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Updated: Jun 9

When we bring home a new dog, regardless of his history, he's going to need time to settle in and learn to feel safe before we expand his world further and introduce walks. Building trust and confidence should come first. There is so much for them to cope with, particularly so for those that may not have lived in a home before. I can't imagine how overwhelming that must be!

You can read more on how to help your dog feel safe here:

When he is feeling comfortable, the likelihood is that you will need to teach your new furry friend some basic lead skills at home before you put them into practice. Any new equipment, such as a lovely new harness and longline, will also need to be conditioned properly before use.

If you need further information on walking equipment and how to condition it, check out these links:

For those with reactive dogs, days off from walks are hugely beneficial as they enable your dog to recover fully from any stressors, which in turn will help prevent trigger stacking. Staying home to play, enjoying some enrichment activities, or doing some fun training such as scentwork together, can work wonders. Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise, after all!

If you are lucky enough to have a secure field for hire nearby, where your dog can enjoy some off-lead, trigger-free, uninterrupted fun, this is a wonderful way for you both to enjoy time together. When you have sensitive dogs who are reactive and need space, hiring a secure field is absolutely the best thing ever! We are very lucky to have two which are under thirty minutes away, and use them on a regular basis. Even when you do your best to choose more remote areas at quieter times of the day to walk, and employ your best Tom Cruise Mission Impossible moves, walks can still be stressful for both ends of the lead. However, an hour in a hound-proof field, where you don't have to worry about other people and their "it's okay, he's friendly!" dogs ambushing you, is worth every single penny. Bliss! It's wonderful to see Jack and Trigger running free, dashing around just for the pure thrill of it, able to be themselves and do normal doggie things. It's also a great opportunity to get some photos!

For dogs who may suffer with anxiety or are extremely fearful, walks might just be too scary for them, and that's okay too! There is way too much pressure to walk our dogs everyday, day in, day out, when, in fact, this is not always in their best interests, and can do more harm than good. Sometimes less is more; a lot more. Every dog is an individual, and we need to meet their needs as best we can, while keeping them feeling safe. If the big, bad world is too scary for them, it's okay not to go for walks.

As I drove between jobs the other day, I spotted a lady with two Jack Russells, just as they were about to cross the road. As I drew nearer, one of the dogs seemed to startle at something, possibly the appearance of my car approaching, and promptly shot away from his human. This dog was inches from running into the road on his flexi lead, which the lady abruptly yanked on and shortened, along with the lead of the second dog. The startled dog was looking quite anxious after his fright, but as his human reeled in the lead, she loomed over him and proceeded to scold him for what she probably perceived as "bad behaviour".

I felt very sorry for the dog, and cross with the lady for her lack of empathy, but as I later thought about what I had seen, I realised that the telling off may have come from a place of concern for what might have happened, as well as embarrassment for not keeping her dog safe. He hadn't been in any real danger as I always pass dogwalkers slowly, giving them a wide berth, but they both will have finished their walk with any enjoyment no doubt overshadowed by this incident.

The chances are that, for this dog, walks are a real struggle, but this also may be the case for his human. We all love our fearful, anxious and reactive dogs, and we understand that when they are struggling, they are not deliberately trying to give us a hard time, but still, we do need to acknowledge that both ends of the lead can be reactive and become trigger stacked at times!

There is a real pressure to walk our dogs on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times a day, but when walks become more of a worry and don't provide any enjoyment for the dog, what is the point in them, really? If walks bring struggle and strife rather than enjoyment and enrichment, and don't serve as an opportunity to reinforce your relationship, then there are other options!

Enrichment activities are a wonderful way to entertain our dogs, we just need to remember to start at an easy level so that they can gain confidence. We don't want to confuse, frustrate, or over-face them. The attached link contains some great resources from Caring for Rescued ex Street Dogs, which will come in handy while you build up to walks and, indeed, beyond that:

Of course, it would be very remiss of me not to plug the many benefits of scentwork, and how to introduce it to your dog at home:

I hope this has given you some insight into providing alternatives to walks, and some reassurance that they are in no way mandatory. There are many forms of enrichment and ways to provide physical and mental stimulation, without having to don full battle dress every time you set foot outside the house with your best boy or girl.

If you have found this useful, why not subscribe to receive my future blog posts? Don’t forget to check your junk mail folder, just in case! You can also find my blogs, along with other science-based, dog-centred posts and articles over on my Facebook page: Trailie Paws For Thought | Facebook

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