A pleasure, a responsibility, quality time, good exercise, or W-A-L-K, a walk with your dog means many things to different people. Regardless of what you think about a stroll with your pooch, there are many benefits to walking your dog
The most obvious benefit of walks with your dog is exercising them! Most breeds of dogs are energetic animals that were originally bred for intense activities such as hunting, herding, or pulling weight. Unfortunately, like their human counterparts, many dogs now live more sedentary lives—trading in their intended "jobs" for lounging on a couch. Along with this change, many dog owners with a fenced-in yard may believe that their dogs don't "need" walks, as they can hang out and do their business in the backyard. Allowing a dog off-leash in a yard is more convenient for the people, but unless a lively game of fetch is being played, most dogs will spend a few minutes sniffing around and then plop down in their favorite spot.
Health Benefits of Walks with your Dog
Along with a fun, shared experience, walks with your dog can also improve your health! On average, dog owners who walk their dogs get significantly more exercise than people who don't. Regular exercise can help prevent obesity and improve heart rate and joint health. If a new dog owner is starting out walking their dog, continued walks can help improve their stamina as well, and they may be able to engage in longer or more strenuous hikes than they'd been able to do previously. Walking a dog can be especially helpful to senior citizens who may have less to do with their time and spend too much time indoors.
Benefits to Human Mental Health
Walking dogs brings benefits to the mental health of humans as well. Feeling needed by their dog can give many people the motivation they require to perform daily tasks they otherwise find challenging. Many individuals may not even want to get out of their beds in the morning, especially in the winter. However, seeing eager puppy eyes and a wagging tail can give them the strength to throw off the covers, get dressed, and get out of the house. Being outdoors in the sunshine and getting exercise will release endorphins that can help improve depression. For people who may not have much family, be retired, or are unable to work, a dog can give them a sense of purpose. Walks in the neighborhood and park enable that person to engage with new people and their dogs, helping them make friends and feel less isolated. After all, people are more comfortable talking to a stranger when they have a cute dog!
You and Your Dog Share Health Benefits
Canine obesity has been rising for decades, alongside human obesity. Obesity can shorten a dog's lifespan and decrease its quality. In addition, extra pounds can cause many other health issues, such as diabetes and damage to the joints and back. Overfeeding and lack of exercise may create a catch-22 of the dog finding physical activity challenges, thus getting less exercise and gaining more weight. Regular exercise can keep your dog fit and fight the extra pounds that may pack on as they age. Keeping up their stamina and walking will keep your dog healthy and happy for many years.
Psychological Needs of the Dog
Along with exercise, walks fulfill a psychological need for your furry friend. Dogs are a species that enjoy roaming and exploring. They learn about the world with their noses and enjoy discoveries. So taking your dog on their daily walk—or better, an excursion to a wooded area, beach, or mountains can give them a wonderfully satisfying experience. Walks (especially walks in new places) allow the dog to satisfy their need for exercise and use their brains to decode and enjoy the world through their senses. Plus, did you know expending mental energy can be just as tiring to a dog as physical exercise? This means that if you take your dog walking in places that can exercise their brain and body, they'll be happier and more willing to take a good snooze when you get home.
High Energy Dogs
Many high-energy and intelligent breeds—Border Collies, Vizslas, Huskies, etc.- need vigorous daily exercise to stay physically and mentally satisfied. If left bored and under-exercised, they will create fun. Typically, their choice activities aren't so fun for their humans—such as nuisance barking, digging holes, and chewing furniture. Some dogs (especially those Huskies!) may take their lack of activity into their paws and go on adventures by escaping the home or yard. This could result in long-term loss of the animal, injury, or even death. Lack of physical activity and mental stimulation for high-energy breeds is why many are rehomed or surrendered to shelters. Anyone who owns or would like to own active breeds like those listed above must know that daily walks or jogs are vital in keeping their dog (and everyone in their household!) happy and satisfied.
Lower Energy Dogs
Don't fret if you feel uncomfortable in the fast lane with a working or sporting breed. There are lower-energy dogs in the toy, hound, and non-sporting groups. Dogs such as Bulldogs, Maltese, and Greyhounds are lower-energy and are satisfied with shorter and less frequent walks. However, some other precautions must sometimes be taken with these dogs, such as being mindful of the weather. Brachycephalic (flat-nosed) breeds are susceptible to heat and can become overwhelmed on summer days. Sighthounds, such as Greyhounds and miniature breeds, are more sensitive to the cold and may need sweaters and shorter walks in the winter.
Become your Dog’s Favorite Person
Going on one or more daily walks or occasional outdoor adventures should be something you and your dog look forward to. Dogs are always excited to go somewhere, and when they recognize who takes them for walks, they positively associate with that person. When you are your dog's primary walker, this means they'll be even more excited to see you! These experiences will help your dog know they can depend on you to take them out when they need to relieve themselves (and you'll take comfort in a house-trained dog!), as well as share time together.
Bonding with your Dog
Shared experiences help form bonds in relationships between people and dogs, just as it does between people. Dogs thrive on being close to their humans, and the more time you spend with your dog, the better your relationship will be. The human-dog relationship has been based on shared goals for thousands of years. While we may not have the same goals as our ancestors, such as hunting or pulling a sled, dogs still have that "drive" to go into the world and do something with their favorite people. The easiest way to satisfy that innate drive in your dog is to take them on regular walks.
Benefits of Canine Socialization
"Socialization" for young puppies is an important concept for people who want a well-adjusted dog. However, most people misunderstand what this truly means. While many assume socializing a dog means introducing your puppy to many people and other dogs, that's just a tiny part. Socializing your dog also involves exposing your dog to different places, surfaces, noises, scents, and other novel stimuli they may encounter. When your dog is young, take the opportunity to walk them in as many places as possible—city streets, parks, parades, hiking trails, pet stores, and anywhere else dogs are permitted. Dogs who are well-socialized as young puppies are less fearful or reactive when they mature.
When people envision themselves with a dog, they typically do so with a well-trained dog in mind. After all, no one wants to be the person dragged down the street! As soon as you take your dog home, it's important to take them on walks, teach them how to walk nicely, and follow your lead with leash pressure and verbal commands. Taking your dog on walks is a chance to socialize them with the world and train proper leash manners, street manners, and appropriate behavior with people and other dogs. These lessons are vital to having a well-rounded and stable pup. Not only that, but a well-mannered dog is a pleasure to walk and will enable you to spend more time together out in the world.
Strengthening Your Dog’s Training
For people who want their dog to be an obedience star—or at least listen to commands somewhere other than home, walking can be a great tool! Being out on walks and in public can give you chances to practice different commands you've taught your dog with more distractions. In addition, locations such as public parks enable you to teach your dog to keep their attention on you, even when exciting things like squirrels, children, other dogs, and ice cream trucks are present. Training your dog among various distractions will create a better-trained dog who will listen to you more efficiently, no matter the setting.
Walking your dog has excellent benefits, whether it's to enjoy exercise to help stay healthy, improve training, or enjoy each other's company. Quiet moments shared on opposite ends of the leash often become the most cherished moments between human and dog that will live in the both of you for years to come.
– by Tracie Koehnlein