Throughout history, dogs have been bred to perform specific tasks. You’ve probably heard of working dogs, sporting dogs, and herding dogs, right? So, it stands to reason that, whether your pet is a mixed breed or purebred, there’s an excellent chance that he has genetic traits that motivate him to stay active.
In fact, the need to walk goes back even further than that. Just like birds must fly and fish must swim, dogs have a natural urge to roam. In the wild, dog packs naturally walk miles each day in their hunt for food. The alpha dog leads the way, and the rest of the pack follows. Daily walking fulfills the basic instinct that tells your dog he needs to walk.
Of course, in this day and age, most dogs don’t have the opportunities (or the need) to participate in the tasks they were bred for… the tasks their instincts are telling them they need to perform. Even if they have access to a large, fenced in yard, it’s doubtful that they will get enough exercise on their own. A backyard just doesn’t offer the added stimulation that most dogs require to keep them active.
Walking is Important for Good Health
Obviously, daily dog walks are also important for your dog’s health in other ways, too. Exercise is crucial for preventing obesity. It keeps the cardiovascular system healthy and builds strong bones and muscles. Regular exercise can even prevent and relieve arthritis and many other degenerative joint issues. There are even mental benefits for your pooch, too, like reduced stress and anxiety.
Walking Fulfills a Natural Instinct
As dog owners, it’s up to us to provide daily walks that offer both mental stimulation and exercise. Going for a walk is usually any dog’s favorite activity. They love to be outside, sniffing and engaging in their environment, and maybe even socializing with other dogs and people in their neighborhood.
Although a game of fetch in the backyard or a romp at the dog park will provide good exercise, it won’t offer the same mental stimulation your dog will get by investigating all the sounds, sights, and scents he’ll take in when he goes for a walk. Walking provides an opportunity to observe all the changes in his territory since the last time you walked that way.
Walking Provides a Training Opportunity
Walking also offers the perfect opportunity to practice obedience skills with your dog. It’s likely that you will encounter other people and dogs along your route, so it’s also a great time to reinforce social skills. According to animal behaviorists, dogs that go for walks every day behave better, they’re less destructive, and they have fewer separation and dominance issues.
It’s Good for Humans, Too
Most of us are striving to stay healthy and fit, so why not skip the gym and walk with your best buddy instead? Walking is just as beneficial for humans as it is our canine counterparts. For us, walking helps maintain a healthy weight, strengthens bones, prevents heart disease and high blood pressure, puts us in a good mood, and even improves coordination and balance. The more active you are, the greater the benefits for both of you!
It Strengthens Your Bond with Your Dog
If you’ve just adopted a new dog, one of the fastest ways to build a bond is to walk together. It will help you get to know each other and build your trust and confidence in each other. You might be surprised to find that the real way to your new dog’s heart is to go for walks, rather than offering treats.
How to Walk Your Dog the Right Way
Believe it or not, there is a right and wrong way to walk your dog for the most benefit. Your dog should always walk next to you or behind you, but never in front of you. In other words, you’re the pack leader, so you should be leading the way, not the other way around. To you, this may not seem like a big deal, but in your dog’s mind, it’s super important. When you let your dog walk in front of you, you’re telling him that he’s the one in charge.
The length of the walk is important, too. Most experts recommend that you walk for at least twenty minutes. As long as they are in good health, senior dogs should be walked for about twenty minutes, too. For very active dogs, longer, more vigorous walks are required. Some dogs might even need two or three long walks every day. Just remember to start out slow and build the length and pace up gradually if your pooch isn’t used to so much activity.
Don’t forget that your dog still needs a long walk, even when you’re out of town or at work all day. Your pet sitter can stop by and take your dog for a walk, even when you can’t. Daily walks are crucial for your dog’s health and happiness, so don’t let your busy lifestyle get in the way!
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