Tess Eagle Swan an Autistic charity Ambassador for Anna Kennedy online shares tips during ‘National Dog Walking Month’.
All of us with dogs do it. How we do it and why can make significant changes to you and your dog’s mental health… In today’s busy world we are losing opportunities to slow our pace, take a moment, be in the moment and deepen your bond with your dog. Dog walks can be a powerful tool to relax, destress and restore harmony.
Mental health matters not just to humans to dogs too. And I would like to point out assistance/service dogs need time out to let go after working. In fact, it is essential for them to have time out. Take off the harnesses, the work gear. I see many wearing a lot of paraphernalia. Go outdoors together for some freedom time.
Rescue dogs too can find new homes, new families/lives stressful. They need time to be themselves. There is so much pressure on dogs and people.
Switching that pressure off and a reconnection with nature is free, available at any time and just waiting for you to open the door to a new way of walking. All dogs deserve time to be just dogs.
This way of walking allows just this.
Dog walking, we can take this to a whole new level of understanding and learning together. Observation is important. Start there, with where you go.
Where is your favourite walk? where is the dogs? Is it the same or different?
Do you try new places? Do you notice what happens if you change where you go? My dogs love new places! They cannot wait to bury their noses deep into the new information smells.
How much do you notice on a walk? Or are you on the phone? Always in a hurry to get the walk finished because you have other things to do. We can miss out on such magical moments and also what is necessary, needed by dogs.
Enrichment for dogs on walks. What is this? and how do you do this?
Letting your dog do what dogs should be doing for a start. They need to relax, destress, and breathe deeply, it is so important for their mental health. What we want and expect for our dogs is often not what they need.
They need to have the freedom, and the loose lead (or off lead, you should know if you can let them off) to sniff, explore and investigate their environment.
They want to be able to explore the multitude and multiple scents, stick their noses right in, inhaling these rich sources of information! a variety of surfaces, walk on soft grass, crisp crunchy leaves, velvet soft moss, get wet in puddles, rivers, streams, mooch around in mud.
They hear sounds, animals, birds, everyday sounds and far more than we are aware of, have a relaxing roll-on leaves or grass, sit, stand, stare… all senses activated. Senses in use! smelling, hearing, touching, feeling and being dogs.
All senses being in use is the ultimate grounding, mindfulness exercise. Join in! start listening, touch a leaf, or some grass, a stone. Listen to the birds, sounds around you, breathe in fresh air. It is amazing to see them, how they are naturally and to share this time together. Silence from a busy world and embracing stillness unites us.
You can learn a lot and deepen your bond. It is enriching, relaxing for you too. A wonderful deep meditation and release of stress. Issues, problems forgotten, released, our mental well-being will be restored to rejuvenated and anxieties calmed. The ability to cope with life strengthened for both of you in these moments. Remember as people suffer with anxiety, dogs suffer too. We both need time to relax and reset ourselves. Or we stay overloaded and less able to cope with our daily lives because it is simply too full of what does not serve us well, or stress and heavy energy. Let go. Learn to enjoy a walk together. Feel lighter and happier. Emptying/releasing the heavy energy means new lighter ways can enter. Happiness, joy, and inner peace are three of my favourites.
Listen to your dog more, listen to nature. When we are open to listening, being in the moment, it creates a sense of well-being. You and your dog will benefit hugely from walking with no purpose and just being at one with nature and each other.