Guest Article: Not Just A Walk Around the Block

If you are looking for places to take your dog for exercise, here are some things to consider.  If you’re interested in writing a guest article about a specific topic, contact us.  Here is the information we’ve posted on our advertising information page about these kinds of articles:

If you have expertise in particular area, we invite you to share your knowledge with readers in a guest post. These articles provide valuable information to readers while providing you with a byline and link back to your business. You write the article, but we reserve the right to edit for length and clarity if needed. Examples of guest posts could be “5 Fashion Trends to Watch for the Summer Season” or “How to Get Your House Prepped for a Quick Sale.” Topics must be approved in advance, and guest contributors are limited to one article per month.

The following guest article is written by Emma Wikstrom.

There is so much more than you can do with your dogs on a daily basis that exercises their body and mind. Many common behavioral issues can be quickly fixed with the addition of more exercise for the mind and the body! Something as simple as feeding your dog with a puzzle toy that makes them work and think for their food could be a positive change. Always remember to think back to what your dog was bred to do, were they bred to be a happy lap dog or were they bred to work? Since many dogs were bred to complete tasks ranging from herding and guarding livestock to hunting we have effectively bred an animal that craves those jobs. Now, you don’t have to go out and buy a pen of sheep to exercise your Aussie, but you do have to put in some real work yourself! Below are some things that you can add to your daily life that will enhance not only your dog’s wellbeing but your own.


There are WAY more fun places to walk your dog than just around the block. An amazing way to help you find dog-friendly hiking trails is by using the phone app All Trails. Around Lowell, some notable trails are of course the amazing North Country National Scenic Trail at Fallasburg Park and Peace Park in Cascade off of Grand River Drive. Both Trails are well marked and maintained. Dogs can be on the trails while on a leash. This allows your dog a chance to sniff around and really fulfill your dog’s need to travel and explore. Branch out and discover new trails while exercising your dog at the same time, just be sure that you bring bags to clean up after your dog and water for them to drink while on the walk!

For many dogs, the dog park can be more stressful than actual fun because there is not a stable “pack dynamic” that can be formed since there are always new dogs coming and going. Unfamiliar dogs in a confined space can be a recipe for disaster. A workaround to this, if a dog park is your only option, is to keep to a schedule and form relationships with those who are on the same dog park schedule as you. You also need to be mindful of your dog’s cues for stress like disengagement, tail tucking underneath them and stressful panting. If you see your dog exhibiting some of these signs take that as your cue to exit the dog park.

Overall if it is at all possible, hiking with your dogs is the favored method of getting your dog the exercise they need. It is not only generally safer but it also gets you and your dog exploring new trails and destinations! If you are an avid or aspiring backpacker they also make hiking packs for dogs so they can carry their own gear, how fun is that!

Hope and ber Border Collie Jagger participating in an international Agility competition. Photo courtesy of Emma Wikstrom.

For the Kids:

If you have a child between the ages of 5-19 as of January 1st who is interested in learning how to train dogs, getting them involved in an area 4-H club is a great place to get started! The Kent County Youth Fair has five 4-H Clubs with dedicated dog project leaders who regularly have spots open for youth members looking to learn something new.

In the clubs you will learn five different dog sports; Rally, Obedience, Agility, and Showmanship all with unique skills associated. The showcase for all that the handlers learned the previous year is the Kent County Youth Fair, where handlers compete in their classes.

There is a lot that goes into learning how to train and care for a dog properly, and it is a great way to build a network of lifelong friends! For more information, you can email the Kent County Youth Fair Dog Project Superintendents at [email protected] and we can get you connected with a club in your area.

For the Adults:

The Grand Rapids Kennel Club hosts many dog shows and exhibitions in the greater Grand Rapids area and is a very welcoming group for those who want to know more about the sport! There is so much more to the sport of dog showing than what you see during the televised dog shows. There is Agility, where dogs and handlers work together to navigate a course of obstacles or Obedience where the dog and handler team are tested on many skills based on precision and accuracy.

More specialized classes like nose work are fun for dogs who love to use their nose! With directions given by an instructor, nose work is something easily practiced in your home with minimal tools! You can visit for more details on opportunities and instructors! Remember that your dog does not need to be purebred in order to participate in what are called “Performance” classes, this includes the examples above but also encompass MANY other classes that can be participated in!


Participating in group classes is also a great way to not only meet people with common interests but also get out with your dog and learn new things! There are many classes ranging from Obedience to even Dock Diving provided in our area. West Michigan has a large and well-established community of those with many years of involvement in dog training, who are happy to guide those who are looking to try something new with their dog!

A great way to start getting connected is by joining the West Michigan Dog Training Community Facebook page. It is almost 700 members strong and is a great place to throw out questions and ask for recommendations.

Emma Wikstrom is owns and operates Riverside Dog Training, which she started in June 2019. She is also the Assistant Superintendent for the Kent County Youth Fair Dog Project. Those interested in signing up for the upcoming six-week session or have questions can contact Wikstrom via email at [email protected].  Visit the Riverside Dog Training website or Facebook page to read more about the business. 

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