Our four-legged friends bring us plenty of joy with their antics, from cuddles on the sofa to their unbridled love for dinner time. Being overcome with excitement when you pick up their lead is almost universal among dogs and they enjoy a stroll for a variety of reasons. From releasing some of their pent-up energy to sniffing, scent marking and just getting the opportunity to greet other dogs, there are plenty of reasons for dogs to get excited about their walks.
But did you know that taking the dog for a walk is also good for us? If the world is getting you down, there can sometimes only be one solution – pull on a pair of walking boots, put the lead on the dog and start walking! There are plenty of physical and mental benefits to walking your dog, making it the perfect activity for us and them.
Improved Heart Health
Perhaps the biggest health improvement walking our dogs offers us is for our hearts. A walk at a brisk pace can count as your daily dose of cardio exercise, which is an essential activity not just for people but their dogs too. Dog obesity affects approximately 30% of the canine population, and as well as their diet, a lack of exercise can be a significant contributor to this problem.
Taking the dog for a walk can also help to reduce blood pressure as the stronger your heart gets the less effort it requires to push blood around your body, lowering the force and strain on your arteries. Studies suggest that moderate-intensity walking, three to five times per week, of 20 to 40 minutes duration, and 150 minutes per week for approximately three months could start lowering blood pressure.
Stronger Joints, Bones And Muscles
There is a danger as we get older that our joints, bones and muscles can start to get weaker. We may wish to seek professional relief from back, neck or shoulder pain but exercise is another essential way to repair our bodies. Walking the dog is a great strengthening activity, and it’s one that we can do ourselves without having to make an appointment.
Not only do walks with the dog help to improve the strength of the joints in our legs but they can help improve balance and prevent osteoporosis – which is the loss of bone density. Most of us will use a lead that we hold in our hands, which helps increase strength in our arms, shoulders and backs as we hold onto our precious pups while they follow their noses. While it’s not a direct substitute for doing a workout at the gym with weights or apparatus, dog walking can provide an overall body workout with many benefits.
The Restorative Power Of Nature
Being in nature is proven to help reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and stress while helping you feel more relaxed. If some things are making you anxious in your life, taking your dog for a walk can help you to gain some headspace for a while and take your mind off your problems.
The key to taking the dog for a walk is getting out of your house and exploring for a while but not all of us are fortunate enough to live somewhere with nature on our doorstep. Rather than walking the pathways each time you take your dog for a stroll, consider loading them into the car and visiting your nearest green space, such as a park or forest.
This could be once per week and allow you the chance to enjoy a change of scenery, while your dog’s senses can kick into overdrive as they sniff until their heart’s content. Dogs can help improve our mental health by themselves and combining their natural healing qualities with a walk in nature is a recipe for success.
Increasing Mobility For Physically Impaired Owners
While we think of dog walking as an activity where dogs and their owners are walking, there are plenty of physically impaired dog owners who also need to exercise their dogs. Dog owners in wheelchairs can enjoy taking their dogs out just as regularly as others, helping them to keep moving and enjoy leaving the house.
Walks can be adapted to suit your physical ability, from shorter but more regular walks to play that encourages your dog to exercise itself without needing to be tethered to you. If you need a crutch, scooter or wheelchair to get around it’s important to introduce this to your dog as quickly as possible. They will be more relaxed with any walking aid they are familiar with and less likely to act out.
It is important to train your dog to be able to walk alongside and not pull, especially if they are larger breeds. The last thing you need is your dog pulling you down but they also need to learn how to walk out of reach of your crutches, scooter or wheelchair to avoid injury to you and themselves.
Forming Healthy Habits
Dogs love routine and once you establish a walking schedule they will not let you forget in a hurry. This is great for holding you accountable while also helping you to build an enjoyment of walking for recreation. Given the dangers of living sedentary lives, enjoying walks is not a bad habit to pick up. With your dog’s ears pricking up come walkies time, one look into their eyes and you can’t say no!
Happy Owner, Happy Dog
We all want our pets to be as happy as possible and for most dogs that means plenty of opportunities for walks. It is important for their happiness that they receive adequate exercise and stimulation to ensure they don’t develop mental health problems.
From stress and anxiety to depression, dogs’ needs are important and we must look after their best interests as much as possible. Developing a positive relationship while taking your dog for a walk not only helps make you feel better inside and out but also has the same effect on your beloved pooch.