The point of a walk is for your dog to burn off some energy from being cooped up all day. It is to burn some calories to help them maintain a healthy weight (Significant calories can’t be burned if you are not actually covering some ground). It is to help their joints stay flexible and their muscles strong. Your dog should know you mean business – a walk is actual “motion” time
I see people doing this all of the time. As a dog walker, I can tell who’s human parents let them do this. Owners of small dogs are bigger culprits than those of big dogs.
It’s letting them stop and sniff every single thing along the way.
Don’t get me wrong, a dog needs mental stimulation too. Getting them outside to sniff around a bit gets their mental juices flowing and is important for their well being.
There is a time for each though – and those times should be distinctly separate.
If you are taking your dog “for a walk” they should be on the move. They are on your time and your agenda and they should know it. They should not be allowed to stop and sniff everything and should be walking beside you (or at the very least, walking in front of you). I am not saying that they should not sniff at all, the sniff time should be kept to a minimum though.
The time to sniff every little thing is different. It can be a purposeful journey around the block AFTER your dog has gotten the proper exercise. It can be at a dog park where they can run and play AND stop and sniff whenever they want. It can be when you let them out in the back yard.
Set your purpose when you head out the door. What are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to give your dog some exercise (or yourself some exercise)? Are you taking your dog on a leisurely, sensory journey? Unless you focus on one or the other, your dog is not getting the true benefit of either.
The article 6 Tips for Walking with Your Dog has some good things to say related to the issue of walk time vs. sniff time. For example, it says “After your dog has maintained the proper state of mind (relaxed walking I assume), reward him by allowing him to relieve himself and sniff around. Then you need to decide when reward time is over. It should always be less than the time spent focused on the walk”.
An excellent, less dominance-based article can be found at PetMD. The article has some really great tips on getting your dog to walk by your side. My favorite, easiest one is to “Walk at a quick pace. If your dog trots or runs, she’ll have fewer opportunities to catch a whiff of something enticing, and she’ll be less inclined to stop and eliminate every few steps. Additionally, you are far more interesting to your dog when you move quickly.”
There is a good thread on DogForums.com on how to let your dog to know that you are in walk mode.
I know some people will disagree with my opinion and I respect that. Whether you agree or disagree, I would like to hear your thoughts or tips.