Steve Mann (www.stevemanndogtraining.com) strongly believes that we do everything too fast with our dogs and that we should chill out and spend more quality time with them. I agree with him.
Exercise is important, but let’s face it – you will never get fitter than your dog. I believe dogs get addicted to running like those very strange people who run marathons or cycle huge distances (I’m not judging here – my husband is one of the cycling nuts). I know people who just keep upping their dog’s aerobic exercise to try and get them to calm down. I’ve yet to see this work long term. I’ve seen people on Parkruns being dragged behind lean, muscular miniature dachshunds.
I encourage you to rethink walks. Decide on what you are trying to achieve – is it for you to get fit or for your dog to get out and experience a different part of the world from where he lives? Maybe leave your dog behind on some of your fitness runs and give him a few walks that are all about him.
When I take my dogs to the field we go to for fun, they tear around like maniacs for a few minutes, then spend an enormous amount of time sniffing and investigating who was there previously. I just sit down and drink my coffee (if I’ve remembered to take it with me). When they eventually return to me, I scatter a couple of handfuls of food on the ground, they snuffle around happily looking for it and then we go home.
Karen London calls these kinds of outings ‘sniffaris’ and how she does it is described in her February 2019 article on The Bark.
Years ago I sat for nearly an hour with my then 15 year old dachshund, Sigmund, as his blundered happily around investigating a space of about 1m² (he was almost blind and very tottery by then). Boy, was he a happy and exhausted little dog by the end.
Dogs use a huge part of their brain to process scent, so allowing them to sniff will help them relax.
Another option for a dog-centric outing is Steve Mann’s rucksack walk. In a nutshell you need a long lead, some treats, something smelly (a tea bag will do) in a container, a thing (anything), some food in another container, something chewy and a rucksack to put it all into. Go somewhere quiet, follow your dog while he explores, then do some connecting via dropping treats and running backwards. Now sit down and work your way through the scent, the thing and the food, taking time to fully investigate it all. Give him the chew and sit close to him stroking gently (if he likes it) while he chews. Then pack up, stroll back home. I’m lucky enough that my garden is big enough that I can do this at home, and I’ve done variations of the concept in different rooms of the house.