A dog walk turn into a family walk

It is back to school time! Which usually goes hand in hand with going back to a daily routine. This routine is sometimes hectic, and finding a quiet time for everybody in the family to relax together and interact can be a challenge.

Dinner time is known to be an important daily rendez-vous that has multiple benefits: Children of families who dine together not only usually eat a more balanced meal while learning about nutrition, they also learn how to exchange and challenge ideas, they enjoy closer family ties and they feel more support in their lives.

Dinnertime is one of these rare moments when the whole family is together and can interact, without the distraction of a TV or computer screen (usually!). A daily family reunion.

The dog walk can also turn into a fun daily family reunion.

After all, most dogs need that walk as much as they need to eat. Taking a family walk has numerous benefits: The same benefits of spending time together as a family around a good meal, in addition to the health benefits related to being active and spending time outside. Plus,  a 30-minute daily walk is the minimum required daily activity for adults, kids…and dogs.

Between our kids’ piano lessons and hockey practices, finding time for a daily family walk can be tricky. Here are some advices:

1)   A 30-minute walk is better than a 15-minute walk (and a 45-minute walk, better than a 30-minute walk), but a 15-minute family walk is better than no walk at all. Make the most of the time you have. The idea is to find a little bit of time every single day. You might have to walk the dog again when the kids are asleep, but that time you spent together as a family was still worthwhile.

2)   Time is usually not as short on weekends, so turn the daily walk into a longer walk that might be combined with a visit to a playground where the kids can run around while the dog can learn to relax in a busy environment. The walk gets to be that quiet time where everybody can just be together and discuss whatever is on their mind.

3)   On some evenings, reuniting everybody can simply be impossible. Turn this unfortunate situation into a fun one-on-one occasion with one of your kids. While your partner prepares dinner in a rush before leaving on a dentist appointment, take a walk with your daughter and the dog. You might learn more about her day at school, and those private interactions can be rare in a hectic schedule.

4)   Transform the family walk into family active fun once in a while: Have the kids ride their bikes while you jog with the dog; Go on a hike, and enjoy that time spent in nature with your family; Turn your normal family walk into a fun adventure by adding random sprints or chasing games, etc. A daily routine does not have to be boring and predictable.

5)   Turn these walks into great occasions to help your kids grow their confidence. Shy children may find it easier to interact with someone by introducing their dog first, for instance. Some kids may get a confidence boost by walking their dogs “by themselves” (while being supervised). These experiences open up a lot of opportunities for rich discussions among the family.

6)   The family walk can be a great occasion to practice your dog’s training skills. You can change the pace from walking very slowly to running, and having your dog follow the difference paces, you can ask him to sit in certain situations or to lay and relax in others, etc. While dogs need structured one-on-one training session first, they will benefits from rehearsing learned behaviors in different contexts, and from practicing them with all family members. This not only help the dog to better interact with the kids, but it also offer the opportunity to the kids to learn how to interact with their dogs and to understand how teaching works.

Family walk that includes every family members are beneficial to everyone, dogs included. Dogs do not only enjoy the exercise they get from these walks, but also the time they spend with their “pack”. Most behavioural problem comes from lack of exercise and too much time spent alone. Family dogs simply want to be part of their family’s activities!