It has long been touted that a dog’s walk, The Walk, was an important event, allowing the dog’s owner to assert their ‘dominance’ and implement all-important control. But, really, there is no social significance to exerting such control on walks and outings.
For most dogs, while walks and outings are certainly significant events, getting out of the house or garden is limited. Most pet dogs have very limited access to the outside world – their humans work long hours, weather is so often unpleasant, their dog’s behaviour might be difficult, and so on.
Earlier this year, a survey from Forthglade dog food revealed that over half of the pet dogs, whose owners had responded, didn’t get a daily outing. While I don’t believe traditional dog walks to be the be-all-and-end-all, and in some cases they are not appropriate for individual dogs, my concern is that it is terribly unlikely, unfortunately, that these dogs have sufficient appropriate enrichment in place to make up for the lack of outings. And in addition to outings, which is also important.
In my experience, and that of many of my colleagues, the bottom line is that most pet dogs don’t get sufficient appropriate enrichment and entertainment. (This impending pet dog welfare crisis is the subject for another post, and a topic I discuss often.)
This is why #100daysofenrichment came to be.
The dog’s nose knows
Choice and choosing features big throughout #100daysofenrichment. In the modern study of captive animal behaviour, it is recognised that opportunities to choose what happens to them allows animals to feel more confident and reduces the stress of captive living.
At the very heart of what makes an activity enriching or not, is how the animal chooses to interact, how they choose to engage, and the behaviours they choose to use. Without choice, enrichment isn’t enriching.
Here’s some clips of recent outings with Decker. There are lots of trails established in the long grass, some mechanically but most just by human and animal activity, as we meander about.
About a month ago, Decker seriously injured his foot and as part of recovery, we’ve been gradually building his exercise back up after almost 3 weeks of next to no activity. This includes walks/trots on lead so that he takes it somewhat easy. We are in the Phoenix Park, which is the most wonderful facility, and there are lots of these crosses eeked out in the long, summer grass.
I have no idea what criteria he uses to choose but you can see him actively consider the best route to take. But it doesn’t matter. How or why he chooses isn’t my business.
Case in point, here he is choosing a specific tennis ball from his collection. 11 identical balls but one is special…
It is not possible to give dogs unlimited choice and often times, if dogs were left to choose in some contexts, they would not make appropriate, safe choices because dogs.
But there are lots of significant ways that we can add choice to their lives, so that they can get a little say in their day, in what happens to them, in their enjoyment.
Where will your dog’s nose bring you today?
Make dog walks more dog
Dog walks don’t have to be elaborate or even lengthy. We just need to make sure they are more dog!
#100daysofenrichment emphasises making sure that sniffing and other doggie pursuits are central so that outings are more about quality than quantity…time spent sniffing is never a waste so go for a SNIFF instead of a walk:
- Day 6 Sniffathon!
- Day 20 Go Sniff!
- Day 27 Adventure Time
- Day 34 Sniffing & Engagement
- Day 41 Sniffing as a reward
- Day 45 Hanging out on the road
- Day 76 Sniffari
- Day 81 Bring the smellside inside
There are even lots of options for when you can’t get your dog out and about and even more options if you check out the entire program.
Bring your dog places that allows them freedom to choose (safely), to truly follow their nose. Get ready, leash up and tag along for the ride!
Where will your dog’s nose take you today?