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April 2nd: 'Don't Walk Your Dog Day'

April 2nd is ‘Don’t Walk Your Dog Day’. Founded by dog trainer Niki French of Pup Talk ( ), she would probably forgive you for initially being alarmed at such a statement. After all, rule one of having a dog is to walk them all the time, right? …Not necessarily. It’s important to note that Niki isn’t suggesting that you skip the walks and just sit back and ignore them..!

When shouldn’t I walk my dog?

There are many reasons why sometimes walks aren’t the best idea for your dog. These reasons include the following:

  • Scorching hot weather. Dogs are susceptible to heat stroke, just like us humans. Flat faced breeds are even more prone to heat stroke and breathing troubles. All dogs are also at risk of getting burnt paws walking on pavements in hot weather. A study by Four Paws UK ( ) showed that when the air temperature is 25 degrees, the temperature of pavements is a whopping 52 degrees celsius! This rises to 62 degrees when the air temperature is 31 degrees, and to 65 degrees when the air temperature is 35 degrees.

  •   Other weather conditions. From hail storms to thunder and lightning, other weather conditions may also make alternatives to walks a more sensible idea.

  • Surgery or illness. If your dog has ever had surgery, you will know that the vet will have advised you to avoid walking your dog for a period of time. Similarly, if your dog has been under the weather and unwell, alternatives to a dog walk may be wise.

  • Reactivity. Nervous dogs, anxious dogs, and dogs who have had previous bad experiences may be reactive on walks. By taking a period of time to do alternatives to dog walking to help build their confidence and contentment, it will avoid them rehearsing the reactivity and making it a harder situation.

  • Your health. Sometimes our own health can prevent the ability for regular sustainable walks for a time. Alternatives can help you to ensure that your dog is stimulated, exercised and ultimately content.



So what are the alternatives to dog walks?


  • Secure dog field. Most areas in the UK now offer secure dog fields. You book a slot in advance (usually in half hour increments), and then during that time slot the field is yours alone. This gives your dog the chance to have plenty of exercise and play running off lead, without the possibility of bumping into other dogs and people if your dog is nervous or reactive.

  • Sniffing games or hide-and-seek. Sniffing is thoroughly stimulating for dogs, and I never cease to be amazed at how deeply my Sadie sleeps after sniffing games. Put your dog in another room in your home while you hide small treats around a different room. Then let your dog in and tell them to “find it”. The first time you do this, you may need to help them out a bit until they understand what they need to do, but soon they will be wiggling their nose the moment you say “find it”! Alternatively, you can buy or make a snuffle ball, which is a ball made up of lots of folds of material which are perfect to hide small treats in.

  • Puzzles. Brands like ‘Outward Hound’ and ‘Trixie’ do a great range of puzzle toys for your dog, often varying in difficulty. The downside is that they can be expensive, so it’s good to know that it’s fairly easy to make your own too! Here’s a couple of ideas..

  1. -          Get a net curtain rod, and 3 empty disposable drinking bottles. Cut a hole on either side of each bottle around the middle, and thread the curtain rod through them. Now secure the curtain rod on the back of two chairs, put some small treats in the top of each bottle, and discard the lids. Call your dog to you and gently nudge the bottles to show your dog how to spin the bottles to release the treats!

  2. -          Get a 12 holed muffin tray, and gather some of your dogs smaller toys including things like tennis balls. Put a treat in each of the muffin tray holes, and place a toy on top. Invite your dog to sniff out and find the treats.

  • Training. It’s a perfect time to do some fun training with your dog if they are unable to go for a walk. From basic training like sit/lay down/come/stay, etc, to fun new tricks like teaching them to play dead or to do a nose touch, the possibilities are endless and can be a really bonding experience between you and your dog.

  • Play! From tug to just playing with your dog with their teddies, your dog will love you for it. Maybe introduce a bit of extra difficulty with a tug game, by suddenly saying ”drop” during your game to bring their arousal down suddenly, then once they drop it, bring their arousal back up with praise and tug again.


If you’re stuck on ideas for training games and fun things to do  with your dog, or if you have any struggles with your dog that you’d like to overcome, check out Niki’s best selling book here:


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