3 Mentally Stimulating Games You Can Play While Walking Your Dog
I have been saying this for years…. We humans are BORING.
Even though going on a walk is probably one of your dog’s favorite activities, the reason that it can become so frustrating for you is that your dog tunes you out and pays attention to everything else in his environment!
Dogs pull when they see squirrels.
He lunges at the neighbor’s dog behind the fence.
He tries to nip the ankles of the kid skateboarding past.
Does this mean your dog is aggressive?
Dogs get bored when we meander with them down the street.
Imagine for a Moment
Imagine for a moment how fast your dog moves, how fast he wants to walk down the street.
Now, imagine how fast you walk, and how you probably dawdle down the street.
Dogs that are bored look for other things to do.
He is over-stimulated and over-experiencing his environment if you are not keeping his body and/or his mind busy.
When My Dogs Pull a Cart
When my dogs pull my trike or a cart, FAST (at their pace), they are too busy engaged physically to really notice anything else in their environment.
I once had a squirrel run out and in between my dogs’ paws, they barely even noticed because they were moving so quickly they were physically and mentally stimulated by what they were doing.
If they had been bored and noticed the squirrel coming they certainly would have grabbed him!
I suppose that not everyone can provide this level of mental and physical stimulation.
Mental Stimulation Games To Play While Walking Your Dog
The good news is that adequate mental stimulation is all you need in order to keep your dog’s attention on you!
1. The Recall Game
Coming when called is probably THE MOST important skill that you will ever teach your dog.
But people rarely take the opportunity to work on this while they are on a walk with their dog on leash next to them!
Why not condition the dog, often, that coming when called is a wonderful thing?
So while I am walking, with my dog in heel position or even at the end of the leash (I don’t allow any pulling) I begin to run backward while calling my dog to “come”.
I make it fun!
I prance, I praise and I reward handsomely if he responds quickly and in an animated fashion.
If I want to add more (and I always do!) I get him to sit directly in front of me and then find heel again!
2. Push Ups
Ahhhhhh push-ups are one of my favorite exercises to entertain my dog’s mind and exhaust his body!
These don’t have to be done just at home in between my four walls!
I love adding push-ups to a walk.
First, let me explain: when I say push-ups I am talking about having my dog “sit”, and then “down”, and then “sit” in rapid succession. And for a great video series on how to teach these basic commands, click here.
To sharpen my dog’s listening skills and obedience, while I am walking, I command my dog to “down” (hopefully while we are still in motion) and then I ask for multiple “sits” and “downs” before finally rewarding him with a tasty treat or his favorite toy.
3. Hide & Seek
Hide and seek is another great game to play on a walk or at the park, but you need two people!
One person should dart away and find a good hiding spot, while the other person distracts the dog (or lets him watch in the beginning).
Then the hiding person calls the dog to “COME” all while praising him as he tries to find his owner.
“Fury, COME!!!! Good girl, Good girl, Good girl, COME”
You can’t call once and then hope that he is motivated to find you.
You must praise and motivate him until he finds you!
This is also a fun way to solidify that recall or come command that we talked about earlier!
“COME” should be FUN!
If you consistently work both of the recall games you will see your dog’s recall vastly improve!
Your dog doesn’t have to be a scholar to play games while walking.
Even the youngest dogs and puppies can benefit from simply changing your pace from moderate to fast or to slow. Changing pace keeps your dog stimulated and his focus on you!
Circles are also fun! Throw in a circle to the left to keep your dog looking up at you and to teach him to get out of your way.
Throw in a circle to the right to motivate him to keep up with a faster pace.
Most people barely work on obedience while they have their dogs out for a walk.
Their intention is only to go from point A to point B and back while they think they are giving their dog exercise. However, walking is not the best way to exercise your dog.
And, ironically this is one of the reasons dogs don’t listen to their owners while they are out of the house!
In order for your dog to listen to you while walking, you must work on training him while you are walking.
Forget just getting from point A to point B – work on leash training and play games!