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Pedestrians and dogs crossing at intersection, New York City

Do you ever feel like you’d like to get away from it all, stretch your legs, clear your head, and commune with nature? Your dogs feel that way too! Even if you regularly take your dog on walks on a short leash, in your neighborhood or on the city streets, a long-lined, dog-led walk in an enriched environment is extremely nurturing and satisfying for a dog. This is known as a decompression walk, and it can improve dogs’ behavioral health by playing to their natural instincts. Here, we talk about why it’s good for your dog and how to take a decompression walk.

When we walk our dogs on a sidewalk, on a short lead, the sights, sounds, and smells they encounter can be overstimulating or even frightening for them. On a long line, in a field, allowed to explore and sniff, dogs will gain more in a much shorter time than on their normal walks. Decompression walks are all about freedom of movement in nature, and they can improve the behavior of dogs who are anxious or stressed by city life. It may seem counterintuitive to think that a walk could be detrimental to a dog, but urban walks on a short leash can have a negative impact.

Why is this true? Dogs need to be dogs. As domesticated animals, our pets live in a human world, and this can be stressful. Their natural behaviors like shredding, chewing, digging, playing, licking, foraging, and sniffing are undesirable in a house, where they manifest as destructive habits like chewing on furniture or shoes, or getting into things that are off limits, like the trash. Additionally, some dogs may be fearful or frustrated on walks, or may demonstrate emotional reactions to environmental stimuli. If your dogs pull, bark, or lunge when you take them on traditional walks, they can benefit from decompression walks where they can relax and have their natural needs met.

So, how does a decompression walk work? The first step is to think of it as a way for you and your dogs to decompress together, away from the daily grind. Let your dogs relax, and take the opportunity to slow down, be present, and bond with them. This is a chance to allow your dogs the freedom to check out their environment, sniffing, playing, digging, chewing on sticks, and being silly. Let them roll on things if they want, hunt critters if it makes them happy, or just run around. Observe and encourage them, play, and have fun with them. Letting them do exactly what they find satisfying should be the goal of your excursion.

Where should you go on your decompression walk? Look for somewhere that meets your dog’s unique needs. It needs to be low-traffic, quiet, and safe, away from other people and dogs, where you and your dog can get a little bit of breathing room. It could be a little neighborhood park that isn’t being used, an open baseball field, or even an empty parking lot. Beaches, cemeteries, and college campuses can fit the bill, and Sniffspots (the Airbnb of dog parks) are perfect.

Once you’ve found the perfect place, outfit your dog with an H-shaped harness and a long line. As much as possible, your dogs should feel like they’re “off-leash,” allowed to freely wander around and explore. A long line is different from other leashes, so educate yourself on how to handle it before you go. Your dogs will probably be very excited about their new adventure and may pull at the lead. That’s ok! In time, they will understand that they are allowed to freely sniff and explore, and they’ll slow down and get calmer. While you are on your decompression walk, try not to ask anything of your dogs. Just let them do whatever they want to do, taking the lead with you as a willing follower and participant.

As always, when you’re exercising with your dog in summer, follow some simple summer safety tips. Be cautious about dog feet on hot pavement, and refrain from vigorous exercise in the hottest part of the day. Bring along water for your dogs, and brush them afterward to remove anything that may have gotten stuck in their fur during their adventures. Make sure they’re up to date on preventives for heartworms, fleas, and ticks, and check to make sure no ticks or other hitchhikers are trying to come home with them.

You want to give your dogs the very best care, and no matter what kind of care your pet needs, Dr. Dave’s Doggy Daycare, Boarding, and Grooming is your one stop shop! Our staff full of pet lovers has extensive experience in the pet care industry, and we understand that your pets deserve the best of everything. If you don’t want your dog to be lonely while you’re away from home, our daycare services will provide socialization with other dogs and a staff that will pay special attention to your pet’s needs. If you need to go out of town, we will keep your dog safe and happy, and we have a certified veterinarian available 24/7 in case of health care issues. Does your dog need grooming? We’ll provide your pet with a spa day worthy of royalty. For more information about all the services we offer to dog lovers and their dogs, call 408-868-5910 in Saratoga, 408-791-2532 in Campbell, or contact us through our website.