerns about their development. The trainer will have professional, certified tips and tricks to recommend to make the whole thing more manageable; and that’s why you’re here, right?

THE RIGHT GEAR 

Just like a baby needs ‘stuff’, so does a dog. First things first, finding the right collar and leash combo to suit both you and your dog is essential. You can also opt to use a dog harness instead of, or in addition to, a collar. A harness can give you better control, especially if your dog pulls on the leash a lot or squirms out of a collar easily.

It’s not just the lead that will make walking your dog easier. If they hate going out in the cold, then we’d imagine that your dog isn’t loving the current bracing conditions either. As such, we suggest investing in a fleece jacket for an extra layer of warmth. These are an especially good idea for short-haired and elderly dogs who feel the cold just as much as us. Be sure to buy the jacket according to the breed of your dog, as some may need a different shape, size and thickness. This is a case of one-size-certainly-doesn’t-fit-all, here.

In case your dog isn’t able to walk on its own, due to age or medical conditions, there are options to help get around more effortlessly and adequately. Dog strollers and prams are a practical investment, not only because they give your dog that sense of freedom and stimulation it so craves, but also because all their accessories can be easily stored. 

FIND A WALKING BUDDY 

Other than your dog, we mean. Pairing up with another dog walker allows both pets to wander around, sniff, and explore, whilst you can enjoy the company of a fellow human. There are dog walking groups out there that you can join to make your daily outing more social, or, consider setting one up yourself

Of course, right now with government restrictions on socialising outdoors in place, do check with the latest rules and guidelines prior to buddying up. Good luck!

THE BOTTOM LINE

The benefits of dog walking for you and your furry, four legged companion are huge, from increasing your bond with each other all the way to giving your physical health a boost. That said, during winter, it can sometimes be hard to find the motivation to go out together everyday.

We hope the tips above give you the push you need to get out there, even in the most hostile of conditions, to grant your dog the exercise and stimulation it needs. We’ll see you out there!