Written by Lesley Harris
Co Author with Caroline Spencer of “Parenting your New Puppy”
My two dogs are no longer in the first flush of youth, and in the last year or so I have noticed that the female in particular (they are litter brother and sister), is slowing down and no longer able to keep up with her brother in the running and playing stakes.
So, the usual scenario was: No change in the excitement and pleasure of going out for a walk, lively running and investigating for a short while, then the brother would go on doing this while the sister tucked in behind me and plodded.
I felt from this point she was enduring rather than enjoying her walk, and put my brain to working out how to fix this.
This is what I have come up with.
There has been no change in the early part, but as soon as I find her plodding behind me I look for an ‘interesting’ place to stop.
This could be in a wood, or a place with lots of bushes, or near a pond or river – but always where there are interesting places to sniff/dig/explore – and sometimes the added bonus of a squirrel to chase up a tree!
I find a tree stump or just somewhere to lean, and let them get on with it. Sitting watching the world go by surrounded by nature is lovely to start with, but soon gets a bit tedious, so I take out my phone and play a couple of games of Pet Rescue or Diamond digger. This stops me from cutting short their sniffy time because I am bored. Unless of course it is ‘shrooming’ season – then I am digging around more than they are, and they get bored before me!
At first they couldn’t work out why I had stopped, and hung around waiting for me to move, but they soon worked out that stopping meant a sniff/dig fest.
Now, as soon as I find my comfortable resting place they are off and sniffing. I stay until they start to look at me, then I know it is time to move on.
My female dog is now as she was at the beginning of the walk, but when she tucks in behind again, I find my next spot to stop, and we do it again.
I normally stop about three times, so both dogs get about an hour out ‘walking’, but half that time is spent just sniffing digging and investigating in a small area.
My male dog spends the time in between stops, running and investigating as he always did, but the difference is that now so does my female, as the stops give her a second wind and she is raring to go again – albeit more briefly than her brother.
I feel that for aging dogs, plodding along on aching legs just because they ‘need to go for a walk’, is not so much fun, this way stimulates their brain, and gives enjoyment and variety – without the pain.
By Lesley Harris