Why you should change up your dog’s walking route

Combined ShapeCaption
Teddy and Ed out for a walk. PROVIDED

Teddy and Ed out for a walk. PROVIDED

Combined ShapeCaption
Teddy and Ed out for a walk. PROVIDED

Since my husband, Ed, started working from home a little over a year ago, he and our 7-year-old Lab, Teddy, have taken a two-mile walk right before lunch.

Both look forward to it. For Ed, it’s a chance to get some fresh air and stretch his legs. For Teddy, it’s a chance to check on his neighborhood and stretch his legs, too.

This routine, as well as consistent bed and dinner times, are all positive reinforcements, according to pets4homes.co.uk, and they help our pooch feel secure and loved.

Even our 2-year-old cat, Pip, knows the schedule and stations himself on our dining room’s side table so he can watch Ed and Teddy walk down our driveway, then eventually back again.

Off and on over the past year, Ed has wondered aloud about the benefits of taking the same path each time. Teddy seemed on autopilot and Ed was bored.

One evening about a month ago, Ed was surfing the internet when he came across an article discussing the benefits of changing a dog’s walking route.

The article offered tips to bring “some new excitement” to an owner and his dog’s daily journeys.

John D. Visconti, a dog trainer, told petmed.com, “Every so often, allow your dog to determine the route. Changing the walk route allows the dog to encounter novel scents and new scenery. Dogs love routines, but to get the most out of your walks, don’t become robotic about them.”

Ed thought the trainer’s comment made sense. And since the walks take place the same time every day, Teddy shouldn’t feel too uncomfortable going a different direction.

But what route to take? Same path but start at the end and go backwards? Different neighborhood? Should they jog?

In the end, Ed decided he and his “boy” would take the same route but walk down a few different streets in the neighborhood.

Because Teddy is food driven, Ed had always brought treats on their walks, so a few surprise treats, like cheese cubes, added spice to the new routes.

And, finally, changing the pace of the walks reminded Teddy of his initial training. Picking up the pace and then slowing it back down puts Ed in charge of the walk and not Teddy.

On the first day’s new walk, Teddy was on autopilot, turning into the neighborhood next to ours. When they got to the first connecting street, Ed turned and directed the pooch to go that way.

Teddy hesitated, looking at his fearless leader. Ed nudged him to continue down the street, adding a “good job, Teddy.”

What Ed saw almost immediately was Teddy’s stride slow a bit. The pooch looked up to him for direction.

Once they started down a new street, the Lab was all business. There was an abundance of new and interesting smells and scenery to examine.

Both came back more animated than usual. Ed talked about some neighbors’ garden planting. Teddy’s tail was wagging. Normally it’s wagging at the beginning of the walk but not at the end.

Ed has kept this routine going. About the same time each day, the two take a walk but the route they take is different.

And both are reaping the benefit.

3 WAYS YOU MIGHT BE RUINING YOUR DOG’S WALK

  1. Rushing bathroom breaks
  2. Not letting your dog sniff and explore
  3. Pulling on your dog’s leash

For more detailed explanations:

www.akc.org/expert‑advice/training/ways‑you

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