Being a brand new owner of a furry pal is exciting! There is so much to worry about and remember, and of course, you want to get everything right. You want to take the best possible care of this beautiful animal! One of the most important things to get right is giving your dog the right amount of exercise, activity, and play. There are a few things to keep in mind as you work out how much they need, but you'll find it beneficial to both of you.
Here, we'll discuss the great benefits of walking your dog, how often to walk your dog, your dog's exercise tolerance, and also the gear you'll need for the health and wellbeing of your dog.
The Benefits of Walking Your Dog
Are you aware of the great benefits of walking your dog? It's so much more than a time for your fur baby to pee and poo.
Like us, your dog's joints will become stiff when sedentary for too long. Regular walking works their joints and improves their function. Dog shoes are especially helpful for dogs with stiff joints. They cushion every step and allow for less pressure to be put on your dog’s joints.
Without regular exercise, your dog can become obese. Walking helps them to burn the calories they consume healthily.
Urinary and Digestive Health
When dogs walk, one of the first things they do is poop. Walking keeps your dog regular and avoids the issue of constipation. Also, regularly urinating protects your dog from bladder infections. Giving your dog regular and frequent opportunities to empty their bladder and bowels keeps them healthy and strong.
As you can see, the benefits of regular walking for your dog also benefit you in some of the same ways.
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Walk vs. Pee Break
A quick pee break or romp around the backyard to do a poo aren't to be confused with a proper walk. Depending on your dog's breed, they may need significantly more than that. Your dog will need longer walks to exercise its muscles, explore, and be mentally stimulated. Without proper exercise, your dog can become destructive and anxious - more on this later.
Regular walks are also relationship-building. You spend this enjoyable time together, and it will build trust and love. You will get to know your dog, and they will get to know you. This is additionally advantageous because when your dog gets your attention, they won't engage in negative, attention-seeking behaviors like whining or excessive barking.
Related: Teach Your Dog To Like Dog Shoes
Why a Run Around the Backyard Won't Do
As we said above, your dog needs more than a quick run around your backyard. Longer walks provide more than a pee break. Here is how your dog benefits from longer walks:
- Emotional Benefits: Getting to go out with you and being (for the most part) the object of your attention is a huge emotional boost for your dog. They love you so much! These walks can deepen your bond if you can walk without being consumed by your phone and instead talk to them. You'll see an end to attention-seeking behaviors like barking, whining, and being destructive.
- Mental Benefits: If there is a cardinal sin to be avoided with dogs, it's never to let them get bored. Walks give them a chance to explore their environment, sniff lots of new things, and have a chance to get social with other dogs. Walking is mental exercise for them as much as it is physical exercise. Their minds have an opportunity to view wildlife and exercise all of their other mental faculties - something that can't happen if they're always stuck in the same environment. This will stop them from being destructive at home or doing other harmful things to relieve their boredom.
We've already talked about the physical benefits of walks for your dog, but here are a few benefits for you.
- Committing to a daily walk or walks with your dog gives you external motivation to get out into the fresh air and exercise yourself.
- While you could exercise at home, walking outdoors reduces stress, lowers your blood pressure, and improves your immune system.
- Walking every day lifts your mood and your self-esteem.
- Research shows that only 30 minutes of daily walking can help you lose excess fat and maintain a healthy weight.
- Daily walks will improve your sleep at night and give you more energy during the day.
- Walking with your dog makes it a more pleasurable experience for both of you. You end up walking further than you might on your own, and you'll feel great satisfaction watching your stamina and fitness levels increase. People who walk their dogs regularly are healthier overall than those who don't.
Morning Walks or Evening Walks: Which are Better?
Of course, you may not have a choice about which time of day you walk your dog. Your lifestyle or work schedule may dictate that for you. But if you do have a choice, here are a few things to consider:
- Walking in the morning air is a great way to start the day for you and your dog.
- Your dog enjoys a healthy dose of your attention before you leave for work.
- Your metabolism gets a kick-start for the day, and so does your dog's
- It balances out your dog's energy at the beginning of the day.
- The cooler mornings (even in the summer) are better for your dog's sensitive paws than during the heat of the day.
No worries if you can't take your dog out in the morning. Here are some benefits of evening walks:
- It's a great way to relax or decompress after a stressful day.
- There is usually less traffic on the roads.
- You and your dog will enjoy better sleep.
If you can only take your dog out at midday, try to be consistent with the time of day and ensure that the temperature isn't too hot or too cold. Your dog’s paws are sensitive to temperature. They can be burned on scalding pavement in the summer or suffer frostbite in the winter.
Related: How Much Exercise Does A Dog Need?
How Often To Walk Your Dog - What to Consider
As you consider how often to walk your dog, you need to think about a few things.
- Breed - What breed of dog do you have? Working or sporting breeds, like Shepherds, Pointers, and Collies, need more exercise than lap dogs like Papillons and Yorkshire Terriers. It isn't just the breed that determines how much exercise your dog wants; it is also their individual personality.
- Age - How old is your dog? As expected, younger dogs have more energy and may need more exercise than older dogs. Sometimes older dogs have health issues like arthritis, diabetes, muscle atrophy, or other diseases that may lessen their ability to run about - despite their willingness to do so.
Your Dog's Exercise Tolerance
In addition to the above guide, another way to determine how often (and how long) to walk your dog is to assess their specific exercise tolerance.
A good start is to know that most dogs are happy with 20 - 30 minutes of daily walking. Some other dogs can tolerate up to 2 hours of walking or hiking. But if your dog has health issues, is overweight, or seems to be having difficulty keeping up, don't keep pushing them along. If they have to take many breaks or are panting profusely, they may be at their limit.
Observe Your Dog's Behavior
Despite the breed or age of your dog, they are also individuals. To work out how much time your dog can tolerate, take them out for a walk. Observe their energy level as they walk. If initially, they have high energy and seem to enjoy the walk, all is well. You should invest in a good leash or harness and enjoy the walk.
Watch for when your dog slows down, pants more, or seems distracted by its surroundings. This will probably be around 25 - 30 minutes into the walk. It's time to head back home and keep observing their energy and pace. If they keep slowing down, they have walked too far. The next time you want to go out, plan a shorter route.
In addition to monitoring them on the walk, keep watching even when you get back home. How do they seem immediately after? If your dog has been overexercised, they'll drink water and fall asleep for hours. Or they wake from a long nap and begin limping around. Next time, plan a much shorter walk route or don't do strenuous activity.
Possible to Increase Your Dog's Exercise Tolerance
Just like us, it's possible to increase your dog's exercise tolerance. As long as your dog is well, you can gradually increase the length of your walk from week to week. Be sensitive to the signs that your dog has had enough. If you make the increase small and slow, you can avoid harming your dog or causing pain or injury.
A Word About Gear
When you're walking your dog, consider the weather. If in colder conditions, just like you dress accordingly, put a dog coat or jacket on them. Also, your dog's paws can suffer from exposure to harsh or extreme weather conditions, so buy them a quality set of dog boots. Additionally, purchase a good leash or dog harness to secure your pup when out and about.
Related: 10 Reasons to Wear Dog Shoes
So, how often can you take your dog for a walk? Depending on your dog's breed, age, and health, once or twice per day is great - not including their pee breaks. Try to be out for around 15 - 30 minutes unless your dog wants to do more or less than that. Please don't overdo it. Have fun and make sure they're enjoying themselves as well.
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