When your plugged-in, constantly-on-the-go lifestyle has you on the fritz, it feels impossible to take your dog out for a leisurely stroll. According to a recent study, 33 percent of pet parents rarely walk their pups.
Only half pound the pavement with them each day. While it’s not always possible to walk your dog for hours at a time, you should be taking a long walk at least a few times a week.
Mentally, getting outdoors and having a routine, as well as the release of endorphins from light exercise, reduces anxiety, depression, and seasonal affective disorder.
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 56 percent of dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese. If yours is one of them, he’s at risk for bladder cancer, skin infections, heart disease, and diabetes. The Department of Family & Consumer Studies has found dog owners walk at least four hours per week while non-pet owners squeak in an hour.
Has your dog downed a whole frozen turkey or started plowing your flower bed? If so, he’s getting rid of pent-up energy. Walks are the perfect opportunity to curb his bad behavior while practicing obedience commands. “It is one thing for him to be able to ‘sit’ in the middle of your living room but a whole different story in a busy park,” says Steffi Trott, founder of SpiritDog Training. “By taking your training on the road, you’re able to proof commands and teach your dog that anywhere, anytime, can be training time.”
Dogs can open the door to a new universe of people. “They’re fantastic “social lubricants” — a term that references anything that makes interacting with other people easier,” says Dr. Jennifer Coates, who serves on the advisory board for Pup Life Today. “People are more likely to strike up a conversation with you if you’re out for a walk with your dog rather than walking on your own or with other people. This can be especially beneficial for those who suffer from loneliness or depression.”
“Dogs have changed a lot since they’ve been wolves, but not so much that they don’t still enjoy traveling with their pack,” Trott says. While he wants you to step up as the alpha, you’ll have to earn his trust, loyalty, love, and respect. Regular one-on-one time can strengthen and deepen your bond. If your dog is timid or fearful, daily walks can give him structure and stability. That level of predictability also can skyrocket his self-confidence.