Every dog is different in terms of how much exercise they will need and want in order to stay fit, healthy and happy, but all dogs need to be walked regularly and this is something that anyone considering buying a dog or puppy needs to understand.
A dog that is only walked occasionally or not at all won’t have enough chances to socialise with others, won’t get enough exercise and variety, and won’t be exposed to as much stimulus. Even the process of walking on hard surfaces like pavements serves a purpose for your dog – it helps to wear their claws down naturally to a healthy length so that they don’t require trimming.
However, if the weather is awful it can be hard to build up the necessary enthusiasm to venture out for your dog’s normal walk, or if you are really tired after a hard day at work and cannot summon the energy to pick up your dog’s lead, it can be very tempting to simply let your dog out into the garden to stretch their legs, do their business and play, in place of having a walk.
Having a garden or yard that your dog can access to play and go outside is a great advantage, and one that most dog owners make full use of. Time in the garden (both with their owner or alone) can really enhance your dog’s life – but this is no substitute for regular walks.
It is fine for dogs to take the edge off their energy levels before a walk by letting your dog get their excess energy out of their system before you walk, or to use the garden to avoid walking some dogs at all occasionally in very harsh conditions, but this should not be something that takes the place of your dog’s walks.
In this article we will explain why time in the garden or yard is no substitute for regular walks. Read on to learn more.
An enclosed yard or garden is a semi-controlled, fenced environment that will change little on a day to day basis. Within the outside world, dogs are constantly bombarded with stimulus such as scents, sights and sounds that help to provide variety for the dog, breaking up their day, giving them something to do, and helping them to exhibit natural behaviours such as scenting and scent marking.
If your dog only ever goes out into their garden, they will find this very boring and won’t have a very full or interesting life, which is really doing your dog a disservice.
Socialisation is vital for dogs of all types and ages, and going out on walks is the best way to fulfil your dog’s need to socialise with others. If your dog doesn’t get to go walking their opportunities to socialise will be very limited to those that you provide by having a friend over, or taking your dog to visit someone else with pets.
A dog that doesn’t socialise often will miss the chance to meet others, and they may not be fully fluent in the nuances of canine communication when they do meet others. Don’t ignore the value of socialisation that walks can provide.
Even if your dog’s garden is full of interesting things, toys, and activities for them, they will soon get very bored with facing the same old same old day in and day out. Playing with your dog in the garden rather than leaving them to it on their own can go a long way towards negating this effect, but a dog that isn’t taken walking regularly is very likely to be a dog that is bored and under stimulated nonetheless.
This in turn can lead to behavioural problems as your dog will continually be looking for something to do or play with, and this may manifest as digging, chewing things, or trying to escape, among other things.
Unless you have a very large open garden, you may not have enough space available to you to really let your dog stretch their legs, run around and have fun without restrictions.
This may mean that even a long play session in the garden won’t fulfil your dog or tire them out as fully as a proper walk of the same length, and dogs that only get to go out into the garden can become hard to manage as they are more challenging to wear out and entertain.
Walking one’s dog is a very interactive process, with communication via the lead, commands, your stance, and much more. Because the outside world changes around us all the time, walks mean being faced with new stimulus regularly and learning how to tackle new things and enjoy new sights and sensations.
This helps to build the bond between dog and handler and reinforce their understanding of each other and their reactions, and this in turn leads to clear communications and more reliable responses from the dog, regardless of the situation.
A dog that isn’t walked regularly might soon become very hard work on the odd occasions that they are walked or taken out on the lead.
The unusual stimulus can make them excitable or nervous, they are more apt to be full of excess energy, and they may not have as good a grasp of safety and following commands quickly as a dog that is used to walking outside.
If your dog pulls on the lead a lot or is otherwise a handful to walk, this can of course lead to their owner dreading walks and so avoiding them entirely – but this will only worsen the problem over time, and is best tackled and resolved early on instead.