You’re feeling guilty about your dog. You look at him and he gazes back with those patient brown eyes that can see right into your heart. You feel guilty because you’ve been so rushed today that you didn’t fit in a morning walk, and now it’s pouring with rain and you can’t face it. But have another look at those gorgeous brown eyes: what’s your dog trying to tell you?
He’s saying that what he wants is some time with you – some action, yes, to use up his huge store of energy – but mainly it’s time enjoying life with you that he wants.
So don’t fret over missing a walk. Here’s something for you to hang on to:
Dogs do not need to be walked every day.
You mean I don’t have to walk him every day, whatever the weather?
And for some dogs – fearful, reactive, or old and creaky – that comes as a great relief!
Imagine you are afraid of spiders. And every day your friend insists on taking you along a spider-strewn walk, your face brushing past bushes draped with webs and wriggly beasties, seeing them scamper across the path in front of you.
Are you going to enjoy those walks?
I think not.
And if you have a dog who reacts to every dog he sees by barking ferociously and lunging towards it – shouting at it to go away – then he’s not going to enjoy that overmuch.
And your shoulders and wrists probably won’t either!
So choose times and places to walk your fearful dog when he has a chance of enjoying the outing, not having a procession of other dogs marching towards him along the road, in other words.
Your old and creaky dog can tell you when he’d like to join you for a slow amble. Pick up the lead and see what he says. If he starts a juddery dance with his stiff old legs, and comes to get the lead put on, then off you go. But if he turns his head away, or stays resolutely on his bed – leave him be. Of course he needs some exercise to stay as well as he can be, and to keep his digestive system moving. But a gentle game in the garden may fit the bill.
Your fearful dog would benefit from some sessions with a force-free trainer who can build his confidence so he doesn’t need to shout with fear at new dogs or people.
Your old dog may appreciate a joint supplement to loosen up those old bones a bit.
My dog is young and active!
Fearful and old dogs are the special cases.
But if your dog is young and active and has energy to burn, then you can exercise his body and his mind in far better ways than tramping along a hard road on a lead.
If you have a garden, however small, you can enjoy a fast and furious game with a ball or frisbee. Both of you will enjoy this, and both of you should be puffing by the end of it! Your aim is for your dog to be panting with his sides heaving, his eyes sparkling. Your dog doesn’t play ball? Just start a running chase game with him – take turns at chasing and being chased.
Better yet - use his brain as well as his body.
Thinking – as we all know too well! – can be more tiring than doing. So see what rainy day fun you can have indoors.
Scent Games Are Great for This
Find the Lady using upturned beakers with a treat beneath one of them, for instance.
You can hide a favourite toy, one of the children, or yourself! Hiding may just involve rolling someone up in a duvet and letting your dog dig them out (protect faces from scraping claws). Or the family could scatter and hide under beds or in cupboards. This was always a favourite game with my children!
Practicing Your Superfast Recall
Inject excitement into this game to get your dog’s speed up, calling him from one end of the house to the other – for a game or a treat.
Teach Your Dog to Tidy Up!
Show him how to put his toys back in his basket; pick up his empty food bowl and pass it to you (for another treat to be dropped into it, of course!). He could even put it on the shelf in the cupboard, if it’s at the right height for him.
Have Him Fetch the Mail
Bring his lead when you’re going out, act as an alarm clock for the teenagers by leaping onto their beds and snuffling their sleeping faces!
These games are all so much more fun than clomping around a cold dark street!
Yes, your dog does need to go out and see and experience the world, and run free over field or beach.