It’s February – the month of love! And what better way to show your dog how much you love them than by going on a special adventure together.
Whether you’re walking in the park, forest, mountains, beach, secure field, or even around the roads, you can follow these top tips to have the best walk with your dog this Valentine’s.
Embrace All Parts of Your Walk
From the moment you pop your dog’s harness on, to stepping out of the front door, to perhaps letting them off the lead. Your walk creates a story for your dog and you want to ensure that the journey is just as gripping as the destination.
When putting on their harness, why not ask your dog to hop up onto a higher spot – a sofa or step – or, if they aren’t able to jump, you could kneel down. This means you’re no longer leaning over your dog – instead you’re at their level, helping them to feel more relaxed as you handle their body.
Before you open the front door, ask for them to ‘boop’ your hand – targeting your hand with their nose – or simply give them a few gentle strokes to connect before you leave the comfort of home.
Step outside and play our Barket Place ‘Name Game’ before you head off on your walk. Simply say your dog’s name and when they look towards you mark that moment and throw a treat for them to chase. Once they’ve eaten that one, repeat a few times. This simple moment of connection can set up your whole walk for success.
Then when you get to your walking location, be it a field or the forest, look for moments when your dog ‘checks in’ – looking back towards you again – and reward them with some food or play for hanging out as a team together.
Leave Your Phone in Your Pocket
For safety or practical reasons, you’ll no doubt want to carry your phone with you on your dog walks. But please remember that these walks are the highlight of your dog’s day. They’re the time you fully focus on them – and the time they get to embrace nature and all it has to offer. Avoid checking in on your ‘socials’ or replying to emails while walking along with your dog. This is not a time to work through the to-do list, it’s a time to be present.
You may want to tune into a podcast or listen to some music – both of these still leave your eyes and hands free to be able to engage with your dog, watching their movements and looking for moments of connection.
Of course, you can bring your phone out every now and then to take a cute photo – just save uploading it to Instagram until you get home.
Try Somewhere New (if your dog can cope)
While our dogs have the incredible gift of embracing each moment as something new – being fully present in the moment, not judging it or comparing it to another walk – going somewhere new for your walk today can stimulate both of your senses.
Your dog will get to enjoy new smells – whether it be under a bed of leaves, in long grass, or sand. Sniffing allows your dog to get a boost of a range of feel-good hormones PLUS sniffing actually helps your dog to relax!
For you, going somewhere new can help you to feel more focused on the walk. Sparking your interest with new sights and sounds, means you’ll be more present – rather than trudging through the same old routine walk.
If you’re restricted in where your walks can take you, perhaps as you don’t have transport or your dog fears the car – or maybe you can only use secure fields while your dog starts to grow their confidence in the world or improves their recall skills – think about taking something new with you on today’s walk. A new treat to try, a scented toy to find, or collect some leaves and animal fur from a human-only walk you took earlier and scatter them in this space for your dog to sniff.
Slow Down and Breathe
When we’re stressed, we breathe too quickly. We create an overproduction of oxygen in our bodies. This makes us think we’re ready to take on a real-life threat, as we breathe fast to get our bodies ready for action. It’s a physical throw-back to our cavemen days, when there were real threats, but nowadays most of our threats are really only perceived threats (“help, I’ve messed up at work” or “oh no, I forgot my child’s PE kit”).
If you’re feeling overwhelmed – especially if you feel your dog walk is taking up time you don’t have to spare – it can feel hard to slow down. But by slowing down, even if you don’t travel as much distance, you’ll both get more from your walks.
Take time to focus on your breath. Breathe in slowly to the count of 4, hold for the count of 7, then breathe out for count of 8. Repeat. If your dog is on lead, slide your hands up and down their lead in time with your breath – relieving tension from the lead and swapping it for gentle vibrations.
Slowing down allows your dog the space to sniff too. As mentioned earlier, sniffing helps lower our dog’s arousal levels – it’s their own form of mindful breathing.
Look for Glimmers
Glimmers provide clarity, resilience and joy. They are small moments that allow us to realise our potential and embrace the feeling of awe at the world around us. They help us feel more grounded and can help you and your dog to feel calmer.
Embracing awe on your walks helps you realise you are part of something – seeing the bigger picture. It can help further reduce feelings of overwhelm. To experience glimmers on your walks, start to look for tiny moments of joy. It could be something as simple as your dog looking up at you with their ‘happy face’ or something less common such as seeing a dragonfly take flight.
These tiny moments of joy will positively shift your emotions.
Your dog can experience glimmers too – a new scent to explore, a great game of tuggy, seeing their best dog pal, or enjoying something delicious to eat.
While we need to start off by consciously looking for glimmers, the good news is that overtime our minds and bodies become more primed to find them. It becomes an automatic response to embrace those small moments of walks. And when this happens you know you’re having a much more mindful approach to walks with your dogs – you’re being more present.
We hope you have an amazing month of walks with your dog. We’d love to hear what your favourite ways are to have the best walks alongside your canine companion.