For most dog owners, a daily walk is part of their pet’s routine, and an essential one too.
But for dog trainer Niki French, 53, this habit is an old one, and something she definitely doesn’t agree with.
The bestselling author of STOP Walking Your Dog, is encouraging people to replace their 30-minute walk with an alternative activity, that is even more stimulating.
Niki told The Mirror: “It might come as a surprise, but traditional walks are a human invention and aren’t helpful for many of our dogs.
“Replacing walk time with training games at home can give the dogs the skills they’re missing to live calm and happy lives.”
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Niki is launching her first Don’t Walk Your Dog Day on Saturday, April 2, to raise awareness that “not all dogs thrive on daily walks”.
“Contrary to popular belief, dogs with behavior struggles can get more reactive or more excitable when we try to exhaust them through too much exercise,” she said.
Niki has a two-year-old rescue dog named Bodie at home, who is “noticeably calmer” with fewer walks and more enrichment games.
“A growing number of my clients have nervous or reactive dogs and I’ve shown them all the amazing activities you can do at home to help dogs grow the skills they’re lacking to be happy on walks,” she explained.
“Skipping some walks can help both dogs and owners alike destress.
“When more than half of walks are stressful (for the dog or you), it’s time to do something different.”
There are many reasons owners might benefit from skipping a walk. For example, if the weather is too hot or cold, it can be dangerous to the dog.
For new puppies that aren’t vaccinated, bitches that are in season, and dogs who are unwell, a walk might not be best.
“Playing games at home is a great way to build skills our dogs need and boost our relationship with them,” Niki said.
Niki has been an animal lover her entire life, and became a dog trainer three years ago.
She focuses on positive reward and enrichment games like digging sandpits, playing with cardboard boxes, using lick mats and hide-and-seek activities.
“It’s good to have other things in your toolkit. This applies to all dogs and surprisingly it can work best for breeds that need lots of exercise,” Niki explained.
For dog owners who have reactive or anxious pets, it can be intimidating and stressful leaving the house for a simple walk.
“I want these people to know that they aren’t alone, and we aren’t judging them,” Niki said.
If you’d like to get involved with national Don’t Walk Your Dog Day tomorrow, share your experience online with the hashtag #dontwalkyourdog. For more information, visit https://go.puptalk.co.uk/awareness-day.
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