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Ever wondered why it was important to walk your dog?

By Karen Wild, CCAB Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist Animal Behaviourist

Updated on the

Dog walking is such a natural part of your life with a dog that few people trouble to find out all the reasons it is so important.

Knowing why your dog should have regular walks will help you get motivated when cold weather or a busy schedule give you second thoughts about taking her out.

It’s usually a pleasant affair to take your hound around the block or to the park, and it can be a useful shared routine for both of you. But let’s take a closer look at the precise reasons walking your dog should not be a matter of whim or the weather.

Dog-walking for exercise

Everybody knows that a dog needs to exercise and stretch her legs. Your dog may be a superfit exercise addict, but walks are important even if some older or lazier hounds aren’t as keen. Even a big garden can feel cramped to a dog if she can’t get up to her full running pace or have new places to investigate. You’re also less likely to throw a toy or otherwise encourage her to run (or even swim) in the comfort of your own domain.

Dog-walking for company

Dogs are social animals. As much as she loves being with you, taking your dog for a walk will give her the chance to meet old and new friends of her own species. This can be very beneficial to give your dog a perspective of the world outside their home life and family, even if they already live with other dogs. Your dog gets to meet people, too, of all ages, shapes and sizes. This maintains their confidence in the normality of their world, which is filled with all sorts of interesting social and other details.

Your dog will also be inspired by new smells, canine and other, that will help her place herself in the world. A bit of rough-and-tumble with other dogs is good for stretching those unused muscles and exercising her natural instincts. Asking our dog to sit when meeting each new person, before being allowed to greet them, helps with your dog’s self control and may even help you to meet interesting folks, too. It’s good for them, and good for you.

Dog-walking to bond

Have you ever had to go on a long drive with one of your parents? It might feel boring at the time, but spending that one-on-one time together – even if you don’t have much to say to each other – can be a strong bonding experience. This feeling of a shared mission can be great for your mental health, and can also be enjoyed with your pet.

That one-to-one attention will increase your dog’s affection for you, and of you for your dog. And an increased attachment between a person and their dog has been proven to increase the owner’s motivation to go dog-walking, creating a positive feedback loop. This is known as the ‘Lassie effect.’

So, even if you don’t meet anyone else, engage your dog in fun activities, exploring nooks and crannies of nature and the towns too. It’s a great pastime and has physical benefits as well as providing mental stimulation for all.

Dog-walking for your dog’s health

Regular dog-walking can ward off cardiovascular, muscular, and metabolic diseases in your pet. This type of physical and mental dog exercise also counters behavioural problems. The psychological effects are very positive since a twice-daily mini-adventure will discourage boredom and irritability, which can result in problems such as destructive behaviour.

Is one walk a day enough for a dog?

This depends on your dog’s physical needs and age, temperament and of course their medical needs. It also depends on the type of walk you are going to do! A puppy may need shorter, more frequent walks, so check this amount with your vet.

An older dog may want a more rambling, steady walk, and a young, fit and energetic dog will need plenty of activity more than once a day, to keep them happy. It is possible to over-exercise a dog so before you start upping the amount or length of walk, get your dog checked over by your vet to ensure they are ready!

Is it cruel not to walk your dog?

Your dog has a right to behave naturally and interact socially. They also have a right to physical and mental health, and walks provide all of these things. In some cases dogs that have had bad experiences may not enjoy their walks, but professional help from a clinical behaviourist can assist here. If you don’t walk your dog for other reasons such as you are unable, or they are hard to manage, ask a dog walker for help.

Why is dog walking important? Dog-walking is for everyone

You and your family will also reap untold benefits from dog-walking. Many of these benefits are the same that your dog enjoys! Most people don’t get enough exercise, for example, and it’s reckoned that if every dog-owner who doesn’t walk their pet were to start making it part of their exercise routine, it would push 15% more underactive people into the safe zone.

Regular exercise like this can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and colon and breast cancers in humans. It’s also great for the mind, since leaving the house improves sociability, especially if you live alone or feel trapped in the home. And if you take the family with you, you can have a bonding experience, too!

Set yourself and those with whom you share your dog a simple challenge: take her out of the house for two thirty-minute stretches a day. It won’t be long before you see improvements in the health, happiness, and relationships of all involved.

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