One of my pet-related new year's resolutions was to make more time for my dog with a walk or play stession for at least 10-15 minutes a day. The benefits of exercising my dog are great, for my pooch and for me. Let’s check out the reasons walking is so important for our pets' bodies and minds.
Walking provides an outlet for energy. This one is especially important if your dog is at home by himself all day while you are at work. Getting out of the house allows your dog to roam and explore, sniff and stretch. Dogs are naturally social animals, and walks allow interaction with you and with other dogs and people. Walking your dog can also reduce negative behaviors like chewing, digging, and scratching.
Walking aids in training. There are lots of opportunities for dog training while out on a walk. Sit, stay, wait, leave it. You may want to give the command to sit while putting on your dog’s leash, before crossing the road, or when another dog is approaching. Leave it is a good command to use if your dog is sniffing something you’d rather him not sniff! While on your walk, you will most certainly come across a variety of other vehicles and people--skateboarders, bikers, loud trucks--and this exposure gives you the opportunity to teach your dog appropriate responses to external stimuli.
Walking keeps your pup in shape. Many pet owners have taken their dog to the vet for an annual wellness check only to be told that their dog has put on a few too many pounds. Overweight dogs are at a higher risk for many conditions, and even with pet insurance helping you afford unexpected vet bills, you should aim to keep your dog in the best shape possible for his own comfort!
Walking lengthens and improves quality of life--for you and your dog. A study by the Mayo Clinic shows that among other obvious health benefits, walking can lift your mood, improve balance and coordination, and strengthen your bones. As for your pet, walking can regulate weight, improve agility, and aid in digestion. What if your pet is not the walking type? You can take your cat, ferret, or chinchilla out for a walk in a pet stroller and reap the same benefits (at least for yourself).
Need more evidence of the advantages of going out for a walk with your pet? Check out The Health Benefits of Dog Walking for Pets and People: Evidence and Case Studies, by Alan M. Beck.
Walking your dog in winter
It is interesting that January is the month chosen to celebrate walking our pets, but I don’t think it is an accident. January is typically a cold month and it can be difficult to want to go outside for any length of time - walking your dog in winter is tough! All the more reason to schedule walks as an integral part of your day. A study published by the American Journal of Sports Medicine in 2006 showed that short walks after dinner were more effective than long exercise sessions in reducing the amount of fat and triglyceride levels in the bloodstream after a hearty meal (WebMD:How Much Exercise Do You Really Need?).
So, plan your walk right after a meal. Clear the table and put on the leash. The dishes can wait for 10 minutes. Man’s best friend will thank you for it.