Why Dogs Love To Go For Walks
As any dog owner knows, there are few activities that excite a dog more than the chance to go on a nice, long stroll. But why do dogs like to go for walks? Well, it's only natural.
The History Of Dogs & Humans
Humans domesticated dogs tens of thousands of years ago to assist them with work, security and hunting, as well as to provide companionship. As today's pets, dogs' natural tendency to remain active remains, and so they jump (sometimes literally) at the opportunity to get the exercise and mental stimulation that a walk provides. In addition, dogs are social animals; for a dog, a walk means more time to spend with his best friend and pack leader—you.
Read on to learn more about why dogs enjoy walks and the benefits of dog-walking for your health and for some dog-walking tips, equipment advice and precautions.
Benefits For Your Pet
Dogs get excited to walk because they know instinctively that it's good for them. Walking your dog helps him stay healthy, provides a chance for him to explore and promotes a sense of bonding between you and your pet.
Walking will help keep your dog in good physical shape, keeping off those unwanted pounds, increasing limberness and flexibility, and reducing digestive problems.
Giving your dog a chance to see the wider world provides him with a mental health boost, too. Covering fresh ground on a walk lets your dog investigate new and interesting sights, smells and sounds. And the exercise helps boost natural hormone levels that reduce stress and promote his mental well being. A regular exercise program will help reduce unwanted behavior problems, such as hyperactivity, jumping up on people, destructive chewing and excessive barking.
In addition, spending time with your pet helps him to feel a sense of social order and structure and to feel comfortable with you as a leader. Regular walks can help fearful, anxious or overly submissive dogs develop trust in you as the owner and confidence in unfamiliar situations. And walking often provides your pet with chances to meet and socialize with other humans and dogs.
For owners of sporting or hunting dogs, walking can help keep dogs in shape for the hunting season and promote the human-animal bond to aid in training and fieldwork.
Benefits For You
The exercise you get on a walk with your dog can help you keep in shape as well.
In fact, a 2001 national survey by the U.S. Department of Transportation, researchers found almost half of the people who walked dogs in the study did so every day for at least 30 minutes (referenced from University of South Carolina). The researchers hypothesized that dog walking provided motivation to exercise in the same way a human buddy system helps motivate people to stay active.
Not only that, but according to the ASPCA, people without dogs walk only about 168 minutes per week, while dog owners average 300 minutes of walking. Now that's motivation!
Dog Walking Recommendations
- The recommended length and intensity of a walk can vary greatly. Most dogs benefit from a 30-minute walk each day, depending on breed, past activity level, age, and any health problems, as well as on weather conditions. For healthy dogs getting started in a walking program, start slow at 10 minutes a day and work your way up. Highly active breeds may need additional exercise—such as fetching, swimming or running—in addition to a 30-minute daily walk.
- Be sure to vary your routes and the areas where you walk your dog to give them new things to explore.
- Remember that letting your dog out in a fenced-in backyard does not substitute for a walk. Dogs need the time to spend with you, both for social reasons and as a motivating factor to make sure they are getting the exercise they need.
Pet Equipment Advice
Leashes come in many different sizes, materials and colors. Chain leashes tend to be heavy; still, they can be a good option for dogs that tend to bite at the leash. Nylon leashes can cause "rope burn" if they are pulled quickly through your hand, but they are relatively inexpensive, lightweight and durable.
An extendable, or retractable dog leash gives your pet extra room to explore, although these types of leads may be better suited for areas away from traffic and other dangers. Retractable leashes also are not recommended for dogs that tend to pull; keep frequent pullers on a 4-6 foot leash, perhaps in combination with a head halter. Some dog owners prefer a SportDog(r) 100-Yard Wireless Training Collar, which can work if you're training your dog to walk on or off a leash.
Pair your pet's leash up with the proper collar. A collar should be sturdy enough to match your dog's size and strength. It should also fit snug enough so that it doesn't slip over his head but at the same time doesn't choke him. A good rule of thumb: You should be able to fit two fingers between the collar and your dog's neck.
Precautions When Walking Your Dog
Exercise caution while exercising your pet. Follow these tips to keep your dog safe while out on an excursion.
- Bundle up. Short-haired dogs may need a sweater when the temperature drops below 45 degrees. Limit the length of your walks when the temperature drops below freezing.
- Cold weather foot care. Rock salt used to melt ice on roads can irritate your dog's paws. In snowy or icy conditions, wash your dog's feet when you get home, and don't let him lick the salt off his paws, which can irritate his stomach. For comfort and protection, consider fitting out your dog with a set of booties for walks in the snow. You can also purchase balms for your dog's paws that can be beneficial in both cold and hot weather. Keep the hair between your pet's toes short to minimize the amount of ice and snow that his paws collect.
- Beat the heat. Bring water along on long walks and on hot days, and avoid walking for long periods when the weather is hot. Remember that dogs cannot cool themselves off as efficiently as humans can, and dogs with short muzzles can struggle even more in the heat. Use caution and take it easy whenever the temperature climbs above 85 degrees.
Ready To Roam?
For more information on gear to get you ready for your next dog walk, call or come in to your local Southern States store. And if you have some dog-walking tips or tricks, or products that you would recommend, share your story in the comments section below.