Any good dog parent knows that including a dog in your family adds lots of love, joy, and affection to your home. But it also adds a lot of responsibilities, such as feeding, training, grooming, medicating, and exercising your dog. Luckily, many of the responsibilities tied to dog parenthood can prove just as joyful as the inherently fun parts!
Exercising your dog can be an enjoyable and beneficial activity for both of you, especially if one of your main means of exercise is taking a walk together. While the age, fitness level, and breed of your dog determine how vigorous a walk he should take and how many times a day he should walk, walking your dog offers a plethora of psychological and physical benefits for you and Fido alike.
Benefits to You
While you are probably pretty aware of the necessity of exercising your dog for his sake, you might not realize that walking your dog can provide lots of benefits to you, as well. Owning a dog can help motivate you to move more, giving you a reason to get out and walk when you otherwise might not. However, if Fido’s insistence on a little exercise isn’t enough to get you up and moving, consider the many benefits you can reap if you take his advice and go for a walk.
Making a walk with your dog part of your regular routine offers a host of benefits for your body. For starters, walking your dog decreases your blood pressure, which also decreases your risk of suffering from a stroke. Regular walks with Rufus also decrease your Body Mass Index (BMI) and reduce your risk of diabetes.
Dog walks provide you with an upper-body workout as your arms work to hold your dog, and a solid lower-body workout as you use your legs to cover the miles. Weight-bearing exercise like walking also builds stronger muscles and bones. In fact, pet parents who walk their dogs on a regular basis get more overall exercise than those who don’t, and suffer from fewer chronic health conditions.
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While walking your dog on a daily basis is good for your body, it’s also good for your mind and soul. People who walk their dogs experience decreased stress levels. Just being with your dog lowers your level of cortisol, a stress hormone. Pair that reduction in cortisol levels with some exercise and–voila!–you have a recipe for a healthy habit.
Walking your dog requires you to go outside, and studies have found that spending more time outdoors results in improved attention and focus, better overall mood, and an increased sense of well-being. In addition, getting out and about in your neighborhood has been proven to increase your sense of community and connectedness, as well as to decrease loneliness; you’re spending quality time with your best furry friend and getting to know your neighbors.
It’s no wonder, then, that people who walk their dogs regularly report fewer instances of depression. They feel more connected, supported, and loved. Also, dog parents who walk their dogs as part of their daily routine report experiencing a sense of purpose. Your dog needs you if he is going to get a walk today; he can’t take himself. Just knowing a beloved being is depending on you for a favorite activity can help improve your sense of purpose and meaning.
Finally, regularly walking your dog can reduce his tendencies to behave badly, giving you the peace of mind of a better-behaved dog.
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Benefits to Your Dog
While you are likely aware that regular exercise for Rufus is good for him, you might not realize how critical it is for his overall health, happiness, and well-being. Walking your dogs provides crucial benefits that improve his life.
By walking your dog on a regular basis, you are helping to decrease his chance of obesity, a major concern for American pets. The condition can lead to liver disease, cardiovascular disease, and other grave conditions that can severely decrease your dog’s quality of life, or even prove fatal for him.
A regular walk also helps Fido maintain his agility and flexibility, even into his senior years, as well as aiding in his digestion. In fact, taking a walk can help relieve constipation, and can help you monitor your pet’s potty habits. Knowing when and how often your dog defecates, as well as being aware of the size, texture, and color of his excrement, can help you understand any health conditions he might be battling.
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You may have heard the saying, “A tired dog is a happy dog.” It’s not too far from the truth. Regular exercise, like walking, not only wears out your dog but also increases his levels of happiness. A regular walk provides much-needed stimulation for your dog, decreasing boredom and destructive tendencies. As your dog will expend energy on his walk, he will be less like to exhibit behaviors associated with hyperactivity, which will in turn decrease instances of discipline. If you give Fido the opportunity to use his excess energy on a walk, you decrease the chances that he will engage in unwanted behaviors, such as jumping on people, running around the house, destroying things, or incessantly barking and whining.
A daily walk offers Fido the chance to get some one-on-one attention from his favorite human: you. This is not only satisfying and fulfilling for him, but it also reduces the chances that he will display potentially irritating attention-seeking behaviors that may earn him some time in the proverbial dog house instead of the love he actually craves.
Finally, you can use Fido’s walk to stimulate his mind and make him a better companion by turning it into a training opportunity. Practicing commands like “come,” “heel,” “stop,” and “leave it” during Fido’s walk keeps him on his toes, and exercises his mind as well as his body.
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You and Bingo both reap your own benefits from a daily stroll, but there are also many shared benefits you can enjoy together.
With the help of a daily walk, both you and your dog can cultivate and enjoy better cardiovascular health. Regular walks also help manage arthritis pain. Finally, walking your dog can help you both sleep better, as your dog will be less likely to display restlessness at night.
Taking a walk with your dog each day strengthens the bond you share and the trust you have developed, improving the health of your relationship and the happiness of your dog. A dog who is bonded to his owner is more likely to heed commands and less likely to run away.
A daily walk also provides an opportunity for you both to socialize. Along your route, you can meet canine and human companions alike.
Finally, a dog who enjoys regular walks is less likely to run away. If you provide him with safe, structured exploring and marking time, he is less likely to feel the urge to wander off and explore on his own, thus sparing you the heartache of losing a beloved companion.
Follow The Leader: How to walk your dog