Did you know walking your dog is more than just exercise? Walking your dog is filled with several benefits that not only apply to them but to you as well!
I’ll be honest, years ago as a high-performing athlete in skier cross, rugby, mountain biking, and trail running, I thought walking was boring and didn’t consider it a proper way to exercise. I feel the need…the need for speed! I worked hard to train my dogs to be off-leash so they could run and run and run! As I aged and perfect fitness eluded me I did engage in slower activities and you can most often find me snowshoeing and hiking these days with my dogs off-leash. So they run, I walk! But then in early 2020 my 5-year-old female GSD Hurtta was diagnosed with significant hip dysplasia and advanced spondylosis and our wonderful canine rehab pro Sarah MacKeigan at Upward Dog in NS assigned me to walk Hurtta on a leash twice daily.
Here’s what I have learned over the years as a Professional Dog Trainer working with clients and other professionals in the industry.
BENEFITS OF WALKING YOUR DOG:
- Walking uses different muscles than running or swimming. When thinking about exercising your dog you want to engage in different activities that will provide a chance to strengthen all muscles.
- Improves impulse control as the dog must focus on walking at your side and not be distracted therefore reactive to everything that moves or makes a sound.
- Going slow is good! Teaches a calmer state of mind and a desire to explore the world at a slower pace with more attention therefore walking is a great way to provide mental stimulation.
- Improves your relationship and bonding with your dog as you walk side by side instead of independently from one another.
- Greater socialization. Being kept in enclosed spaces such as backyards can cause them to be too sheltered from the world which will lower confidence and increase anxiety when around different environments, people, and other dogs.
- Daily walking lessons problems with dogs becoming bored, frustrated, and engaging in behaviors such as barking, destruction of property, and repetitive behaviors such as perimeter circling and attempts to escape their yards when the opportunity presents itself. (Here is where I want to tell ya about the time I was away from home for 3 hours and my door blew open and when I got home the dogs were still in the house!❤️)
- Decreases the risk of dogs developing territorial behaviors (barking, rushing at the fence when people and dogs go by) resulting from long-term confinement to the property.
- Improved cardiovascular fitness, stronger core muscles, lower blood pressure, and a better more stable mood.
- Addresses the obesity epidemic. Most dogs today are being fed the amounts indicated on their dog food bags but those amounts were decided on decades ago when dogs spent the majority of their days outside and had jobs. They don’t take into account how many treats ppl feed their dogs these days. We are simply feeding our dogs too much and not burning off calories enough and over half of the dogs are overweight or obese. Obesity can lead to liver disease, insulin resistance, osteoarthritis and knocks a year or two off your dog’s lifespan.
- Decreases feelings of loneliness. Yes! Your dog can feel lonely even living with you if you don’t engage them in activities and provide them with things to do. Sometimes your dog is laying around the house simply because there is just nothing else to do.
Hurtta, Kyro, and I are enjoying our daily walks immensely. I notice improvements in my mood as well and I do feel the increased bonding as we walk side by side together down the road.
Our Signature Bungee Collars are worn by the dogs in the photo above.
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COACH SARA’S TIPS FOR WALKING:
- Dress for success! Wear clothing that is easy to move in, moisture-wicking, cooling in the summer, and thermal for the winter. When walking at night add in reflective or LED accessories for both you and your dog and invest in a good headlamp like the Petzl ones at Sporting Intentions in Charlottetown.
- Don’t forget the poop bags!
- Say hello to other people! Covid has turned us all into avoidant creatures. Look up, smile, say hi!
- Sign you and your dog up for obedience training. Consult with a trainer about your goals and work with them to come up with a plan then take action to implement that process no matter how long it takes.
- Warm-up before you start. This is important for both you and your dog. Take it slow in the beginning then increase your speed.
- Stretch after. Stretch yourself and google how to stretch your dog!
- Have ID tags on your dog. Just in case anything happens!
- Check the dog’s gear and make sure it’s in good working order. No rips or tears in leashes, collars, or harnesses, and ensure that buckles aren’t cracked.
- Get some Paw Salve to keep the pads from drying out if walking in areas that do salt on sidewalks. Also good for their noses as it doesn’t contain any fragrance or essential oils. We like the one locally made by Urban Paw.
- Avoid walking in extreme cold or heat. And know your breed. Some breeds can handle hot and cold weather better than others. Don’t judge someone walking a husky on a cold winter’s day.
- Obey leash laws. I know I know, your dog is off-leash trained with an e-collar. Still, for everyone’s safety and comfort, leash up in areas where it’s the law. Other people don’t know that your dog is off-leash trained and may feel nervous seeing a dog with no leash on.
- Bring fresh water for you both if going out for a while.
- Schedule and plan your walks! Studies show that when we schedule things we are more apt to stick to them. Doesn’t matter if it doesn’t happen at the exact time you scheduled it, just matters that you did it.
So walk on and walk far my friends!
Love, Coach Sara
Unleashed Potential PEI
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