Motivate Yourself To Walk Your Dog
Whether your dog takes on the role of family pet, best friend, child, or “just dog”, one thing is undeniable–they are only with us for so long. As the days, weeks, months, and years fly by, our canine companions age, and they are there for us through certain milestones in our life. One simple, joyous, thing you can do with your dog, is to walk them. I know, I know, easier said than done… Where is the time?…I have kids that need my attention…I have to study….The weather is just too crummy….I have a back yard…. At some point we have all made these excuses, and I understand that, so I wrote this article to help you find your motivation.
Find a routine
Dogs are creatures of habit, but so are we. I find it easiest no matter what I do, to walk the dogs after I’ve showered and brushed my teeth, but before I get on with my day. If I’m going to take a while, then I let them into the back yard to pee–but I don’t use this as a substitute for the walk. This is just what works for me now. Previously, when I worked a split shift, lunch time would be our dedicated walk time. Some people like to walk their dogs right after dinner, or right before bed. Personally, once the post-prandial (after eating) energy dip sets in, I am useless–so we always walk before I eat.
Go through basic obedience
I know, some of you are thinking “she hasn’t met my dog–what an embarrassment”. On some level in all of my years in clinics, I’m sure I’ve met your dog, and they are probably related to my dogs. Even though I know a lot about behaviour and can train my dogs myself, I have taken each one to obedience classes for two reasons: 1) To get them to focus and learn the tasks with distractions around, and 2) To really build our bond together. I can’t stress this enough. Even if you have to go through twice before you pass (like my first dog Jasper and I), it is well worth the investment of your time, love, patience, and money.
Get proper clothes
I’m not trying to make you feel bad here, but my dogs get walked every day–the only exception seems to be freezing rain, so that no one gets hurt. I only mention this because it was not like this in the beginning. When I was in university, Nauls and I would go for walks on all of the nice days–I would even skip a morning class or two if it was really nice, but when the cold, dark, days of winter hit, we weren’t as consistent. I love being outdoors, so I invested in some technical clothes: a good rain jacket with a hood, comfortable shoes, and in the winter good, warm Gore-Tex boots, a waterproof, breathable jacket with a hood that I can layer other clothes underneath, and my secret winter weapon–polar fleece! I love fleece. I have warm fleece pants, a couple of lightweight fleece jackets, and a couple of fleece pullover shirts. I never leave home for a walk in the winter without my secret weapon against the cold. If you live in the opposite climate, try getting light weight clothes made of Coolmax material to keep you comfortable.
Find a human walking buddy too
If the excitement of your canine companion is not enough to motivate you, what about a human buddy to join you? Some of us may not take the time to do something for ourselves, but if we have others depending on us, it makes it easier to spring into action. You’re dog may not talk back, heckle you, or give you a pep when you feel like you don’t want to go, but a human buddy can and will, if you want them to. Besides, dogs don’t judge–the more, the merrier!
Weight loss–for either of you
If either you or the dog needs/wants to get healthier and maybe lose some weight, walking is a great way to accomplish that. Some dogs will run, but eventually their little joints are not designed for long amounts of this, so they will wear out. Walking is a great low impact way to help shed those pounds, or just become more fit. Even if you don’t find the motivation ahead of time, starting will make you feel good, and the motivation will come. No time? Start small and work up from there, even 5 minutes a couple of times a day is a good start.
Get some basic dog things
You may want to have some of these things on hand to make your walking experience better. Always have treats in the pockets if your walking clothes. These treats can come in handy to reward good behaviour, or to help distract your dog from a stressful situation. If your dog isn’t food motivated, what about a favourite ball or toy? Always have poo bags handy (you can get biodegradable bags now too). Leave a towel by the front or back door to wipe doggie feet on those wet or snowy days. If your dog gets cold, or ice balls in between their feet, consider a dog coat or good quality proper fitting dog boots (I use the Muttluks brand for my dogs).
Their happy little faces
If none of these other things help to motivate you, try thinking about the sheer joy and pride on their little face when they know you are going for a walk, or when they are out there with you. It really doesn’t take much to please them. Seriously, for me , this is the single biggest motivating factor when I even think about backing out from a walk. They give so much love, unconditionally, that it is really the least I could do to brighten their day. No matter how bad I feel that day, I always feel better when I am out there with my babies.