If you’re a dog owner, then you know most dogs need to be walked at least once each day, although very active breeds and more hyper dogs (cough, cough - Huskies) benefit from more frequent walks. While a dog walker may be as close as an app click away, you'll be missing out on the many benefits of enjoying this activity yourself. If you are one of the millions having trouble sticking to an exercise program, help could be as close as your best buddy at the end of the leash. Not only that but, with the current calls for social distancing, a walk with your dog may very well be your only jaunt to the outdoors.
Studies also show that dogs are actually your best workout partner. There's no motivation like a fitness friend who's waiting by the door with a wagging tail and puppy dog eyes. Talk about accountability!
Walking Your Dog is Good For YOU
A University of Western Australia survey of dog owners revealed that dogs are great motivators for walking because:
- Dogs provide a strong motivation to maintain a program
- (Most!) dogs are good walking companions
- Dogs provide good social support when exercising
You may wonder, though - is dog-walking really an effective form of exercise? Dog owners who reported walking their dogs were almost 25 percent less likely to be obese than people without dogs. In fact, according to one study, dog owners end up walking more than 23,000 miles with their pet during his or her lifetime—that’s almost as far as walking around the world!
Besides being good for the waistline, the benefits of walking also include improved cardiovascular fitness, lower blood pressure, stronger skeletal and muscular systems, and decreased stress levels. Simply being around a dog can lower levels of the human stress hormone, cortisol, which has also been linked to the accumulation of abdominal fat.
But that’s not all! The benefits go beyond the physical. People who walk their dogs are seen by others as more friendly and approachable, may find it easier to make friends, and have been found to have greater self-esteem. Dog walking can also connect us with nature, which can help increase focus and a sense of well-being.
And, again, anything we can do right now to feel less isolated is a good thing.
Walking Your Dog is Good for THEM
Even though your dog may not forget your daily walk, you may be tempted to skip the walk and simply let your dog out for a solo romp in the backyard instead. It can be especially hard to motivate on bad weather days. Remember, though, that regular walks and other forms of dog exercise are important for your pet's health, too. Obesity in pets is associated with a number of medical complaints, including osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, and insulin resistance, so going for walks is a key component in dog preventive care.
Not to mention walks make dogs happy! A dog that doesn't receive sufficient exercise can easily become bored or destructive. Sitting in a backyard is a recipe for boredom, and a "been there, sniffed that" attitude can develop. They love checking out new sights and smells and catching up on the latest “pee-mail” from other dogs. And they really look forward to spending time with you.
Planning Leads to More Walking, Less Balking
Just like when you meet a workout partner at the gym, holding yourself accountable is the key to dog walking success.
A good plan can set you up for success
First, establish a walking schedule; plan to walk 30 minutes total each day, at least 5 days a week. You can break this up if you need to, choosing a 10-minute walk in the morning and a 20-minute walk in the evening. Or maybe three 10-minute walks throughout the day—whatever works best for your lifestyle.
Second, remember to write it down. When you "schedule" your walks into each day, you’ll feel more inclined to keep your appointments. Best of all, your dog will also get used to the routine and remind you when "it’s time!"
Other Dog Walking Tips
Protect yourself and your dog from heat exhaustion and sunburn—make sure you both drink plenty of water before, during, and after your walk. If possible, walk during the cooler parts of the day. And when walking on pavement, remember the 7-second rule: if you can’t hold the back of your hand to the hot pavement for 7 seconds, then it’s too hot for your dog’s paw pads. Keep your dog on-leash in public areas. Take poo bags along with you to clean up after your dog.
So grab a leash, call the pooch, and go for a walk to enjoy all the great physical and mental health benefits for both you and your dog—today and every day! Jumpstarting a healthy lifestyle program is as easy as taking the dog for a walk. Contact us for plenty of other dog health and wellness tips for your faithful, furry friend or schedule their next appointment here.
The Drake Center for Veterinary Care is an AAHA-accredited animal hospital located in Encinitas, CA. The Drake Center loves being a source of information for all pet owners across the country however if you have any questions regarding pet care and do not live in Encinitas, CA or surrounding cities, we encourage you to contact your local veterinarian.