Benefits of social dog walking
I can’t state enough the physical, mental and general health benefits your dog will receive.
Firstly, there is the obvious physical benefits of off-lead walking. Your dog will probably walk/ run five times or more as much as you do on the walk. Ideally when you go off lead walking, you should find somewhere safe (good fences) and keep walking in a definite direction. This allows your dog time to sample the weeds, smells and other dogs it encounters, and of course keeps them moving.
Mentally your dog is getting benefit from both finding out where it sits in the pack (of dogs it encounters). Every meeting it will be sizing up the other dog working out if it is above or below it, and if it wants to challenge the other dog, to play fighting. As long as the dogs do not get aggressive, all the barking and puppy play will strengthen your dog physically and have it learn what acceptable social play is all about.
The other big part of off-lead walking is that your dog will sniff many things along the way and compare all new smells to the catalogue of smells it already has in its brain. Not only is a dogs sense of smell 40 times more powerful than a humans, it has a much larger sensor area in its nose being able to catalogue nuisances well beyond our understanding of smell. It also has a much larger part of the brain devoted to comparing current and previous smells.
The process of your dog making all of these comparisons, working out what dogs have been by recently, their sex, their age, their health etc, takes a tremendous amount of concentration and brain power. This effort alone can account for up to 40% of the energy that a dog will expend on an off lead dog walk – far more than if it can only reach to the end of your lead.
Mid term benefits of dog walking
If you have ever seen a truly well socialised dog in action, you will see how clever they are just in the way that they approach other dogs. If it doesn’t see the other dog as a threat, it will approach from the side or behind them (only approaching from the front if it is very confident or it has seen the dog before).
The social dog will sniff the dogs glands near its tail. It will process the age, health etc from this whiff and then may decide to play with the dog or move on. Because of its vast experience in dog interactions, it does this calmly and won’t get itself into a fight very often, unless it wants to engage in a play fight.
When a social dog is threatened by a much more aggressive or larger dog, it knows to stand still and stand its ground. It won’t necessarily become submissive (especially if it is a dominant dog) but it won’t yelp or run away and get chased, possibly encouraging it to get bitten.
Seeing how well truly socialised dogs play, should give you an understanding of what you can achieve with your dog, but regular off lead dog walks!
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