Prepare to have your mind blown. NOT EVERY DOG NEEDS A WALK EVERY DAY!
I know…startling information, but I have a confession to make. My personal dogs do NOT get a daily walk, nor do they want one. Aside from the fact that I have too many to get out every day, only one of them would willingly go every day; all the others would rather have a weekly or bi- weekly walk, and one, who is extremely anxious, none at all.
Dogs have different personalities, needs, and worries. So, the standard advice from many dog trainers is incorrect and possibly damaging to your 4-legged friend. A dog who “pulls on the leash and/or lunges at other dogs or people” is very likely a dog who is not having a fun time on that daily walk. He likely has lots of fear of novelty or loud noises which can make a walk torture both for him and for you. In these cases, I recommend scheduling the walk once every 3 -7 days depending on the severity of the anxiety. Owners often report at least a 40% improvement on less frequent walks. Then we can consider further training to address the underlying causes of the anxiety. There is so much to discuss about the walk in general that I could dedicate an entire book to it.
Another extreme demonstration of this complexity is what I learned when a new client engaged me to go to her house because her dog was in her words, “bananas.” She described at length how this 10-month-old yellow lab couldn’t sit still at home, was jumping on the kids, knocking them over and stealing food every chance he got. They were so fearful to have him with their kids that he was relegated to a crate or the back yard for most of every day. When in the yard, he was tethered to a tree for fear he would destroy the furniture, the sprinklers and the plants. When I asked the family what they had tried so far, they explained that he went for a 2-mile run every morning and 2 subsequent 1-mile walks mid-day and in the evening. They thought what many owners and trainers think, that a “tired dog is a happy dog”, yet this approach was clearly not working.
When I arrived, I was greeted by a very manic, energetic dog who could barely think when I started game feeding him to demonstrate how to work with him. I moved my training session away from the kids to the back yard so I could gain his complete focus. As I was explaining everything I was doing and observing his movements, I noticed a slight pronation to his left hind leg. I pointed it out and asked the owners if they knew of any injuries he may have had. They laughed at my question because he was generally so wild, he could be hurting himself at any time and they would barely notice. After observing him further I saw a very clear stiffness in that leg and told them I suspected an injury that they needed to get diagnosed and treated immediately before I could train him further.
In addition to a vet visit, I told them to end the walks completely and allow him to rest for a minimum of 10 days and then follow the advice of the vet. This dog did end up having hip and knee issues. The underlying message here is that dogs have very few ways to tell us something is wrong with them either emotionally or physically and sometimes it looks like“ too much energy,” or a training or behavior struggle. As I observe quite frequently, in the animal/ human world, less can be more.