Dog Blog: How do you keep walks fun -- for your dogs, and you?

Eddie looks forward to walks because we play nosework games. Hidden toys work just as well for dogs not trained in nosework.
Mike Lewis
Bringing the camera along on walks helps to share the smiles. This is my current Facebook display picture.
Mike Lewis

Do you enjoy taking your dogs for daily walks, or can it feel more of a chore? Do you have any tricks for making them more fun and rewarding?

I have to admit that along about this time of year, I occasionally hit a lull. Maybe it's a particularly cold day, or the trail conditions are not ideal. More often, I've been working a lot of hours or have projects left undone, and it's a time squeeze to put booties and coats on the Yorkies and get them some exercise.

Fortunately for all concerned, I've learned to push through those feelings. I know skipping walks doesn't work. The dogs are thrown off their routine, and they build up excess energy that turns into problems around the house -- a torn up shoe, a waste basket investigated, or just some bored stares and whimpering around the house during "me time."

What helps is to keep the walks fun. Instead of just walking for the sake of a walk, I try to mix it up. If it's too cold, I'll pile them in the car and take them to Petco for an indoor walk. Or I'll get together with friends and their dogs somewhere. More often, I'll just bring a different toy on the walk. Maybe a beach ball instead of a smaller one to see if they can figure out what to do with it. We also play nosework games where the dogs search for a hidden odor and are rewarded for finding it. Hiding familiar toys is an option for dogs not trained in nosework.

When I see my dogs enjoying the walks more, it makes it more rewarding for me. I'll also bring along my camera and take pictures of the fun they're having. I'll share them on Facebook and exchange tales of fun walks with friends.

I have to remind myself sometimes, but walks are often the highlight of my day -- just me and my dogs on the trail with no worries about work, chores left undone. It's all fun, and everybody benefits.

Do you have any tricks for keeping walks fun and keeping your motivation up? I'd love to hear some new ideas.