Alternatives To Dog Walks: Part 1 ACE Freework

The number of dogs who struggle when out in public seems to be on the rise. Our dogs can be struggling and show this with reactive or nervous behaviour (barking, lunging, reluctant to walk). This in turn makes the dog's owner dread the walk, creating a really stressful situation. 

Reactive dog german shepherd barking on walk

For many dogs experiencing this, the best starting point is to stop all walks. This can be difficult for people to wrap their heads around. Dogs need exercise don't they?

Dog walk lead oday vets

Well yes, dogs need physical exercise, but mental stimulation is equally important and should also be an aim on a dog walk. We shouldn't be focused on how far we can walk them in the time we have available, rather how to fulfill their needs and make them happy with the time we have.

If our dogs are reactive, they are stressed not happy. Walking them around the block may enable us to tick the exercise box for the day, but we have increased their stress levels and allowed them to practice the reactive behaviour, making it more likely they will repeat it on the next walk.

Walks can be ceased whilst you identify your dogs triggers, work with a behaviourist to find the underlying emotions involved and formulate a plan for working on changing the reactive behaviour. 

ACE freework dog

During this time our dogs can still be fulfilled and ACE freework is a fantastic activity for all dogs, young, old, big or small to enjoy. 

ACE stands for Animal Centred Education. It is a company founded by Sarah Fisher who looks at a more holistic approach to solving behaviour issues. 

ACE freework what you need

Freework only needs a small space. A variety of novel items are set up close to each other and treats, food or scents are scatter around. The owner sits with the dog and allows them to interact with the objects in their own time. 

ACE freework instructions

A session usually lasts 10-20 mins. The dogs use their nose to navigate and every dog I've done this with has had a good sleep afterwards. Dog's naturally enjoy exploring and investigating using their sense of smell and this activity allows them to do this. 

This activity can also be taken to an outdoor space. Drive to a quiet spot with no other people or dogs and set up your freework items there. Then have your dog explore. The novel scents from the new area will add to their enrichment. Also having a familiar activity in a strange area can help them settle. 

If you would like to know more or book an online freework session, email


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published