There’s no doubt that most dogs love going for walks. The mere whisper of “the W word” can send some pups into uncontrollable fits of excitement.
After a long day, however, dog owners may not share the same unbridled enthusiasm for that evening stroll. Walks sometimes fall by the wayside for this very reason.
But the truth is, daily dog walks are incredibly important—not just for a canine’s physical health, but for its emotional and mental health too.
So, whether you feel like it or not, strap on that leash and get outside with your furry friend. Here are the reasons—some obvious, some surprising—why you’re doing them (and yourself) a huge favor.
Dog Walk Benefit #1: Weight Management
Let’s start with the obvious: Walking provides your pup with much needed exercise. This is essential because canine obesity is a huge problem.
By some estimates, 50% of dogs in the US are overweight and 25% are obese, usually because they are too sedentary. Obesity shortens lifespan, causes heart and joint ailments, and drastically reduces quality of life.
Physical activity can help maintain healthy weight in your dog, and keep their heart and muscles strong and his joints limber.
Dog Walk Benefit #2: Digestive & Urinary Health
Sedentary dogs have higher risk of constipation or inappropriate elimination (accidents around the house). But regular walks help to regulate your pup’s digestive tract.
Just as some people prefer to use the bathroom at certain times of the day, many dogs like routine trips outside to do their business.
Similarly, regular walks help your dog empty their bladder too, which protects against bladder infections.
Dog Walk Benefit #3: Exploration, Learning & Boredom Reduction
Dogs are naturally curious and inquisitive. They love exploring the world around them. Every walk is a new experience for canines. All the sights, sounds, and smells along the way keep them stimulated and learning interesting things about the environment around them.
Taking different routes or going for walks in unfamiliar neighborhoods makes for an even more exciting experience, allowing your pup to take in completely fresh sights and scents. All of this keeps their brain active and flourishing.
A lot of dogs, especially young ones, have an abundance of energy—and they can get bored very quickly. If they don’t have an appropriate outlet to burn off this energy, they’ll often start acting out around the house—much to the dismay of their owners.
An outdoor walk gives your dog a constructive way to exhaust all their built-up energy. It’ll not only help your pooch sleep better, it can prevent destructive behaviors like tearing up couch pillows, chewing on furniture legs, shredding clothes or shoes, or scratching up walls.
Dog Walk Benefit #4: Socialization
Outdoor walks are a great way to safely introduce your pup to other canine friends – they can learn how to properly interact, since they’ll be on leashes and you can quickly correct bad behavior.
Dog Walk Benefit #5: Bonding
Spending one-on-one time with your furry friend strengthens your bond and fosters a deeper, more trusting relationship. This ultimately deters annoying attention-seeking behaviors like whining or barking.
Furthermore, outdoor walks can help your dog learn to adapt to new things that are perhaps a little scary or overwhelming. If your dog is timid or fearful, regular walks can help them build confidence, as well as greater trust in you. As you lead and protect, walking becomes a special way to grow together.
Dog Walk Benefit #6: Training
Teaching your dog to heel or not tug on their leash can make daily walks more enjoyable (for you, at least). You can also use outdoor walks as an opportunity to build trust in your dog by testing and reinforcing responses to other commands like “sit,” “stay,” “wait,” and even “come” (if off-leash) in the presence of distracting sounds and aromas. Just don’t forget to bring high-value treats with you!
Dog Walk Benefit #7: Grounding
Walking in nature, especially on grassy fields or the beach, gives your pet the opportunity to connect with the natural, subtle energy of the earth. This is called grounding (or earthing).
Direct contact with the ground infuses healing energy into the body. This energy has several benefits. It helps restore and stabilize the bioelectrical circuitry that governs organs. And it boosts self-healing mechanisms, can reduce inflammation and pain, and improves sleep and feelings of calmness.
Humans and animals alike can benefit from this natural electromagnetic energy, compliments of Mother Earth.
Dog Walk Benefit #8: Boosts Your Health
In one study that looked at the effects of pet ownership among a subset of Californians, researchers concluded that dog owners walked nearly 20 more minutes per week than non-pet owners. This additional physical activity benefits your health as well as your dog’s.
Moving your body and spending time outside in the fresh air can improve cognition and memory, boost mood and sense of well-being, lower blood pressure, strengthen your bones and muscles, enhance heart health, aid in weight loss, and so much more.
How Long Should You Walk Your Dog?
A dog’s needs can vary based on breed, age, size, and overall health. But, a good rule of thumb is this:
- Smaller breeds (chihuahuas, mini dachshunds, miniature poodles, etc.) need about 30 minutes a day, which can be divided into two 15-minute walks if necessary.
- Medium-size breeds (boxers, whippets, cocker spaniels, etc.) need roughly 40–80 minutes of outdoor walking per day.
- Large breeds (labs, golden retrievers, huskies, collies, shepherds, etc.) are usually much more active and have a lot more energy. Therefore, they require a lot more activity—up to two hours of walking every day. This is why you’ll often see owners of big dogs riding their bikes while their leashed dogs run next to them!
If you aren’t sure how long you should walk your dog for every day, consult your vet to get personal recommendations. It’s also a good idea to become more informed about some of your particular breed’s idiosyncrasies that can make outdoor walks a little more challenging. For example, short-nosed breeds like pugs can overheat more easily than other breeds, so you may need to adjust their walk schedules accordingly, especially in warmer months.
- Association for Pet Obesity Prevention web site at https://petobesityprevention.org/.
- Williams, K. Obesity In Dogs. VCAHospitals.com, last accessed October 14, 2021 at https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/obesity-in-dogs
- Yabroff K, et al. Walking the dog: Is pet ownership associated with physical activity in California? J Phys Act Health. 2008 Mar;5(2):216-28.
- Figo, S. How often should different sized dogs be walked? June 26, 2020. https://figopetinsurance.com/blog/how-often-should-different-sized-dogs-be-walked
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