Battersea Q&A: Dog walking in the darker months
(Q) I know I should still be providing my dog with plenty of walks during autumn and winter, but it's dark before I leave to go to work and dark by the time I come home. I take my dog for a road walk but it just isn't the same as him running free and off lead in the fields. Any tips on what I could do to keep him happy?
(A) Battersea canine welfare trainer Nathalie Ingham says: With the shorter days and longer nights it can be difficult to find the time to take dogs for their normal play off lead.
It's worth making the most of autumnal days at the weekends. Go somewhere different and have a long walk in the countryside, winding up in a dog-friendly pub or café for a warming hot chocolate to end the day. There's nothing more satisfying than kicking those leaves around and most dogs can't resist diving into the piles of fallen leaves for a good play.
During the week, vary your road walks so that your dog has different things to smell and investigate. Use the road walk as an opportunity to brush up on training and set yourself little goals along your walk. Why not ask your dog for a different behaviour every third lamppost or tree you get to? Don't just practise the normal sits and downs, but teach your dog something new, such as getting him to touch your hands, your feet, and weave in between your legs, or even a spin.
At home, make up for the shorter walks by giving your dog his dinner in food toys to give him something to think about, or teach him to find his toys and play search games in your living room.
You could also take the time to teach your dog to wipe his feet on the doormat (to save you vacuuming up all the mud after each walk), or offer you both front and back paws for easy drying and cleaning after walks.