As the owner of two different dog based websites (abetterdog4u.com and iowadogtrust.org), I receive quite a few emails asking about dogs and their behavior.
One person recently told me that she never takes her dog out of the back yard (it is fenced in) because “if it gets used to going for walks, it will jump the fence and run away. Then it will never come back”.
Another person told me that they don’t walk their little dog because, “it’s a small dog and it doesn’t need to go for walks”. They continued with, “It get enough exercise running in the back yard.” They also went on to say, “We’re also afraid that she might get hurt if she steps on something in the street.”
Wow, what can I say? I’ll start with:
Dogs need to be walked on a regular basis. It’s not only necessarily for the exercise, they also need it for their mental well-being. It serves as a great way to provide a dog with mental stimulation. On the walk, dogs get to see things that they don’t see during their normal day. They also come across different people, pets, critters and smells. It’s not unlike we humans traveling to a new place, going to a new restaurant or seeing a new movie. It’s part of the learning process.
Most dog owners live in an urban environment. Their lifestyles don’t often include any active outdoor time with their dogs. Outside time is often only a matter of letting the dog out to do it’s business and then it’s back into the house or apartment. And if the dog owners do have the space, leaving the dog in the yard by herself isn’t enough stimulation and that’s why they end up getting in trouble. In some cases this leads to the dog being given away, or worse, taken to a shelter.
I actually had someone email me and tell me that they couldn’t understand why their dog “all of the sudden” started digging holes, eating the flowers, trying to get out of the fenced yard. Then the were upset when the dog finally escaped and it cost them $75 to get it back!
After explaining that her dog was just bored out of it’s mind and looking for their own entertainment, the penny finally dropped! Although she had some physical problems, she had someone come in to help her walk the dog for 30 minutes every day. Within a week the issues had mostly resolved themselves. She says the dog is much happier and things like barking have been reduced to very tolerable level.
Tomorrow: Part 2 – Taking Your Dog for a Walk – How Much is Enough?