Decompression Walks: The Freedom Your Training is Missing

You may have heard of decompression walks before. These types of walks are sometimes called sniffaries or freedom walks. No matter what they’re called they all have the same goal: giving your dog a walk that’s enriching to them and provides them with a level of freedom.

Decompression walks are an important part of any dog’s life but I think this is especially important for working dogs. It’s extremely important to protect leash manners and heeling with service dogs but it’s equally important for them to have time to relax and use their senses. This is where a decompression walk can be a really useful tool. 

What You’ll Need:

  • A long line
  • A harness (it should be a totally different from the harness/vest you use when they are working)
  • A fanny pack or treat pouch (optional)
  • A carabiner clip (optional)
  • Treats 

How to Have a Successful Walk:

  1. Put the harness on your dog and attach the long line to it. By using a harness and long line you’re giving your dog clear cues that they don’t need to heel like they would on a flat collar and short leash. 
  2. As you are learning to manage the long line it can be helpful to attach it to a fanny pack with a carabiner clip as a backup in case you accidentally drop the line. You could also practice in a fenced area.
  3. You’re going to follow your dog around for the whole walk. If they pull, you stop walking and wait for a loose line. You should intervene if there is a safety concern but other than that just let your dog sniff and explore as much as he wants too. 
  4. To avoid excessive pulling it can be helpful to try and find a field that’s relatively empty while you get your dog used to this concept. Fields where there aren’t lots of squirrels, rabbits, other people or dogs is optimal.
  5. Anytime your dog chooses to check in, offer verbal praise and a treat. If your dog becomes overly focused on you and stops sniffing and wandering you can leave the treats at home or try tossing them on the ground and giving a find it cue.
  6. Try to avoid doing this type of walk in a neighborhood near streets because you’ll have to be much more careful about cars and your dog won’t be able to enjoy as much freedom.

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