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Ask A Dog Trainer – Do I Have To Walk My Dog?

| Published on March 10, 2023
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Walking the dog seems like an essential part of being a dog parent. Yet, many people wonder if they have to be walking their dogs daily. For example, some dogs may dislike walks while others may misbehave while walking in public. So, are walks necessary?

Let me start by saying I rarely walk my dogs. As in, my dogs don’t always get daily walks around the neighborhood or park. So, you don’t have to walk your dog, but you do need to exercise your dog.

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The idea that your dog must go on an actual walk every day isn’t true. Most dogs love walking, but for some dogs, it’s actually counterproductive and could even be dangerous.

Walking lots of dogs

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When Walking IS a Good Idea

If you have a nice, well-rounded pup who loves to go out and meet new people and dogs, then there’s no reason you can’t take your dog for a walk each day. Dogs in this category will often run to the door as soon as they see you holding their leash.

When walking, your dog should greet people with a relaxed body and a wagging tail. If they meet another dog, they should stay calm and politely sniff their rear end. If your dog gets overly excited but the other dog doesn’t share their excitement, keep walking.

That’s not to say that less social dogs can’t walk too. If you live in a neighborhood that’s not busy, you can easily walk your dog without interacting with anyone else. Besides, you shouldn’t let your dog interact with others without their permission no matter how well-behaved your pup is.

Golden Retriever walking

Overall, your dog should not only enjoy walks, but they should also behave appropriately when they’re out in public. Sadly, many dogs are surrendered to shelters because of how they behave on walks. Many people get discouraged when dogs don’t walk well, not realizing that dogs don’t have to walk.

When Walking is NOT a Good Idea

Everyone wishes their dog could be a perfect angel on a leash, but that’s not always the case. In fact, I own two social dogs and two that belong on the “do not walk” list.

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Dogs that are not good candidates for daily walks are dogs with fear issues, whether it’s cars, people, dogs, aggression, or reactivity. My two dogs that don’t go on walks are perfect examples.

One of them came from a breeder that planned on showing her, but she had a bad tooth and could not be shown. Instead, she spent the first five months of her life never meeting or seeing anyone except that lady and her dogs. That upbringing gave her a fearful and reclusive personality. While we are working on it, walking her every day without turning every walk into a training session would be disastrous. It would just reinforce her fears and cause me frustration.

Dog nervous during walk

My second “do not walk” dog is a resource guarder that can become aggressive if a dog gets in his face. Since many people don’t control their dogs, it isn’t smart to take a dog that has even a slight tendency to be aggressive out on a public walk. Otherwise, the walk will not be fun for the dog or the owner. In this case, my dog is constantly “on alert.” We’re both stressed on walks and constantly looking for a dog that may come out of nowhere.

In both cases, a walk can be dangerous. The last thing I want is for Dog #2 to attack another dog or Dog #1 to get to the point where she is showing signs of fear aggression, which can happen if you keep pushing your fearful dog into situations they aren’t comfortable with.

You are liable if your dog does anything, so you need to respect the safety of other dogs and people. If you’re casually walking down the street and not paying attention to your dog, accidents may happen because of it.

Small dog on leash

What’s The Purpose Of a Walk?

Why do many people walk their dogs every day? Most people will say exercise. Yet, if you have a dog similar to either dog described above, how much exercise are you really getting? Your dog is constantly frightened, so you may even be dragging or carrying them at some points. If your dog has aggression issues, you’re constantly having to stop to let other dogs pass you.

So, not a lot of exercise is going on in those instances. It would be better to exercise your dog in the backyard rather than trying to go out for regular walks. On a walk, you may just be making their behaviors worse and stressing yourself out.

However, walks aren’t just for exercise. For many dogs, they’re a fun activity to keep their minds busy. So, if you aren’t walking your dog, make sure they get entertainment in other ways, such as through training sessions and puzzle toys.

Take Outings Instead

I’m not telling you to never take your dog with behavior issues out. If you don’t, they will never get better. But when you do take them out, it needs to be for training, not exercise.

Dog excited for walk

These should be more like “outings” than “walks,” where you work on their fears, reactivity, aggression, and other concerns. For example, when I take my dogs out (separately and one at a time!) we may not move from one spot. Instead, I may be clicking/rewarding for watching cars go by without being scared or not barking at dogs that walk past. I have control of my dogs at all times and I am watching them to make sure nothing bad happens.

Working with a certified professional dog trainer will make training easier and you will see results much sooner. With their help, you may be able to take daily walks someday. But for now, don’t feel like you have to or that you’re a bad dog owner if you don’t. After all, a good dog owner knows when a walk is appropriate or not.

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