Whoever said “dogs like routine” was right, but I think he/she has been misinterpreted. Some people feed their dogs the same food and walk them in the same place every single day – partly, I think, because “dogs like routine.” Dogs do like to be fed and walked everyday, perhaps even around the same times of day. The walk is by far the best part of a dog’s life, but imagine walking the same sidewalks and seeing the same things every time you left the house. A dog trainer I know once described sniffing and marking as checking messages and leaving messages. Wouldn’t it be great if your dog could check in with other dogs, in other areas of town?
The point of this post is really just to encourage dog owners to take their pups on new adventures and explore new parks, forests and fields. I live downtown, but every week my dogs visit the beach,various trails/paths, and new 'hoods. The dogs I walk professionally also visit a variety of parks - not just the ones closest to their homes. I want them all to be mentally stimulated by new sights and scents. It also helps save us all from boredom.
I wanted to hear what a dog trainer thought, so I asked Emily Fisher (also a former dog walker) from Scratch & Sniff Canine Services in Guelph, and this was her take: "Dogs love to explore, and giving them frequent opportunities to investigate the scents of a new environment is a great way to provide opportunities for mental stimulation. Often, city dogs end up at the same enclosed dog park every day, but playing with dogs is only one type of mental engagement that should be made available to your dog. An outing should be more than chasing and rough housing. There is real benefit in the methodical exploration that comes with a new environment. Dogs live in large part through their noses and few will turn down the opportunity to investigate a novel scent. Unlike ruckus play, it is also an activity that won't leave your dog wound up at the end of the walk. Varying the parks where you take your dog also gives you more opportunity to generalize training skills - that is, teaching your dog to respond consistently in different environments. Coming when called away from a dog is very different than coming when called away from a squirrel or a scent trail. (Contact a reputable positive reinforcement trainer for guidance in this area.) Toronto has a surprisingly large number of parks and I'd encourage dog owners to make use of each one."
If you work longer hours than I do, and you can only take your dogs on an adventure once or twice on weekends, it will still go a long way in adding to their happiness. I guarantee that when you arrive at a new place, you will see the difference in your dog, and you’ll be so happy you made the extra time. On days you can’t leave the neighbourhood, walk up different streets, and on the opposite side of the street than you normally do.
Easily find new places by looking at your house on a map and zooming out. And please remember to always respect the leash laws of the parks you visit. Happy trails!
“Of course what he most intensely dreams of is being taken out for walks, and the more you are able to indulge him, the more he will adore you and the more all the latent beauty of his nature will come out.” Henry James