The Benefits of Walking Your Dog
So your dog needs to start getting more exercise because he or she is overweight. Walking is a great place to start, but there are many more benefits to daily walks with your dog than just weight loss. Your dog’s physical wellbeing is most certainly a very important reason to start walking. Daily exercise helps our dogs to maintain healthy lungs, strong muscles, and overall fitness. As your dog continues to get older he or she is likely to develop arthritis in their joints. Walking is a great way to help keep the muscles strong around the joints to help support them. Along with staying physically fit, daily walks can help your dog stay mentally fit also.
Dogs are working animals that were not meant to sit around the house all day. You may be thinking that you have a large backyard and that is enough for your dog, but the truth is dogs do not work themselves, and ultimately the fenced-in yard just becomes a large kennel. By taking your dog out for a walk on a daily basis you are giving them a chance to engage their mind. Teaching your dog to heel and walk calmly next to you is a great mental stimulation. Passing objects like a group of playing kids or dogs barking at you from behind a fence is a great way to test your dog’s obedience, and work them mentally by teaching them not to react negatively and to keep their focus on you. This all leads to better behavior at home.
Fido is barking excessively, chewing on things he shouldn’t, jumping on everyone, or is all around overly excitable, and uncontrollable at home. All of these negative behaviors in the house can be a result of boredom or lack of mental stimulation. Walking your dog will help to drain their energy which in return will make them less likely to seek undesirable behaviors at home. It will also help them become more focused on your training. The first step to fixing any behavior problem is, taking your dog for routine walks. A tired dog is a well behaved dog! Now let’s talk about how walks help with socialization.
Many of us who have gotten our dogs as puppies constantly hear how important it is to socialize them to people, other animals, and strange noises. However, many people do not realize that this needs to continue throughout their lifetime to help maintain a confident dog. By taking them on daily walks you are exposing them to other people and dogs, and teaching them how to greet them politely. They now get to interact with another dog, or have to learn to sit politely while you are talking to another person, or if a small child wants to pet them. This is another way they are getting stimulated mentally on their walk. If you have an aggressive dog you should not force them to interact with people or other dogs, this could be dangerous. That does not mean that they will not be stimulated when walking past them. Teaching your dog to behave calmly on a leash even when passing things that usually make them react negatively is a great way to mentally stimulate them and boost your confidence in how you control your pup. Other things you might pass on your walks are bikes, skateboards, trains, loud cars, horns, and lawn mowers. By constantly experiencing these things they will be less likely to become scared or nervous of new sounds or objects. Several dogs that bark at windows or at the fence are doing so out of fear. Examples of such fears are a new person, a motorcycle, an animal they have not seen before. Showing them that new things are not something to be afraid of, and training them to react in a calm manner can help with this behavior at home.
Another important reason to be walking your dog is that it helps you bond with your pup. Dogs are very social animals that crave our attention. Spending time with your dog by walking, exploring new places, new things, and teaching new behaviors will help strengthen your relationship. Creating a mutual trust between dog and owner is one of the most important steps to creating a strong, life long bond. It is also important to walk your dog correctly. You want your dog to walk calmly beside you. Having a dog in front of you, and pulling you down the road can increase the stress of a handler. This may diminish your bond with your dog and may make you want to walk your dog even less, causing even more behavior problems.
When walking your dog, do not use a harness unless your dog has a medical condition that prevents you from putting a regular collar on. A harness is designed for pulling. (This is why you see sled dogs wearing them.) A harness goes around the strongest points of the dog’s body, giving them the strength to control where you go. You also have no control over their head if you were to get in a difficult situation. If you are having a hard time keeping your dog from pulling try using a “Halti” or “Gentle Leader.” These head pieces are designed to go around the dog’s nose and neck so if they start to pull it turns their head to the side. They make a great training tool that does not put pressure around the neck, and can be paired with a collar or harness if you must use one. Retractable leashes also are not recommended because they give you less control over your dog. You should never walk a dog at the end of a retractable leash. The concerns of this are that dogs are more able to approach people and other dogs without you in proper control. You never know if the dog you are approaching is friendly with other dogs, or if the person you are approaching is afraid of dogs.
Now that you know all of the benefits of walking with your dog, create a plan to walk your dog for at least 30 minutes every day. You can do this in the mornings, before work, or after work. You can break your walk up into 2 or 3 small walks a day or one long one. It does not matter what breed of dog you have, every breed should be walked. A Chihuahua however may need a little bit shorter walk, especially if you are just starting out, and a sporting breed such as an Australian Shepherd, or Labrador may need longer walks during the day. No matter the breed, dog walking fulfills so many of our canine friend’s needs, there is no reason not to walk them daily.