Decompression Walks - What Are They, And Why Prioritize Them?

We control nearly every aspect of our dog’s lives - what they eat, the places they go, who they interact with, and even when they do all of those things. Decompression walks give them some control back! More than that, they’re an opportunity for your dog to zone out, sniff around, and be fulfilled by exploring the world around them. Have you heard the phrase “a tired dog is a good dog?” Well, it’s much more accurate to say that a fulfilled dog is a good dog. Meeting their needs is more beneficial than just exhausting them.

Decompression walks have a dog’s experience in mind! They’re best done in a quiet park, open grassy fields, or, for non-reactive dogs, low-traffic trails. By avoiding close encounters with loud vehicles, strangers and other dogs, your dog can focus on the stress relief their walk can provide - sniffing, wandering freely, and just being a dog. With more space and no nearby roads to bolt into, or people to disturb, you’ll be able to give them more space by using a fixed length long leash, rather than their normal 6-foot leash. With that little bit of extra freedom, they’ll spend more time sniffing and moving at the pace and route they prefer.

Dog’s experience the world through their nose. It’s how they catch up on current events, if you will. Not only is sniffing one of their most basic needs, it lowers their pulse and in turn can help them to relax.

Picture your normal walk in the neighborhood. Fresh air, hopefully decent weather, maybe some nice gardens, decorated houses, or cute little shops, the odd bird chirping, or squirrel chittering, maybe a neighbor to wave at here and there. If your goal is the action of walking, that might sound perfect!

Now let’s get inside your dog’s head. There might be cars going by, lawnmowers running, other people and dogs passing you, or trying to say hello. All of which are fine for some, stressful for others. The same or similar route each time, the same smells. For them, even the best neighborhood walks probably leave something to be desired. Their goal for walks after all, is sniffing.

While most dogs can benefit from decompression walks, they are absolutely essential for dogs who are working through reactivity. Constantly running into and reacting to triggers is stressful, and leads to further sensitization and reactivity. Giving them the time and space to explore their world without fear of getting highly frustrated, scared, or upset, will let them de-stress and think more clearly when exposed to triggers during training sessions.

Decompression walks are one of, if not the most effective way to provide enrichment, exercise, and stress relief for dogs. Fulfilling your dog’s need for freedom of movement in nature will go a long way in improving their overall behavior, your relationship, and their quality of life. You’ll likely end up enjoying decompression walks just as much as your dog does! 

And good news for those of you with busy schedules - we offer decompression walks. Send us an email to find out if your dog qualifies! (Only available after you’ve had an initial behavior consultation.)