Is walking your dog enough for their mental and physical wellbeing?
A key factor that I’m sure most people consider when it comes to buying a dog is how much time will you need, and want, to dedicate to keeping them fit and healthy. Essentially, how often and how long do you need to walk them for? Most of us probably take into account things like the size and breed of the dog and then make some general assumptions from there on what kind of exercise they are going to need. In fact, thinking that your dog needs hours and hours of walking each week might have been something that has out you off owning a dog in the past. The question is do we really need to walk our dogs’ endless miles in order for them to be healthy and happy?
Is walking the best way to exercise your dog?
One of the things that I’m sure many owners think about, or at least hope, when walking their dogs is that it will help them to burn off some of their excess energy and help them to be calmer and more settled around the house. You may even walk your dog as a tactic to ‘wear them out’ before you have visitors or before you head over to a friend’s house or café in the hope that they will then just settle and lay nicely by your side. But does that actually work? Or is your dog just even more excited and on constant alert once you have taken that walk? It may surprise you to know but taking your dog out on walks is a great way to stimulate them and may have the opposite effect if you are looking for something to calm them.
Yes, you absolutely need to walk your dog in order to help them to stay fit and healthy, but you don’t always need to walk them every single day. When planning how far and how often to walk your pet dog you should take into account their breed, age, size, temperament and any anxieties they may have, all of these will help you to plan out what will work best for your pooch. Alongside this you should also consider the use of other tools to keep your dog entertained, and both physically and mentally stimulated.
Too much or too little exercise can both be bad for a dog’s health so it is important to have other ways that you can stimulate your dog and provide a healthy environment for them. Enrichment toys and games are a great way for your dog to exercise physically and mentally and can be much more calming than a long walk might turn out to be.
What are dog enrichment toys?
Enrichment toys come in many shapes and sizes and can serve different purposes. All should be designed to ‘add’ something into your dog’s life, to provide them with ‘enrichment’ and ‘stimulation.’ Short sessions with an enrichment toy and some games can be much more fulfilling for your dog than endless walks around the block or nearby park.
Enrichment toys like lick mats and toys that can be used to hide and release treats are a fantastic way for your dog to get some of their food allowance but in a way that stimulates them both mentally and physically. A toy stuffed with treats that they need to sniff out and then interact with to release the treats can offer more stimulation for your dog, and be less stressful, than some walks. This could be something that they need to knock over to reveal the food/treats, or it could be something that releases treats as they roll it across the floor and chase it, or you could opt for a type of puzzle toy that will mentally challenge your dog as they find their way to their food/treats.
Toys that your dog can fetch and chew can help you to direct unwanted behaviours onto objects that are more suitable for your dog and can provide hours of entertainment, plus save your home from destruction. They can also help to strengthen the bond between you and your dog as you play together. Some great toys offer themselves naturally to games like ‘tug of war’ but can also be used for ‘fetch’ or just for your dog to chew on.
Why are enrichment toys important?
Much the same way that we as humans can get bored, so can our dogs. Often that boredom will then manifest in unwanted and possibly even destructive behaviours. By utilising a combination of walks, training, and enrichment toys you can help to prevent your dog from getting bored and redirect any unwanted behaviours which leads to a much happier household.
When you have chosen your desired toys and you have seen which ones your dog responds well to it is important to switch up the toys they have access to and when you use them. The same toy day in day out can still become boring and you may find that they lose interest in it. For this reason, it is important to rotate what your dog has access to. A toy that they haven’t seen or played with for a few days will be much more interesting and keep them occupied for longer than one that they have access to all the time.
We have a wide selection of toys to suit dogs of different ages, sizes, and breed but as always if you have any questions don’t hesitate to get in touch.