Why even small dogs need dog walks OFF LEAD
One of the most obvious thing about dogs is that from their evolution from the wolf only 15-20 thousand years ago, both the wolf and the dogs retain their strong pack nature. They feel most natural and safe in a pack, even one that is artificially created for the purposes of morning dogs walks. When one person walks their dog, they are the only pack the dog has.
A lot of people who own small, young or old dogs wonder if there is any value for their dogs getting off lead exercise. This is a valid question, and something that I can easily answer from my years of experience, hands on, in the industry.
These are some of the 'symptoms' that regular off lead dog walking prevent in dogs
- Obesity (through exercise and not eating through boredom).
- Trying to escape
- Destroying plants, doors and yards (does not include puppies)
- shortened life from having a constant release of cortisone (long term fear hormone by products)
OWNER benefits of walking small dogs
- Reduces guilt
- If they get a dog walker, frees up time
- Less vet bills (if the dog escapes, gets obese )
- Reduced barking (a tired dog doesn't bark as much usually)
- Chance to take your dog to more places (as it is now social and better behaved)
- More confidence in taking the dog for a walk as it will be a more pleasurable experience
- Easier to control weight and allows the feeding of healthy meat based dog treats (sold on this site)
The usual excuses for not walking a small dog dailyMany small dogs are rescue dogs.
Many small dog owners are encouraged to believe that confining their dog to the 'safely' of their backyard is the best thing for their dog. This is the biggest lie you will ever be told. It just reinforces the fear.
I often hear stories about how someone has gotten another dog to keep their dog company. This works well for the first few days, then you have two bored dogs in the one yard. Now you have two dogs you need to walk!
I hear that a small dog is afraid of big dogs, black dogs, this breed or that. There is a good chance that a dog may have had a disagreement with a dog in the past, but locking it up and not helping it get over any phobia is severely underestimating the dog and basically punishing it.
The underlying reason for many people not waking their small dogs every morning are:
• they genuinely think the dog doesn't need a walk
• They are concerned for the dog and its fear of all other dogs
• They have 'better' things to do with their time.
What are the benefits of walking small dogs, for the dogWhen I visit a client for a free consultation, I bring my very social dog to test socialisation. He is so social, that he usually ignores the puff and bluster of a dog that has some form of irrational fear, that has been reinforced by not walking.
A dog may bark, launch itself at my dog or do any other thing that it has been allowed to do (owners saying that is the way the dog protects itself) but the reality is the dog is just fearful and trying to show aggression to avoid any chance of social contact or otherwise.
If a dog is not too red zone (i.e. might be timid or slightly fear aggressive) I may choose to initially walk the dog on lead with a bite or bark muzzle.
Just being around a pack of social dogs, with calm or social play energy lets the new dog see that its fear position doesn't have to be the only way of behaving.
Some people call the first walk technique "flooding" where a dog is forced to confront its fears. However that is a term used for a very paranoid or aggressive dog. I don't take dogs who are at that level - they are for dog behaviourist to deal with at many times the fee.
A dog will never get the same level or speed of learning to be social if it just hangs out in its own yard, is walked on lead (often by a nervous owner) or if it is around other non social dogs.
Invariably a dog learns to be social by osmosis, watching and being with the social pack for short spaces of time several times per week. One day it usually gets to the level of being allowed off lead, with or without muzzles.
Small dogs, like large dogs, then get to determine their own destiny, who they will interact with, what they will sniff, where they will sit in the pack. Social dogs do not have major fights over pack hierarchy, and a less than social dog that is inserted into the pack usually figures its position out well before it is let off lead.
Besides amazing energy release physically and mentally, a little dog releases a lot of endorphins from the joy of doing what it was designed to do, walk in a pack. Being with a social pack of dogs it can call its own.
Then the benefit to an owner who goes to work or stays at home will be that the dog will usually sleep on and off for much of the day. It has expended its energy on a pack walk/ simulated hunt. The small dog has earned its meals, it has fulfilled its purpose. Gone are much of the symptoms associated with bored obese dogs. The obsessions, the barking, the trying to escape, the digging of the garden beds, the chewing of objects.
Not that a morning off lead walk is a remedy for all ills, some dogs need a lunch time walk and a walk in the afternoon. I know my dog gets two walks per day minimum, light rain or shine. BUT they will be a 1000 percent better off for a social off lead dog walk a few times per week (preferably daily) than if they are not walked. Note puppies teethe and will continue biting and chewing behaviour until out of their puppy stage, regardless of walks. But puppy age is the ideal time to teach a dog socialisation. Puppy school is just the beginning if you want a well behaved and social dog.
Reduced owner and dog fear in off lead parksMany dog fights are caused by non social dogs that are curious or dominant coming up to anti social dogs (of all sizes). These are not red zone dogs (guaranteed to bite and demand a fight) but less than social dominant dogs.
If a dog is not social, it will either go fight or flight when such a dominant non social dog tracks them. Either of these options are bad. One causes a bite and vet bill the other means a chase and the same result.
I go to parks that are mostly full of good owners and social dogs. However on occasions a new owner might expose their less than social dog to an off lead park too early. This is often what causes an owner of a small non social dog to stop going to off lead parks, or parks in general. The shame is that both the owner and the dogs inexperience in handling potentially bad situations are probably a large part of why a fight occurred.
HOWEVER the good news is, that if your dog (regardless of size) is social, they will invariably know how to handle the advances of a less than social dog. I don't mean a powerful dog that is red zone aggressive intent on fighting with a dog. I mean a less than social dog coming in for a curious sniff.
The standard procedure good social dogs adopt is to stand up tall and rigid. They often have the tail still and half way up. They do not want to show the more powerful dog any weakness or any threat.
This usually results in the less than social dog walking around the social dog, having a sniff, maybe trying to dominate by putting its head over your dog, but not trying to overtly bite or cause a fight. After an acceptable length of time the social dog will break the stance and reciprocate by sniffing the other dog. The less than social dog will usually wander on, as it has found nothing to expend its energy on. No reason to fight or chase.
A social dog learns how to do this by itself instinctually.
This article will usually not convince a person who owns a small dog to walk their dog any more or even at all. Owners, like most humans, will be stuck in their frame of reference and assume that the dogs best interested remain in it being locked up and anti social. Whether it be their own skill or the dogs attitude that they don't trust, or that it just seems too much hard work.
If you want a glimpse at some of the benefits that the actual owners of many of the dogs I have walked have experienced, then click on the testimonial buttons on this site.
Dogs being animals with free will, wont instantly adjust behaviour and be brilliant at being social. many of the small dogs I walk are brilliant on the first walk, but this article is about the broad spectrum of benefits that ALL dogs receive from off lead walks.
Just because a dog is small and has smaller legs does not mean that it can't walk off lead. I don't walk at fast pace and leave dogs behind. I have walked 17 year old dogs that I have even adjusted the pack pace for them to keep up.
This article is as much about the owner overcoming the fear of doing off lead walks and sometime overcoming the fear of asking someone for help. That might either be a friend or a dog walker such as myself.
I am here for the benefit of the dogs and subsequently their owners. A happy dog always massively benefits any concerned owners infinitely. It is not enough to just 'love' a dog, action daily is needed.
If you own a dog, small or otherwise, I ask you to challenge the way you have approached your walks in the past (if you don't walk daily off lead) and consider the amazing benefits that you will soon see from such walks. After all, once you have both of your confidences up, then its only a question of time before real and ongoing benefits flow.
Imagine all of the spin off benefits of having a social dog, and where you can go with it, once a dog has gained more confidence and become Truly social in ALL situations !