Dogs are energic social creatures that are programmed to roam. As responsible dog owners, we should help them fulfill their natural needs. Denying them adequate exercise makes for an unhealthy and possibly unhappy dog.
Many of the health benefits that we, humans, garner from walking, hold good for our dogs too. However, there are a few extra considerations when thinking about your dog’s health.
- Walking provides an outlet for pent-up energy. Your dog needs to get rid of his energy and if you deny him a walk, he will find other ways to drain his batteries. Often, unwanted behaviors like chewing, digging or bolting, are a dog’s way of trying to release energy. It’s more effective (and less expensive!) for you to channel his energy into a walk.
- Walking helps fulfill your dog’s instincts. In the wild, dogs run as a pack in search of food. Although you now provide the food, it’s still in your dog’s blueprint to roam and explore.
- Walking lets your dog see, hear and smell new things. This is the mental stimulation as well as physical stimulation that he needs to stay healthy.
- Walking helps your dog socialize. As well as encountering new smells, sounds and sights, your dog will interact with other dogs and people on his walks. A lack of socialization, which happens when dogs aren’t walked, can cause a dog to become nervous of people and other dogs. Occasionally, nervousness and fear can spill over into aggression, so you owe it to your dog to socialize him from an early age.
- Walking helps your dog bond with you. Pack animals by nature, they need a pack leader. If you learn how to stay in control of the walk, you’re asserting yourself as the pack leader. If your dog accepts you as his pack leader, he will know his place in the pack and feel secure.
As you can see, walking with your dog satisfies all his needs, both physical and mental.
You may have a large yard and think that your dog has enough room for exercising his running around in it, but running around the same yard day after day won’t satiate his need for mental stimulation. He needs regular changes in scenary in order to keep himslef active and interested.
How long should you walk your dog?
Different breeds have different energy levels, but experts would generally agree that you should aim for at least one walk a day that lasts for at least 30 minutes. Notice how that figure ties in with the minimum recommended daily walk for a human? It’s all fitting together beautifully! Of course, 30 minutes is a minimum; as you get fitter and your stamina improves, you can extend your walks.