We are all pressed for time and we all feel guilty that we don't spend enough of it with our furry companions. Listed below are some ideas of how you can use that valuable walk time for more than just a bathroom break. The urban landscape offers lots of things that you can use to create an obstacle course for your dog. Creating both mental and physical challenges on the walk makes your pup happier and healthier. As an added bonus, the more you teach your dog the more he will be inclined to listen to you indoors and out.
1. Use curbs and low walls (no higher than about 2 feet) as balance beams. Invite your dog onto the wall by using the command "up"and giving a short tug upward onto the leash. Guide them along the wall and then give the command "down" for them to jump down. Reward with lots of love or a treat. If they don't make it all the way to the end, go back to the beginning and start over. If you have a small or miniature pup, please stick to the curb. Little guys are fragile and it can be dangerous if they lose footing.
2. Use trees to train your dog to walk next to you. Find several trees lined up in a row and weave in and out of them at a moderate pace. Go just fast enough to keep Fido from being distracted by scents on the ground. When you get to the last tree, turn quickly and weave back through. Changing directions quickly and often teaches your dog to follow you. As your dog learns, you can challenge him more by picking up the pace.
3. Use a fallen tree branch or very low hanging limb (only about a foot off the ground) to teach your dog to jump. Start about 15 feet away and walk quickly towards the branch. When the limb is directly in front of you say "jump" and tug upwards on the leash. Once on the other side, turn around immediately and do it again. Repeat 5 or 6 times giving lots of affection or a treat after each completion. And I would advise walking around the limb yourself. You'll be concentrating on your dog and therefore not on your own feet. :)
4. Use "sit", "stay", and "come" to increase your dog's focus. Have your dog sit, tell him to stay, give him the full length of the leash, wait a beat and then tell him to come. Reward with treats or affection. I would also recommend investing in a 20ft leash. It's perfect for this exercise. Start by giving your pup four feet of slack and build up to twenty. You can use a sharpie to mark the leash off in 4 foot segments ahead of time if you want. And you can make your dog "stay" for longer and longer lengths of time before you ask him to "come". This exercise is great for teaching your dog to focus on you despite a myriad of distractions such as exciting scents, squirrels, garbage trucks, etc.
5. Train your dog to pee on command. It can be done. When you first exit your home, keep your dog on the sidewalk next to you, then pick a patch of grass, say "go pee", and release the slack in the leash. After your dog pees, give him lots of affection. Walk him next to you on the sidewalk again and then when you get to that tree that he always loves to mark, say "go pee", let him pee, and then immediately reward. Just do this trick a couple of times each walk. You want your pup to be able to do this exercise but still have the freedom to go on his own. And it's best to do this at the beginning of the walk when you know he has to go.
6. Don't stop here. Invent your own tricks! If you can think of it, teach it. Just double-check that it's safe first.