Having furry friends is a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of responsibility. If you’re a dog owner and you’re looking for ways to improve your fur-baby’s health (both mental and physical), taking daily walks is a great way to tune up your relationship, learn new things, and bond with that special canine in your life. Plus, it’s good for both of you and is an opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors!
Of course, you probably know taking a walk with your dog is a chance for your furry friend to have some fun, but there are loads of other benefits as well. Read on for a snapshot of some reasons you should add a walk to your daily doggie calendar!
Why You Should Walk Your Dog
First things first: walking your dog is an opportunity for both of you to work as a team and explore the world together. The more your dog is exposed to new situations, the more adaptable she’ll be, and the more she will understand that you’re there to teach and protect her. Walking is a great way to reinforce the fact that you’re there for your dog, that you want her to be happy, and that you can keep her safe.
Here are some of the additional benefits of dog-walking:
It’s a training opportunity.
It’s all well and good to get Rover to sit and lie down when you’re at home and there aren’t any distractions, but walking is a chance to try those basic commands in a setting where it’s a little trickier for your dog to focus. Also, leash training is a great way to prepare your pooch for new situations and teach him not to pull you along like a sled dog. Walks are an opportunity to try teaching your dog to heel as well, which can be very beneficial if you need to travel together and you want to keep your pup close and safe. For best results, bring a few training treats with you when you go for a walk, and reward your fur-baby with lots of praise and a treat when he follows your instructions!
It’s a chance to burn some energy.
Even dogs who are active in the home need opportunities to get some exercise outdoors. If you have a nice fenced yard, just putting your dog outside does not mean she will take advantage of the opportunity to play and exercise! If you walk your dog, you’re giving her a chance to get some of the wiggles out so she will behave better at home and chill out when it’s time to relax and enjoy quiet time. Dogs who have excess energy are harder to train and keep under control in the home, and walking is a more reliable way for your pup to expend that excess energy than just going out in the backyard.
It’s healthy (for both of you).
Research shows walking at least a half hour every day can reduce a person’s risk for heart disease and other serious illnesses, so regular walking is a great way to live a long and happy life. For most dogs, an hour of physical activity each day is necessary and will help them lead healthy lives free of disease. Some dogs, such as working or herding breeds, need even more than an hour every day, so talk with your veterinarian about the best walking schedule for you and your furry buddy. One thing is clear: sedentary dogs are more likely to become overweight dogs, which can cause a host of health problems, from hip and joint issues to heart disease, and a daily walk is a great way to keep those paws moving and help your doggie friend stay healthy!
It’s a chance to explore.
Dogs love exploring the world, and new experiences keep their bodies and minds active. When you walk your dog, you are right there to support him if you come across something that’s a little scary, and your dog can learn to adapt to new things that might be a little frightening to begin with. Walking in different locations is a great way to keep the adventure alive for your dog, because all the new sights, sounds, and (especially!) smells are interesting and improve your dog’s quality of life.
It’s a chance to learn social skills.
If you walk your dog, chances are you’re going to run into other canines from time to time. Introducing your dog to other pets while on-leash is a great way to help your dog learn how to introduce himself to strangers, all while being safe because you can control and protect him if things get a little…heated. Leash and verbal corrections are helpful when you’re teaching your dog proper social skills, so walks are a chance to get a handle on meeting new dogs!
It builds confidence and trust.
If your dog is often fearful or timid, walking every day can help her get a handle on her worries. Also, if your dog is able to explore new (and potentially scary) situations with you supporting and protecting her, she will be more likely to experience a confidence boost and trust you more. Being a leader and protector is critical to having a healthy bond with your dog, and walks are a chance to grow together. All in all, walks help boost your dog’s self-confidence and strengthens your bond as a human-canine team!
It helps with digestive health and proper pooping.
If your dog is inactive, he might experience constipation and inappropriate elimination. Walking is a good way to get the gears moving, so to speak. Also, exercise burns calories and may improve your dog’s digestive health as he trots his way to optimum health.
It reduces destructive behavior.
If your dog has excess energy or gets bored in the home, certain problems often arise. Incessant barking, chewing on things that aren’t toys, and destructive behavior are all possible warning signs that your dog is bored and has too much pent-up energy. Walking is a chance to wear out your pooch and give her a bit of brain exercise (after all, exploring is good for your dog’s mind and can reduce boredom and anxiety) so that when you return home, she’ll be less likely to tear up the couch pillows, chew on your armchair or shred your newspaper.
Tips for Setting Up Your Dog-Walking Schedule
Life gets busy and sometimes it’s hard to work in an extra five minutes to flop on the couch and relax, so scheduling a walk for the dog isn’t always easy. Here are a few tricks for getting Fido out for a daily walk!
Set a schedule (and, if necessary, an alarm).
The best way to ensure you and your furry friend get your dose of daily exercise is to make it a part of your routine. Once you’re committed to walking the dog, it’ll become a seamless part of your day. If you plan to walk your dog in the morning, consider setting your alarm a half-hour early so you’ll get used to waking up a little sooner to get out for a walk! If you have a hard time remembering to walk your pooch, setting a reminder alarm on your phone is a good way to train your brain and get out for your stroll.
Pick a loop in your neighborhood.
Although it’s great to vary your walking locations, sometimes that’s tricky. If you want to be sure you walk for a full half hour (or 15 minutes, or however long you choose), pick a loop in your neighborhood that takes a specific amount of time instead of simply walking out and back again. A loop ensures that you cover the distance you want to cover and keeps boredom at bay because you never have to hit the same block twice!
If you have children, bring them along.
When you have kids, walking the dog can seem like a headache, but you can get around this by bringing the children with you! This will give them a chance to stretch their legs, bond with your furry family member, and enjoy some quality time together. If you have a baby, bring the stroller along so you all get a chance for some fresh air and sunshine.
Allow yourself to be flexible.
Although a set schedule is best, life sometimes gets in the way of our routines. If you miss your designated time to walk the dog, don’t sweat it and take a stroll when you’re able to. If you miss a day, recommit yourself to getting back on track tomorrow! Just because you have a few hectic days doesn’t mean making dog-walking a part of your day is impossible.
Why Walking Is the Best
Of course, there are lots of different games and exercises you can do with your pup, but walking is one of the absolute best because it’s easy to stay consistent and it’s ideally suited to both a human and a dog’s health needs. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play fetch with your dog or do agility training (if that’s what you want to do), but setting a consistent walking schedule is a great first step in establishing an active and healthy lifestyle for your pet.
So, why are we such fans of walks? First of all, it’s easy to maintain a schedule with walking. Once you make it a part of your morning or evening routine, your dog will become accustomed to and look forward to your special time together each day.
Also, walking is easy and safe for puppies and older dogs of all breeds, so it’s something you can do throughout your dog’s life without worrying about causing injuries. Jogging, for instance, is not recommended for dogs who are younger than 18 months because it can strain your dog’s joints. Dogs with flat noses may have a hard time breathing during aerobic exercise, especially when it’s hot outside. We think walking is awesome because it works for everyone!
Finally, it’s darn good fun! Although some working breeds (like border collies) are super-focused and need a “job” to be happy, most dogs just want to cut loose and spend some quality time with you, and walks are a good way to make that happen while you hone your dog’s social skills, behavioral training and overall health!