As the name suggests, DogRunnin specializes in running with dogs! We run with our clients’ dogs. We run with our own dogs. We even train runners to effectively run with their own dogs.
But, what about the days we cannot run? (Flashback to last week's snow storms)
Running with your dog provides excellent physical stimulation, mental engagement, and helps to develop a strong bond between owner and dog, but there are lots of other ways we can build on that connection when we aren't running! Here, we share withyou 5 Ways to spend quality time with your dog that don't require you to run a step!
1) Walking- this may sound like an intuitive replacement to running, but there are different rules that need to apply! When walking with your dog, your dog should be walking beside you on a loose leash, in a heel position. Walking does not provide as much physical exertion as running, so a handler can incorporate obstacles to engage the dog’s mind and lower his or her reaction time to any potential triggers. We often incorporate these tricks to keep our dogs’ minds more engaged:
a. Weaving- this can be easily done in urban environments using lampposts, parking meters, or bike stands. Trees are a fantastic option in rural areas. As your dog moves left and right, you can incorporate vocal commands to reinforce these directions!
b. Back Up- add some back tracking to your walks by stopping, backing up a few feet, and then continuing forward. This will ensure that your dog is engaged and focused on you, rather than external stimuli.
c. Ledges/Logs- any elevated space is an opportunity to provide more physical stimulation for your dog. Ask your dog to jump up and walk along a ledge or to jump over an obstacle to add a bit more physicality to your walk.
d. Hill training- we love hill training as part of a weekly fitness regimen and it can be extremely beneficial, no matter the pace. Take walking routes that have hills and varying inclination to build up your glutes (and your dogs’). You can also ask your dog to sit at intervals on your way up the hill helping to work the stabilizer muscles in your dog's hindquarters.
2) Scent Training- Scent training is an incredible way to give your dog physical and mental stimulation in lieu of a run. There are many classes that offer this training, but here’s a simple way to do it at home:
a. Have your dog sit in the middle of the room. Show him/her a high-value treat and have him/her watch you place it somewhere in the room. Release your dog with the command “go find”. He/she will automatically start sniffing to help him/her find the treat. When your dog finds the treat, praise him/her with another treat or reward. Practice this a few times until he/she recognizes the “go-find” command.
b. When the first game is easy, move the dog to another room and have him/her sit and stay. Enter out of sight into another area and hide the treat. Release the dog with the command “go-find” and have him/her sniff out the treat in the other room. Praise and reward your dog when they find the treat.
Scent training can be translated to a variety of games that you can play together! For example, you can play hide-and-seek by having your dog sniff you out while you hide in the house or yard! This is often a family favourite and a great way to encourage human siblings to join in.
3) Fetch- This is a classic, but we love it because it’s an incredibly cheap and easy way to bond with your dog and provide him/her with varried exercise! All you need is a ball, a fenced-in space, and some treats for positive reinforcement. You can add levels of mental and physical engagement in this game, too! Here’s a few of our favourites:
a) Stay/ Okay- ask your dog to stay while you throw the ball. He/she must remain in the stay position until you say “okay” and release him/her to retrieve the ball.
b) Distractions- add distractions such as favourite toys, bones, or even other dogs to your fetch space. Instruct your dog to get the ball that you threw and bring it right back, ignoring the distractions. When your dog brings back the ball, not another toy or bone, reward him/her with a treat or praise.
c) Incline- throw the ball down an incline so your dog has to run up the incline to bring it back to you. This incorporates hill training for your dog, but is easy on your legs!
4) Agility Classes- These classes provide both mental stimulation and physical exercise for your dog. They do require some cardiovascular exercise from the handler when moving about the agility course, but these are usually short bursts rather than sustained periods of running, so provide some variation for you as well! There are many agility classes offered throughout HRM so there is sure to be one to fit your dog's needs.
5) Therapy Dog Work- Certifying your dog as a Therapy Dog is a fantastic way to mentally and physically engage your dog while giving back to the community. Therapy dogs and handlers are able to provide comfort, companionship, and empathy to individuals in hospitals, nursing homes, and even homeless shelters. Unfortunately, not all dogs have the temperament to be therapy dogs, as they must be well socialized and friendly towards all humans and other dogs. These dogs must also be able to maintain their focus in high stress and busy environments.
There are some great options for pooches who need to brush up on some of these skills, however! Basic courses in obedience and reactivity will help your dog towards the goal of becoming a therapy dog. Now there are even courses offered specifically for dogs that want to be certified by St. John’s Ambulance. Time, patience, and lots of training go into a good therapy dog, so this process is a fantastic way to facilitate a strong bond between dog and handler.