“My dog doesn’t like to go on walks.”
March 15, 2014 35 Comments
“My dog doesn’t like to go on walks.”
Ever have someone say that to you?
I have. And obviously recently, or I wouldn’t be spurned to write about it.
My response is usually one of two things:
1. Changing the subject. “Right… so I spent an inordinate amount of time last night trying to ace this quiz where you name all the countries in the world in 12 minutes. I swear it’s impossible.”
2. Challenge it. If I’m feeling particularly spry or comfortable or bored, I’ll be up front: “You’re going to have a tough time convincing me that’s true.”
Because when someone says to me that his/her dog “doesn’t like” walks, my bullshit detector sounds pretty loudly.
Barring some sort of medical condition, or mental condition that should be addressed, I don’t think saying your dog “doesn’t like” walks is entirely truthful.
Instead, I think that statement can probably be replaced with one or more of the following more accurate statements.
- I don’t like walking my dog. People project a lot of things on to their dogs, and I’d say it’s pretty likely that people who think their dogs don’t like walks are just making excuses because they don’t want to walk them. I mean, dogs spend most of their days confined to a house or yard – of course most of them like to get out and explore and spend time with their family! If you don’t like walking your dog, to that I say: TFB. Who obtains custody of a dog these days without realizing they need regular exercise? Exactly – no one who intelligently pondered the decision. Walk your dog!
- I haven’t shown my dog that walks can be fun. If you don’t like spending time with your dog, they’ll pick up on it. It’s not necessarily the walks they dislike, it’s the owner begrudgingly doing it. Make it fun – for both of you! Go interesting places, play fun games, meet up with friends, enjoy your time outside. Make the best of it, because it’s your responsibility and a key part of their overall health.
- Walking my dog is hard. Dog walks can be a real challenge if you’re working through some reactivity or anxiety issues with your dog. That is certainly no reason to make up excuses to avoid it, though. Avoiding walks just ignores and compounds the issues, meaning the fewer walks you go on, the tougher they will be. Seek a good trainer for help with this if you need to.
- My dog doesn’t like walking in this weather. -25°C in the winter is not a condition all dogs like, or are built to tolerate, and that’s fair. But it’s not the walk they don’t like – it’s the wind or the ice. If this is the case, make sure you keep them active in the house until it warms up. Walk time shouldn’t be foregone, but it should be replaced with something else. However, if you’re trying to claim your dog dislikes the when it’s +5°C in February… well, most any dog acclimated to Alberta’s usually unusual weather should be able to handle that. Grab them a sweater and boots if you must. Or schedule walks appropriately – for example, in the summer when Moses and Alma can get uncomfortably hot, we’ll walk late at night when it’s cooler or ensure there are swimming opportunities on our routes. The benefits of regular dog walks outweigh any initial protests you may get. If they’re physically able to do it, you should teach them they can.
- I don’t like walking in this weather. If your dog is on the same page as you, fine and see above. If you’re like me, and have dogs that thrive in winter, you’re going to need to suck it up and buy yourself some snow pants.
- I usually take my dog for short walks and the one time I expected him to go on an usually long walk he got tired and sore. I bet he did! Let’s say I suddenly decided to forego the elevator and take the stairs up to my office on the 25th floor. This is not something I usually do and it would certainly leave me tired and sore. Does that mean I’m not physically built to do it? No. If I did it regularly, I’d have the stamina. The situation with the dog isn’t much different; if they’re not used to exercising, then the one time you ask a lot of them is going to be too much. They won’t be conditioned for it. But that is your fault, not theirs. All dogs were bred for active reasons, whether it be giant working breeds or small rat-hunting breeds. Your dog being out of shape is a sign to you that you should fix it – but don’t suddenly amp it up. You’re going to need to slowly increase their walk distances to something every healthy dog should be able to handle (say, an hour or 5km?).
- I’ve taught my dog I will always carry them around when they ask. Is your dog begging for attention, whining, exhibiting a learned behaviour, or are you carrying them because you actually observe that they are tired and sore?
- I interrupt my dog to go for walks. Wake them out of a dead sleep? Take away their toy or bone? Sure, in those cases they might not seem stoked to drop what they’re doing to leash up. Observe their behaviour when out on the walk to determine if they like it – are they engaged, relaxed, interacting, wagging their tails? They may not have wanted to go for a walk in that moment, but I’m sure they enjoy it once they’re out there.
- I don’t know my dog that well. As I mentioned before, what’s not to love about a walk if you’re a dog? It’s a chance to socialize, check out the scenery, exercise, and spend quality time with their owners. It’s possible that any perception that the dog doesn’t like walking is a gross misinterpretation of something else.
- I don’t know (or – worse – care) how important walks are to my dog’s mental health. Yes, your dog can suffer from what is essentially cabin fever. A lack of exercise and stimulation can result in all sorts of anxious, destructive, and hyperactive behaviours. They will be as bored and frustrated as any person locked in a confined space for days on end.
- I don’t know how important walks are to my dog’s training and social skills. Does your dog bark a lot? Chew your shoes? Dig in the yard? Race around the house like a maniac? Lunge at other people or dogs on walks? Ignore you when you want them to do something? There’s a reason one of the first questions most trainers ask their clients is “how often do you walk your dog?” Walks won’t necessarily resolve these behaviours, but they sure do shave the rough edges off undesirable behaviours and make training easier. Spending regular time with your dog improves the relationship you have with them and increases how much they pay attention to you. And getting out and experiencing the world – people, dogs, cars, bikes, wildlife, etc. – is essential to a socially well-adjusted dog.
- I don’t know (or – worse – care) how important walks are to my dog’s physical health. If not for regular walks, how else would the average pet dog get exercise? Exactly. Regular exercise – just like with people – is essential to their overall health. Obviously regular walks will help prevent or cure obesity, but a dog can be a perfectly appropriate weight and still be out of shape if they’re not regularly exercised. Regular walks help with muscle tone, joint issues, heart disease – the same sorts of things regular activity does for me and you. Every breed has conditions they are prone to, but ensuring dogs are generally healthy with a good diet and regular exercise is your best defence to them.
- I’m lazy. Or neglectful. Or my dog isn’t a priority I want to make time for. Yeah, I said it. It’s very easy to explain away guilt if you put the onus on the dog – “they don’t like walks anyway, so I don’t have to worry about it.” Wrong! Everyone has busy lives, but if you choose to have a dog, you’ve also chosen the affiliated responsibilities. This should surprise no one. But there are lots of options out there to help if you need it: dog walkers, doggy day cares, several short walks per day, treadmills, or having the whole family pitch in with dog responsibilities.
With all of these potentially truthful explanations (did I miss any?), I find it pretty hard to believe someone’s dog “doesn’t like” going for walks.
Feel free to prove me wrong.