Take a Hike!  Is Walking Really That Important?

-Marilyn Tokach

Healthy, head-clearing, refreshing!  Aaahhh, the benefits of a nice spring walk.

Have you ever thought what a good walk means to your dog?  Walking is important to your dog’s physical and mental well-being.

Walking your dog is not just giving him the physical exercise he needs to stay in tip top physical condition, it’s a mental exercise that will help your dog to relax and understand his environment.  And it’s a great opportunity for training.  A well-exercised dog will be better behaved, less destructive and will be more focused on the things you ask him to do.

I often hear people proudly tell me how their dog has a nice fenced backyard, with plenty of room to run.  The fact is a safe yard is a benefit for the people, not for the dog.  It means we don’t have to walk our dog 4 or 5 times a day to relieve themselves.  And it means on those frigid January mornings we don’t have to bundle up like a mountain climber and take the pup out for a morning jaunt before we shower.  Really, I’ve never once heard a dog say, “Wow, my person fenced up our yard so I can’t get out and visit the neighbors or chase the UPS truck down the street.  Aren’t I lucky?”

Just because a dog has free run of the house and yard, doesn’t mean he or she gets the exercise they need.  Next time you let your dog outside watch them to see what thy do?  Sniff a little and lay by the tree?  Chase away the single squirrel (that dared venture into your yard) for the entire distance of fifty feet?  Consider that dogs are built to run 20-45 mph depending on the breed; do you really think they are getting sufficient physical exercise walking from inside to outside and back again?  Truth is, you might be the one getting the most exercise just getting up and down to play doorman to your dog.

The average walking speed of a human is slower than the natural gait of a dog.  So a dog that has to adjust his gait to match our human pace is not getting the exercise they need.  This may be one of the reasons why they pull on the leash, you can help your dog by walking at a speedier clip – you guys will both get in shape.

Now consider where your dog spends most of his time – in the house and in your yard.  Does she ever leave your property?  How often?  Can you imagine one week without leaving your property?  Now consider what it would be like if all there is on TV and the radio is one channel with repetitive shows and songs.  Or you only have one book to read.  Kind of mind-numbing?  Well, the view from the backyard never changes and the smells are always the same.  Not a very stimulating way to spend the entire 12-16 years of your dog’s life?

Walking your dog in different places or at least going in different directions each day really gives them something to look forward to.  Dog olfactory senses are much better than our own.  While you’re inhaling the clean spring breezes, your dog is catching up on the p-mail, left for him near the fire hydrant.  A walk to a dog is an opportunity to find out what’s been going on in the neighborhood, he can get his bearings, leave a marker for himself should he ever get lost and keep up with the Jones’ new dog.

So get out there and start walking!  If you don’t have time, energy or physical ability, consider a professional dog walker. The simple gift of regular walks will mean the world to your dog.  And you might just find yourself with a happier, healthier companion.