How important is it to walk your dog?

 

the importance of walking your dog _ walk your dog in AustinWith Forbes Magazine listing Austin, Texas, as fourth on the list of the United States’ most pet-friendly cities, it’s no wonder why so many people here are adopting dogs. In fact, Austin Pets Alive! averages about 400 adoptions every month – and that is just one avenue of adopting a pet.

So if we’re all so dog-crazy, why does Austin Humane Society also estimate that over 50% of pets are overweight?

Maybe it’s for the same reason so many people end up returning their dogs to the shelter after they destroy a $3,000 couch or jump up on their teenager: they’re under-exercised.

The first few weeks

The first few exciting weeks after bringing home a new dog, most of us enthusiastically embark on morning walks and jogs together.

Then one morning we need to run to the bank before work and by the time we get home that evening we’re just too tired. The next day we may have an 8 a.m. conference call or the kids need to be at school 15 minutes early.

Eventually the new dog becomes old news, getting walked once every few days. Sometimes it’s just to the mailbox and back. But she has a big backyard, we figure, so she should be grateful she’s not stuck in that cage back at the shelter, right?

Taking a backseat

While we have the best of intentions, our family pets tend to eventually take the backseat to our busy lives. Then we wonder why they chew on the coffee table legs or piddle on the carpet after they’d already been housetrained. We wonder why they bounce off the walls when they see us and knock down our neighbors at the door.

The good news is that the answer will not only make your dog happier and better behaved, but it will also improve your own physical and mental health.

She needs to be walked!

Every day.

According to Cesar Millan, known to many as The Dog Whisperer, exercise is the first part of your dog’s formula for happiness and it is absolutely the one thing you cannot skip. Ironically, it’s the first thing most dog owners in the United States fail at doing.

Walking is a primal activity and hardwired into the dog’s brain. Just like fish need to swim and birds need to fly, dogs need to walk.

Benefits of taking your dog on long, daily walks:

  1. Curbing bad behavior. Most dogs act out because they need an outlet for their pent-up energy. Walking your dog drains that energy and can significantly calm a hyperactive or energetic dog.
  2. Making training easier. Do you want your dog to listen to you? Exercising your dog makes her calmer and more submissive, and much more likely to focus on you and your training.
  3. Building confidence. Exposing your dog to new people, animals, smells and sights creates a more confident and stable dog … one that you might feel comfortable taking to an outdoor cafe or off-leash park!
  4. For your own health. The Mayo Clinic reports that regular walking lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, manages your weight, reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes and improves your mood.

For those short on time

Try to incorporate daily walks into your routine just like you do with brushing your teeth or making dinner. Replace part of your down time, like watching television, with a brisk walk with your dog instead, or wake up a little earlier each morning.

If you still can’t work it in, hire a dog walker! Some energetic or working breed dogs may even need more than one or two walks a day, so having someone come by in the afternoons to exercise your pet can be a huge relief for both owner and dog.

Most importantly, don’t replace valuable walking time with trips to the dog park or playing fetch. These activities should be reserved as rewards for good behavior. A walk is a walk – and is the best gift you can give your furry best friend.

 


 

For ideas on how to keep your walks interesting, visit five cool places to walk your dog in Austin.

View more training tips

About Kristen West

Kristen started Gusto Dogs in Austin after running a pet sitting and walking business for two years in Sydney, Australia. After discovering that the dogs benefited much more from incorporating enrichment into their daily walks, Kristen decided to make it a part of every Gusto dog walk with the aim to provide a more fulfilling experience for Austin's dogs and their owners.

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