5 Benefits of Walking Your Dog

5 Benefits of Walking Your Dog

Lab holding a leashLab holding a leash
Lab holding a leashLab holding a leash

While taking your dog on consistent daily walks can be tough, especially in the cold, dark winter, it’s a key part of any healthy dog’s daily routine.

January is National Walk Your Dog Month, and it’s the perfect time to establish healthier habits with your pup. Read on to learn why walking is beneficial for your dog, and how you can make their walks even more fun.

1. Maintains Your Dog’s Weight

Making sure your dog maintains a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do for their overall health. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), 55.8% of dogs in North America are clinically overweight or obese.

Obesity can lead to a wide range of health problems, including diabetes, heart and respiratory conditions, mobility issues, and even shortened lifespans. Daily walks are essential to maintain a healthy weight and burn off excess calories.

2. Improves Your Dog’s Joint Health

Excess weight puts extra pressure on your dog’s joints, which can worsen joint issues and lead to pain and discomfort. If your dog is inactive, their joints can also become stiff and contribute to mobility issues.

Daily walks help combat these problems by keeping your pup’s joints and muscles active. This helps improve their mobility and flexibility, decreasing the chance of painful joint issues as they age.

3. Regulates Your Dog’s Digestive Tract

Walking your dog regularly provides structure to their bathroom schedule. This helps keep their digestive system in check and can prevent issues like constipation and diarrhea.

Regularly urinating also helps prevent your dog from getting a bladder infection.

4. Provides Mental Enrichment

Mental enrichment is just as important to your dog’s overall health as physical exercise. A daily walking routine helps reduce stress, builds your dog’s confidence, and stimulates their brain.

Walking also allows your pup to explore new areas – letting their nose lead them with plenty of exploration and sniffing time. This has a natural calming effect, and helps maintain your pup’s overall emotional well-being.

5. Helps with Socialization

Experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells on a walk can help your dog become more confident in strange situations. Your pup will learn to be comfortable in new environments by interacting with strangers and other dogs, which will help them stay relaxed with unfamiliar company throughout their life.

How to Make Your Dog’s Walks More Fun

If your dog already has a well-established walking routine, now is the perfect time to switch things up and make their walks even more fun. Here are a few ways to improve your dog’s daily walk.

Go for a Sniff Walk

For many pet parents, walks become a structured activity with a well-established route so that your dog gets enough exercise and is able to go to the bathroom. While some walks can still be this structured, going for a “sniff walk” can offer your dog more opportunities for mental enrichment.

A sniff walk is a slower-paced walk that is more focused on giving your dog opportunities to sniff their surroundings than on reaching a particular destination. These walks let your dog lead with their nose, so they can explore their surroundings.

Sniffing gives your dog mental enrichment, and it also provides natural stress relief, lowering their pulse rate and releasing dopamine to boost your pup’s mood.

While you may walk a shorter distance on these types of walks, a 20–30-minute sniff walk can leave your dog feeling just as tired and fulfilled as if they’d taken their usual hour-long walk.

You can also turn your dog’s walks into a nose work activity. Consider sprinkling a handful of treats into a nearby grassy area during your walk. This forces your dog to use their nose to find the hidden treats.

Switch Up Your Dog’s Usual Route

While walking the same route every day may be convenient, it can get boring for your dog.

Much of what your pup enjoys about a walk is their chance to experience new sights and smells, but when you repeat the same path every day, they’ll grow disinterested in seeing and smelling the same things over and over again.

If your dog doesn’t seem as excited by their daily walk as usual, try switching up your route. Walk your neighborhood in a different direction than usual, or switch things up even further and try out a new park route.

Change your dog’s walking route up regularly to keep the walk fresh and exciting – this can also help motivate you to stay consistent!

Incorporate Training Sessions into Your Walk

If your dog craves a challenge and loves to learn, turning your walks into training sessions can be the perfect way to spice up your routine.

Training is a fantastic enrichment activity, offering your pup mental stimulation as well as their usual physical exercise. You can periodically stop along your route to practice skills your dog already knows like “sit” and “stay,” or you can work on building new skills.

Impulse control is a great training option for your daily walk because it also has safety benefits. Whether your dog loves to pick up random items from the sidewalk or they have a hard time saying no to the squirrels, working on impulse control can help make your future walks more enjoyable.

Make the Most of Your Dog’s Walks

Your dog’s walks don’t need to be a boring routine – they can be fun, exciting bonding opportunities for you and your pup.

Set aside 30 minutes to an hour every day, depending on your dog’s health and energy levels. This time can be spent outside with your pup, exploring your neighborhood, visiting a local trail, or learning a new trick.

By switching up your dog’s walks each day, you can stay motivated and keep their routine even more fun for both of you!

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