Official advice from the UK government has stated that from Wednesday 13th May people can start exercising outdoors as much as they like:
- “Exercise outdoors as often as you wish - following social distancing guidelines”
This also means you can now take your dog out for walks more than once a day.
As you and your pet have been cooped up for long periods during lockdown, some dogs may have gained weight or become untrained to the regular walking routine.
Below are some tips on getting your dog back to them old selves and general advice on outdoor activities you can try.
Reintroducing Two or More Daily Walks
Instead of jumping right into the old post-lockdown routine of two or more walks a day, look to reintroduce the second walk by going a shorter distance and then gradually increasing it.
You will soon know how fit or motivated your dog is about getting back into the old exercise routine. From here you can make judgments about increasing the distance.
If you kept your dog on-lead for their once a day walk during lockdown, keep in mind that if you now decide to take them off leash they may be over excitable at this new freedom and not behave as before.
When taking your dog off lead in a public area, it’s always important to ensure it is safe to do so. This means in a closed off area away from traffic or a busy footpath.
Dog Parks and Fenced Areas
Before unleashing your dog in their favourite open spaces, firstly consider taking them to a dedicated dog park or a smaller space that’s fenced off.
This will let your dog get used to being off lead again in a more controlled environment. It will also let you see how they behave and if they are ready to be let loose in their usual off-lead spaces.
Scout The Area On Leash
If your dog has been away from their usual off-lead spaces for a few months during lockdown, consider walking your dog around the space on leash. This will reintroduce your dog to the environment and its smells in a controlled manner and help to dampen the initial excitement when you go off leash.
Use a Long Lead
If you have a long leash like the Flexi Retractable Dog Lead, then this could be a good way to reintroduce your dog to free roaming while still giving you some control.
If Your Dog Runs Off
Your dog may become over excited or spooked once let off leash and not behave as expected by making a run for it.
Professional dog trainer Emily Larlham offers some advice on what to do if your dog does run off and doesn’t respond to your usual commands:
It’s very important not to forget that your dog should be wearing ID Tags when out of the house as it’s the law, otherwise you can be fined up £5,000.
Your Dog Around Other Dogs
It’s important to follow the government’s advice on social distancing and remain two meters away from others. However, with dogs being on long leads, they might still meet, or even become over excited at seeing other dogs at a distance.
During the quiet period of lockdown your dog may not have seen many other dogs and so may not yet be used to being around other dogs again and so behave differently than they did previously.
In the below video, McCann Dog Training offer advice on teaching your dog to be better behaved when spotting other people or animals while on leash:
Some tips they provide were also covered in more detail in Part 1 of the video.
Fetch and Tug Games
In our previous blog post about keeping your dog entertained during lockdown, we had advice about playing fetch around the house and how to safely play tug games indoors. Now with unlimited chances to go and play outside it’s tempting to get back into the old fetch playing routine.
If your dog hasn’t been off-lead in a while or hasn’t been to their usual open spaces, it’s important to keep safety in mind – for your dog and others. As mentioned in the Off Leash section above, before you throw their usual fetch toy for them to chase, ensure that your dog is comfortable and controlled in the surroundings if you haven’t visited these places in a while.
Playing and Fatigue
Keep in mind that your dog might not be at their usual fitness level due to being at home more, so ease your dog back into their old routine. This way you don’t over-exercise them with fetch and retrieve games.
As your dog may also be over-excited due to the reintroduction of off-lead playing, please remember that some dogs get over-stimulated during repetitive activities and don’t know when to stop. This can lead to fatigue and even mental distress. So limit the amount of time you play fetch.
Using The Right Toys
Bulk buying a bunch of cheap tennis balls is tempting for owners, but a lot sport balls are not recommended for many breeds. You should always use proper tugs, dummies, and toys when playing or training with your dog. We have a wide range of suitable tugs and toys for dogs here.