Walks With Your Dog
We hear and read so much about how walks with your dog are good for both dogs and humans. Being mindful with your dog, learning to take in your surroundings, slowing the walk down and letting the dog lead the way are all very popular topics at the moment about walking with your dog.
There is every good reason why these are popular topics, I wrote about ways of changing your dog walk to make it more fun for your dog and you, click here to read.
We are all rushing around, always on our phones, no time to relax, calm our mind and body out of flight and flight mode.
Regular walks with your dog can help with the following:
- lowering blood pressure;
- being in nature helps with depression and anxiety;
- losing weight;
- relieving stress and improve wellbeing;
- meeting/socialising with other dog owners;
- walking is a low-impact exercise, working the cardiovascular system and building muscle strength
Walks Are Good For Your Dog Too
There is the age old topic of ‘how long should you walk your dog for?’. Some dogs don’t need as much as other dogs, you can read more in our blog post about how long, on average, dog breeds need per day. Most dogs will benefit with a minimum of a 30 minute walk a day.
As a conscious dog owner, you soon know how many walks a day, and how much exercise, your dog will benefit from. Barney and Sandy enjoy 2 walks a day which adds up to between 1.5 – 2 hours.
Regular walks are known to help dogs in so many ways:
- Walking your dog will tire your dog, both physically and mentally;
- Walking your dog will help to maintain their weight, or help them to lose weight;
- Sniffing on the walk, will help mentally calm your dog and tire them;
- On lead/off lead walks offer different experiences for dogs and ideally, they should be able to enjoy both;
- Socialising with other dogs (if off lead and safe to do so);
- Strengthen the bond between you and your dog;
- Help maintain good health;
- Offers opportunity for training and different play situations.
Why I No Longer Enjoy Walking Our Dogs (off lead)
It is difficult for me to admit this, because one of the reasons that I love having dogs in our life, is because I love walking with them, being outside with them and discovering new places with them.
Recently, out on two different walks, things happened that have caused me to have a panic attack whilst walking our dogs off lead.
For the most part, I am fine walking them on lead and I believe that is because I can, to a certain extent, control what happens. I can cross the road, I can stand back to allow dogs to pass, I can chose a route that I know well and I can chose the quieter time of day to walk them.
However, off lead walking is where I really struggle, to the extent that if I see dogs ahead or behind us, I start to panic. My heart starts to race and I need to get away from them, ideally bringing the dogs with me.
What Has Caused This?
I have always been nervous around large unknown dogs, as a child I was chased, knocked over by one and it has stuck with me. So, I don’t cope well with large dogs running up to our dogs, or me, with no owner to be seen.
Since owning dogs, and being around dogs, the anxiety has got worse. Thinking about why this is, I believe it could be;
- As a puppy, before Barney was neutered, he was attacked quite a few times (totally unprovoked and out of the blue). However since neutering he has not been attacked at all.
- The feeling of helplessness if a dog were take attack either Sandy or Barney and not knowing what to do.
- The dread of an attack which might mean awful wounds or even that they don’t survive the attack.
- Other dog owners, who are totally unaware of where their dog is, or what it is doing.
- Seeing so many awful stories on social media of dog attacks.
I suppose the overall reason I have the anxiety is the fear of losing them, because we lost our first puppy in a tragic accident and I wasn’t there or able to do anything.
What Do I Do About It?
Until the two recent incidents, I coped quite well whilst out on off lead walks. I was always aware of everything going on around me and keeping an eye on the dogs at all times.
Sandy, our terrier cross, is a nervous dog. She copes much better when dogs approach her, if she is off lead. This allows her to move away and create space between her and the dog. However, sometimes she does come over to me, as her safety net, which brings the dogs over to me too! It is ironic that I am probably more scared than Sandy is.
I try very hard to stay calm, because I know that dogs pick up on how we are feeling/reacting, but it is not easy now, because I really do just want to run away as fast as possible! Going out on walks with, understanding, people does help. So I walk with my husband and our dog walker, in the hope that it will help to ease my anxiety.
I have read books to learn about dog’s body language, to help me read situations better, but I’m not sure it helps me, because I am so aware that it can make things worse and I’m not an expert in dog’s body language or behaviours.
I constantly remind myself that in the past, nearly 4 years, neither of our dogs have been attacked. I know that the majority of dogs are friendly and unprovoked, out of the blue attacks, are rare (even though we seem to see so many on social media).
I Am Not Alone
When I posted on Instagram about my panic attack, (yes it was a panic attack, my heart started racing, I was breathless, breathing fast and I wanted to flee as fast as I could, to get back to the safety of our car. My brain was telling me to ‘Go! Go! Go!’, but my body was frozen to the spot) I realised, from the comments I received, that I am not the only one who suffers from anxiety when walking their dog.
So many dog owners feel embarrassed by their anxiety, feel frustrated that they no longer enjoy walks with their dog, change their whole day to accommodate walking their dog either early in the morning or late in the evening, or just don’t walk their dog anymore.
I hope in time, with more positive walking experiences, the anxiety will lessen and I will learn to enjoy walking with the dogs again.
Hopefully reading this has helped you to feel less alone and realise that it is not so unusual to no longer enjoy walks with your dog.
I would love to hear from you if you experience any anxiety when it comes to walking with your dog, please do leave me a comment and share your story with me.