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Walking and training dogs means I’m in the park at least four times a day. This morning I watched a man play fetch with his Jack Russell Terrier. The dog was a true professional; his eyes never left the ball then dutifully retrieved it and returned it to the foot of the owner to throw it again and again and again. The dog’s owner was on his phone only pausing to pick up the tennis ball in his ball launcher and throw it in the same direction as before. Is this a happy dog? Look again at the dog and the owner. Are they interacting with each other? Does the dog look happy or is it merely repeating a behaviour because that’s the only thing to look forward to on a walk? Now, don’t get me wrong, fetch can be a great game but there is so much more you can do with your dog. 
Every interaction is a training interaction even if unintentional and you will have a much happier dog if you build a strong bond with your dog and actually have fun with your dog. I like to give my own and my clients dogs as many happy moments throughout the day as I can, making their lives as happy and fulfilled as possible. 
Use the environment and things around you to enhance your dogs walk and stimulate him both mentally and physically. Even if you have only just started training with your dog, use what your dog already knows and build on this. If your dog knows sit, start working on stays. In the house at first with no distractions, then bring it out to the park. Vary the places you ask your dog to do this – use park benches, fallen trees for example. Ask your dog to jump up on a bench, then ask him to sit. Give him a treat! For me taking my dogs for a walk is about both of us having fun. There are lots of opportunities to have fun with your dog even if it’s whilst taking the kids to school – practise your sits and waits at the roadside when you crossover. Practise your heelwork by weaving in and out of bollards. 
Once you get to the park, then get creative. Play hide and seek. Dogs love this and what better way of reinforcing a speedy recall? We are fortunate enough to have such a wonderful common with so many fantastic areas for us to play with our dogs in. Try throwing a toy for your dog, let him chase it then hide before he has chance to turn around. Call him and see the delight on his face when he finds you. If you are walking with a friend, partner or the children, take it in turns to call your dog. 
Make a treat tree out of a fallen tree or log – Ask your dog to sit and stay or place him on lead. Place treats along the log so he can see them. Release him and ask him to ‘find’ them. My dogs love to play this. 
If you watch groups of dogs, look out for all their silent conversations and how they interact with each other – a dog will go and sniff an area – before you know it, the other dogs are also there, getting the local news. You can join in by making this natural behaviour into a game. Have a treat or toy in your hand. Bend down to investigate an area – it can be a piece of grass or a bush. Make your voice bright and say something like “Ooh, what’s this?” Before you know it your dog will be rushing over to see what is so exciting. Once he’s looking around the spot give him a treat or his toy. 
Walking your dog should be enjoyable for both of you. For me, it’s not just a walk in the park. 
Diane Kasperowicz is Director of “Superhounds” – a dog training company offering a wealth of dog training classes, workshops and one to one behaviour solutions. Diane also runs “Off The Lead” – a dog walking company offering dog walking and day care services. 
Tagged as: dog walking
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