Steve Mann from the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers wanted to know what dogs did when left to their own devices, without the influence of their owners. So he went to Peru and watched them! He found that dogs love to use their senses so he came up with The Rucksack Walk.
The Rucksack Walk is a way of spending time together in a pressure-free, performance – free and safe way. It allows our dogs to explore and use all of their senses.
This is not a training exercise, it is a bonding and enrichment opportunity. There’s no right or wrong way of doing it so don’t put any pressure on yourself, and just enjoy it!
How long can you make it last? While the contents of the rucksack are important, the true magic is in the delivery. Treat everything that comes out of the rucksack as if it were a baby bird! Cupped hands, build the excitement. It’s all very precious so open the bag slowly.
Open the boxes in this order:
- Novel scent – let them smell it! Try a teabag, a used sock, a handful of grass from a field of sheep, animal bedding, leaves, catnip, etc.
- The Thing – allow investigation! See what noises it can make if you rub it, blow it, tap it with your finger, scratch it with your nail. Try a hairbrush, a book from a charity shop, a shoe, a roll of hose from the shed, a ball of string, rope etc.
- Novel food – let them eat it! Grab anything safe from the fridge or supermarket, something they’ve never had before. I like to choose something spreadable for this because licking is so beneficial for our dogs’ mental health
- The chew – just ‘be’ together without any goals.
Slowly close the boxes again and put them back into the rucksack before bringing out the next one.
Where to Rucksack walk?
- Anywhere – you don’t need much space!
- At home, in your garden, in the car, on a walk.
- If doing the Rucksack Walk outdoors and your dog lacks confidence, start in a safe, familiar place and slowly build up to other areas when they feel more confident.
- In time, you can use it in the presence of other dogs (or whatever your dog’s triggers are). It creates confidence in usually-worring situations because it becomes a familiar activity and they already know what to do.
- Dogs that are easily distracted by the environment will also need to start somewhere quiet.
When to Rucksack Walk?
- You can do this every week! Just be sure to keep the contents of the boxes varied.
- Great for stormy, snowy, horrible weather or too-hot- to-leave-the-house weather
- After a stressful walk. A great way for you to decompress too!
Which box do they like best? Does that change depending on the contents e.g. do they find sheep wool in the Novel Scent box more interesting than when you put grass in?
Did they ignore anything, were they worried about anything? Was their approach fast, slow, average?
Did they take the chew away or eat it next to you?
Were they less interested in The Thing before you started scratching/opening/interacting with it in some way?
We hope the ideas above give you some exciting ways to keep your pets, happy, fulfilled and content!
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