Recovery Walks and the Primitive Dog
You’ve had a bad day at work. You come home to a super excited and energetic dog. Or maybe you just had a negative experience at a dog sports competition. You wake up the next morning and your dog is ready to go, go, go. Your motivation for training is at a low, as is your desire to go for a walk around the neighborhood. Bully sticks and other chews are great, food puzzles are also super fun. But your dog needs more than that, and you don’t want the guilt from not properly exercising your dog to add on to your unhappiness. What do you do?
Take them for a Recovery Walk!
What is a Recovery Walk? It’s not your typical fast-paced, loose leash walk or a hike on potentially rough terrain. For a Recovery Walk you will need a long line and proper harness/collar to attach it to, as well as a pocket full of your dog’s favorite treats.
Your instructions are simple! Go to your closest empty open field or secluded wooded area or beach – basically anywhere not too crowded and where the landscape isn’t terribly difficult to navigate with your dog on a long line - and let your dog do their own thing. Let them lead you to where they want to sniff or explore (of course keeping things safe for both of you!). And that’s it! If you are wanting to work on recall or other simple, fun behaviors your dog already knows, you can do so (hence the treats), but if you don’t want to, no problem! Safety is not an issue! Your dog won’t be going anywhere as you should be holding the other end of that line.
How do you get them back? That is also easy! If your dog has a recall then you can use that and reward with a ton of treats once they return, but if not, just walk your hands down the line until you are at their harness/collar (similar to the Leash Freedom technique). Reward for that collar/harness grab, and then you can even lure them back to where you started with a treat magnet, or let them just walk next to you like a normal leash walk.
Why do I love Recovery Walks? I’ve found that for my primitive dogs, about 25 minutes of this type of walking seems to tire them out way more than an hour of constant, fast-paced walking. This is because they are able to sniff as much as they want, they can navigate interesting things like low fallen logs and tree stumps, and the risk for coming in contact with other dogs and people is hopefully low. And since my dogs are older and have so much training on them, we also practice fun recall games, as well as easy tricks and well-known behaviors. If your dog is one to offer check-ins, you can and should reward those as they happen. In addition, posing on objects for pictures is one of my dogs' favorite activities, so we might do a little bit of that, too!
I know that I personally feel a bit of relief just being able to wander around and enjoy nature, so Recovery Walks definitely have a therapeutic human component. It is really all about what makes you and your dog happy. Besides my Sheltie, my dogs do not delight that much in fetch or anything toy-related, so I cannot mindlessly throw a ball for my Finnish Spitz to tire them out. Recovery Walks are an amazing activity for us when training or long, brisk walks are not an option. I know that my dogs are getting so much mental stimulation, and a little bit of physical work as well. And the proof is in the results - we all return home happy, and very content.
Going to experience a Recovery Walk for yourself? Take some photos or video of your Couch Wolves having fun and share them on our Facebook Community!