Getting Out In Nature: Why You Should Leave your Dog Home Every Once in Awhile

Nature... it provides so many benefits, can boost our spirits, calm our nerves, refresh our day and it is easily accessible....

All it takes is getting outdoors and going for a walk!

And many dog owners do EXACTLY that: enjoy a daily walk every day, rain or shine (or sleet!) with their pet.

And you probably also know how much I appreciate these dedicated dog walkers, creating trails for me (especially in winter!) in wilder green spaces and along river corridors.  I've even written a few posts to help them find new spots to get out in nature in their own city or even right here in Ottawa!

I know the bond between dog and dog owner (or dog parent if you like) is strong and you may not have ever considered getting out into nature without your pooch.  Maybe not - perhaps your best canine friend is the only reason you DO get out.  Which really means your dog is that key activity that gets you outside on a regular basis.

Maybe you haven't considered exploring nature on your own because one daily walk with your pooch is enough or perhaps going out on your own doesn't sound like much fun?  But if you are a nature lover, there are some things you may be missing out on if you only enjoy nature outings with your four-legged pal.  Here are a few things to consider:

You will see more wildlife.

Whether you have a quiet, calm dog or not, chances are you are visiting areas that are also frequented by other dog walkers.  The regular (and constant) presence of dogs in a greenspace, does change the movement of wildlife and even the nesting patterns of birds* (see studies at bottom of *this*post).  Which means you'll see more of the backsides of four-legged creatures and alert birds will be high up in trees and may even quiet their mating songs if they feel threatened.  (Yes they may still make calls - but those are more likely warning notes - letting other birds know to stay away also!)

Your speed can be dictated by yourself and not your pooch.

Your dear doggie, even if it is well-trained and not tugging at their lead, still has its own interest in nature and can be strongly urged by scents, other dogs or other excitement that may change the pace of your walk.  By setting aside time to get out on your own at a more relaxed pace you can go slower, notice more things, be with your own thoughts (and not have to focus on your pup) and even stop and study something or pause when hearing a bird song and spend the time to see if you can locate it.  

The nature outing can be about your interests.

If you have certain interests, such as photography or another outdoor passion that requires focus or limited distractions, then it might be hard to really put your full attention and get the most out of it, if you are also sharing your time with your favourite pooch.  It might be hard to check out tiny details off the trail or have time to look for wildlife signs or enjoy a sit spot under a favourite tree.  A nature outing on your own can be your time to be selfish!

You can explore locations you can't bring your dog.

Some protected greenspaces are out of bounds for dogs so unfortunately, if you only get out regularly with your furry friend you will never be able to visit these spots.  They are likely a bit more pristine, quiet and with a bigger focus on wildlife conservation.  They may have some observations stands or other great wildlife blinds, where you can sit and observe without disturbing the action and even possibly see some exciting wildlife.  These locations are great to visit with a (human) friend close to sunrise or sunset when more creatures are active. 

No muddy paws, fur to search for ticks.

Of course you love your dog and it's all part of being an owner, but sometimes it's just nice to get out in an easy, quick and simple way.  And it is also great to return home without a lot of fuss or muss.  With no beautiful, wet, furry pup to contend with afterwards, transitioning back to your house takes no time at all.  And let's not forget - no laborious flea & tick check afterwards either!

(Enough said about that!)

* * *

Yes!  Please get out with your dog!  And yes if it's all you can do, continue your daily walk and let it just be that!

I agree that there are is only a limited amount of time each day and truly, dog walkers are getting our much more than most people.  When I'm out in greenspaces, that's mostly who I see!  (And some stray photographers or if it's early enough a few birders...)  So by no means, do I want to dissuade you from all the benefits from being with your dog.

But if you love nature and are wondering why you don't see more wildlife or perhaps why you may not feel completely ZENNED OUT after a long walk, consider perhaps having a once a week, or once a month nature walk just for you.

You may be surprised with what you are missing!

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