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  • Writer's picturePet Waggin' Pet Care Team

What Are Decompression Walks? (& Why You Want To Do ‘Em)

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

Have you ever felt so much pressure from work, family, and just… everything that you wanted to run and hide? Of course, we can’t just run away from it all, but sometimes separating from our phones and computers is all we need. A jog, a bike ride, or a long walk helps us recenter and get back to feeling like ourselves.

decompression walk dog on long leash in long beach, ca

Imagine how it feels for your dog! They have to live up to human expectations each and every day. They can’t sniff and linger on walks, they have to stay on a short leash and walk right next to us. They’re trapped in a world that is removed from nature, and they don’t always get to engage their instincts and drives. That’s where the decompression walk comes in. Want to know more about how you can help your dog rediscover his inner canine? Keep reading to learn more about decompression walks.

What Is A Decompression Walk?

A decompression walk is just what it sounds like. It’s an opportunity for your dog to relax and have a chance to walk around without the pressure of being on a short leash or having to hurry along. Sarah Stremming, the canine behaviorist who came up with the term Decompression Walk, describes it as “a walk where your dog is allowed freedom of movement in nature.”

While it sounds like these walks are just leisurely strolls out in nature without any structure, safety should always, always come first. Although some people may advocate for it, don’t make your decompression walks an off leash experience. Since a decompression walk is ideally done out in nature, your dog could become lost or injured. Instead, walk your dog on a long lead. This gives them the freedom to roam while preventing them from getting into dangerous shenanigans. As always, we strongly advise against using a retractable leash as they can be dangerous for both your dog and yourself.

How To Take A Decompression Walk

You might be a little confused about how a decompression walk should work. It sounds like a sniff walk, but even a sniff walk is more structured than a decompression walk. The point of the decompression walk is to let your dog have the freedom to behave in a natural way.

dog decompression walk with pet waggin

A decompression walk should be done in a natural setting or as close as you can get to one. If you don't have a nature trail, hiking paths, a quiet beach, or a stretch of open field nearby, you can find a quiet park, an empty sports field, or any other low-traffic area.

While on your decompression walk, follow your dog’s lead. Let him sniff, roll, and wander. Your dog might dash from place to place, or want to sniff in one area for several minutes. As long as your dog is safe, let him wander and engage with the world in a way that is natural for him.

Before you leave on your decompression walk or any walk, make sure you alert someone to where you are going - especially if you are headed into a wooded area. This is just a simple safety precaution you should take no matter what kind of walk you’re taking.

What Are The Benefits Of Decompression Walks?

Decompression walks are excellent tools for maintaining your dog’s mental health. Having the chance to sniff and engage their noses has a calming effect. Since dogs experience so much of the world through sniffing, decompression walks give them the chance to engage parts of their brain that they don’t get to use as much as they would in their day-to-day.

For anxious and reactive dogs, decompression walks are an excellent tool for managing their stress levels. Since they are not on alert and can move and sniff as they please, their anxiety levels will be lower. This isn't just beneficial in the moment, decompression walks can even help manage your dog’s anxiety long-term.

dog sniffing on decompression walk in long beach, ca

Having a chance to just be a dog and have some ” downtime” helps take pressure off your dog. Having a chance to dig, roll in smelly things, and sniff a tree to find out what’s new in the woods gives your dog a much-needed break from human expectations. Regular decompression walks can have a major positive effect on your dog’s behavior.

Decompression walks benefit you too! You will be getting more movement in your day. Exercise is an excellent stress reliever for humans as well as dogs. You will also be building your bond with your dog, by meeting his needs and participating in this time with him, you are cementing your place in your dog’s world.

What To Take On a Decompression Walk

Don’t just take off on a decompression walk empty-handed. There are a few things you should keep on you to make sure your walk goes safely and smoothly. Start by making sure you have the right long lead. We like the 20ft clip training leashes from Mountain Dog Products.

Bring a treat bag filled with high-value treats. This walk isn’t a training opportunity, but to help ignite your dog’s sniffing instinct, it can be great to scatter the treats and let your dog sniff them out. If you don’t have one already, a pouch like the Tuff Mutt Treat Bag is perfect. Single-ingredient, natural treats like jerky are perfect for cutting up and bringing either for your dog to sniff out or just as a quick energy booster.

dog treats for decompression walk with pet waggin

The Tuff Mutt Treat Bag will also carry the next item on our list: poop bags. Returning to nature doesn’t mean leaving your dog’s poop to return to the earth. Respect the places you are visiting and take all waste back out with you. Remember, the point is to leave only footprints!

Hydration is important, so make sure you bring plenty of water. The Tiovery gravity-fed water bottle on Amazon is a good option. Don’t forget to bring your own water bottle so you and your dog don’t have to share.

Have you had a positive experience with decompression walks? Share your story with us in the comments!


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