Let your dog enjoy the smells.
Instead of rushing through your walk, allow your dog time to sort through interesting smells he discovers. For senior canines or those with limited mobility, the activity can allow enrichment without needing to cover much ground.
Just what kind of smells can interest a dog? One popular activity is checking their "pee mail" (other dogs' eliminations) and leaving behind their own messages. When a dog sniffs a spot, he is figuring out the history and current state of the area, including information like who has been there, what they were doing and where they went.
Many dogs may ignore the person on the other end of the leash because in the moment, their surroundings are more interesting than their human.But one of the precursors to a dog’s inattention can be the distraction and disconnect of his human. When a person is on a cell phone, talking to someone else or mentally elsewhere, important moments can be missed.
If your dog engages and the moment of connection is missed, such as giving you eye contact or orienting to be closer to you, these reward-able moments can go unenforced and subsequently become more infrequent. Being present with your dog, free of distractions, is essential for expecting the same from your pooch.
Once you're engaged, getting your dog’s attention can become easier by rewarding moments of focus and therefore adding interest to the walk.
One way to engage your dog is by occasionally changing directions. Use a word like "turn" to inform your pooch you’re moving a different way, then slowly turn and reward your dog when he catches up at your side. Additionally, reward any moment when your dog is looking in your direction or giving eye contact. This can increase your dog's willingness to check in with you.
Do something new.
Walks are a way to keep up your dog’s social skills. Greeting every person and dog along the walk isn’t necessary, nor advisable. But letting your dog see, smell and walk by other people and dogs provides ongoing experience with how to read body language and respond to others.
To provide interaction for dog-friendly dogs, try walking in an off-leash area with your canine. Or join a friend and her dog or a dog-friendly walking group for a walk. For dogs who love human interaction, invite friends to join your walk or scout out a pet-friendly store or restaurant for a visit.