We all know that our dogs need daily walks. They benefit from daily exercise just like we do, but did you know that there are different types of dog walks and specific benefits to each? All of our walkers at Milwaukee Paws Pet Care are trained on the different types of walks and why each one is beneficial for your pup!

Here is a list of the five main types of walks that all dogs need. The following walks can be done separately or combined. In fact, many times, more than one type of walk is combined by us and by our pet owners!

Elimination breaks:

This one tends to speak for itself. It’s our typical potty break. The walks tend to be shorter with the goal of allowing the dog to relieve himself/herself. Most dogs do not want to relieve themselves indoors and will willingly go outdoors once they are trained and given an opportunity.

Elimination breaks allow our pups to get outside, relieve themselves and return to the safety of the home. These can include letting the dog out into a fenced-in yard, or a short, leashed walk. Almost all pet owners are familiar with these breaks!

Exercise Walks:

These walks are another favorite with most pet owners. The goal of this walk is to provide the pup with some much-needed exercise. Physical exercise is great for dogs! In addition to helping them maintain a healthy weight, exercise walks can provide several health benefits for your dog including helping to maintain joint function, pain control for some degenerative diseases, improved cardiovascular health, prevention of muscle degeneration and can burn off excess energy.

Owners do want to be sure to check with their veterinarian if a dog has specific health issues or an injury; just like with humans, sometimes dogs need to modify the amount of exercise they get depending on their health status. Exercise walks should be done daily, if your vet approves, and they also serve as a way to increase bonding with your pup! In addition, dogs who are regularly exercised have less excess energy, reduced anxiety, reduced depression, and may be less prone to boredom (and some of the destructive behaviors that can accompany boredom).

Cognitive Stimulation:

This type of walk may be overlooked by a typical owner, but our staff are well trained in these walks. Dogs need to use their brains to help reduce anxiety, depression, increase confidence, and prevent canine cognitive dysfunction (doggy dementia). Cognitive stimulation walks use a variety of tools and techniques to help engage the dog’s brain while out on a walk. The distance covered may be less, but the benefits are many!

Did you know that dogs have up to 300 million olfactory sensors, compared to humans who have about 6 million? That means that a dog’s sense of smell can be up to 40 times stronger than a human’s! In addition, a dog’s nose is designed differently than a human’s. Dogs have a small flap of skin that separates the air they inhale- some of the air is used for respiration, while about 12% of the air is deflected to an area of the brain set aside for olfaction only (dogs even have a special organ that allows them to detect pheromones from other animals).

It is because of this increased ability to sniff and smell and distinguish smells, that we offer “sniffari’s” to the dogs we walk on occasion. A sniffari allows the dog to use their nose and brain in a manner that is different than how they use them for other walks. The dog experiences a relief of anxiety, depression and learns about the environment around them! When we offer a sniffari, we allow the dog we are walking to lead the way, letting their nose guide them! This exercise can be as effective as a fast-paced walk at wearing a dog out!

Sniffari’s are not the only way to incorporate cognitive stimulation in a walk! Taking a new route, trying a new activity (like hiking, swimming, running) or going to a local store or restaurant can all provide your pup with much needed cognitive stimulation! In fact, did you know that most Home Depot and Lowe’s stores allow dogs inside? It’s a great way to give your dog a new experience!

Cognitive stimulation walks are a specialty of Milwaukee Paws Pet Care, and we are happy to show you the many ways we incorporate cognitive stimulation into our walks!

Socialization Walks:

These walks are most beneficial to puppies. Dogs learn about their world when they are puppies. They learn what is normal and what should cause fear when they are young. It is recommended and important for puppy owners to properly socialize their puppy to a wide variety of people, pets, and situations for this reason!

While doing a socialization walk, try taking your dog past as many different sites and experiences as you can. Things like a lawn mower, wheelchairs, bicycles, electric scooters, buses, trucks, and stairs can all teach your dog not to be fearful of them. We have a list of suggested items that dogs should be socialized to at a young age; the key here is to encourage your dog to explore and experience the different sights, sounds and smells but not to push your dog beyond his/her comfort level- this could cause a fear reaction which you do not want.

It is also important that young dogs meet a variety of pets and people. They should meet, for example, people wearing hats, glasses, people from different age groups or different ethnic groups. They should be exposed to large dogs, small dogs, cats (if possible), birds, and other animals.

Socialization can only happen in young puppies. Once a dog is an adult, we can offer training and conditioning to teach a dog to tolerate a stimulus, but they may never be fully comfortable with it.

Training Walks:

Walks that ask a dog to only walk on one side of a walker, to walk with a loose leash or to adhere to specific rules and parameters while walking are called training walks. Training walks provide the benefit of dogs using their brains while getting exercise (similar to cognitive stimulation walks), but in a training walk, the focus is on the dog following a set of rules or guidelines that the walker has defined.

Our staff often ask dogs to sit at every crossing, or when we stop for any reason. This serves to keep the dog focused on the walker and helps with distractions in the environment. Many dogs are also taught to walk with a loose leash, which is safer for the dog and the walker. A dog cannot be relaxed if he/she is pulling, and are laser focused on the environment- asking for a “sit,” or a “touch” serves to help break the dog’s focus on distractions and helps the dog to relax a bit.

In addition, training walks serve to give the dog confidence as he/she masters new skills. They can also increase owner and dog bonding. Training walks can include short breaks to work on new skills or to reinforce old ones. For example, we often reinforce the “touch” command, which helps our walkers if a dog becomes reactive or too focused on another dog. The walker says “touch” and the dog is trained to touch the open hand of the walker with his/her nose (thereby breaking the focus the dog has on the other dog and allowing us to introduce a distraction or redirection). Working on already learned commands like sit, stay, touch, paw, down, and heel provide your dog with success and strengthen his/her ability to do the task when you request it.

Training walks are often combined with cognitive stimulation walks or exercise walks without owners even realizing it! When you teach your dog the appropriate way to greet people (as in no jumping, pulling, etc.) or other dogs (not growling, jumping, etc.), you are implementing training into their walks!

Summary:

There are five main types of dog walks that every dog can benefit from. All of these walks can be combined in a variety of ways to help you and your dog bond. Combining the different walks together in a variety of ways helps to keep training, exercise and cognitive stimulation interesting for you and your dog.

Dogs benefit from daily walks, but they don’t all have to be a circle around the block! Take your dog with you for a day hike, or allow him to lead the adventure on a sniffari. Take him to a local store or restaurant patio, or work on new tricks as well as everyday manners; all of these work together to reduce boredom, anxiety and depression, improve your dog’s overall health and increase your bond with your dog!

For more information how our dog walking services at Milwaukee Paws Pet Care may help your dog’s health and well-being, while being able to step in when you can’t be there, please reach out today!

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