What's one of the best ways to make your dog happy? Get outside and go for a walk together! Not just for 5 minutes or until they go to the bathroom. I'm talking about you and doggo spending some quality time out of the house together.
Ask any reputable veterinarian or trainer if you should walk your dog on a regular basis and every one of them will answer with a resounding YES. There is a darn good reason for that too.
The importance of going for walks goes way beyond just letting dogs relieve themselves. Dogs LOVE soaking up all the smells, sights, and sounds the world outside your house and yard has to offer. Getting out and exploring is equivalent to sensory bliss for a dog - so whatever you do, don't deny them of this wonderful outlet.
Below are just a few of the reasons you should grab that leash and head out the door with your best friend.
The part of a dog's brain that processes smells is a whopping 7 times larger than a human’s brain. Combined with a sense of smell of up to a million times stronger than ours (some breeds even higher), a dog's nose is like the internet to humans. It provides them with endless information. They learn soooooo much about their environment and the world around them just by using their sniffers.
Aside from sniffing up all that life has to offer, the sights and sounds your dog is exposed to on walks adds the icing to the mental stimulation cake. Going for walks, especially in a variety of places, is an excellent way to exercise your dog’s mind and keep them happy.
Mix it up and go somewhere new to break up the same old same old and keep things exciting. Take a different route, go to a new park, explore a new trail, find a stream or lake, take a walk on the beach, whatever it takes. The more places you take your dog, the merrier.
And if the weather isn't cooperating, you can always hop in the car and bring your dog to pet friendly stores. Larger chain stores like Petco, Pet Smart, Lowe's, and Home Depot are filled with cool smells, sights, and sounds. Plus, they provide enough square footage to give your dog a good 30 minutes or more of "indoor" (but outside of your house) exploring if you go up and down each aisle.
If you dream of having an awesome dog that just molds into any situation, and who gets along with other animals and people, proper socialization is a must. The first 12 to 16 weeks of a dog’s life are called the critical socialization period. This is the stage in a dog's life when they are most impressionable. Proper socialization has a profound positive impact on a dog's life (and yours). The earlier you start, the better.
When puppies are born, they begin to learn what's acceptable in the world (and what's not) by interacting with their littermates, parents, and humans. But once they leave their dog families and go to their forever homes, it's up to us to continue their socialization.
Going for walks creates excellent opportunities to do just that. There's a chance to meet dogs of all shapes and sizes, and chances to meet people of every size, shape, gender and race. Every positive experience, every tail wagging moment - helps build your dog’s confidence and social skills.
The principles that keep people healthy and feeling their best are the same for dogs. Just like all humans, all dogs big and small, young and old require regular exercise to stay healthy and fit. The two key ingredients for raising a healthy dog are proper nutrition and exercise - but we'll save the nutrition part for another article. Today is about the exercise side of the equation.
Here's what happens when dogs don't get adequate exercise:
1) Their muscles begin to atrophy.
2) Their tendons and ligaments begin to lose their elasticity.
3) Joints begin to stiffen prematurely.
4) Bones begin to weaken.
5) They often put on weight because they move less.
It's a viscous cycle of events that creates a snowball effect. The less they move, the faster the deterioration process of their muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones and joints takes place. As dogs begin to hurt, they eventually move less and less. Toss weight gain into this situation and it accelerates the process even further because of the additional weight their joints must support.
Now here's what happens when dogs do get an adequate amount of moderate exercise:
1) Their muscles stay strong.
2) Their tendons and ligaments retain their elasticity and strength.
3) Their bones retain their strength.
4) Their joints get lubricated.
5) They're less likely to gain unnecessary weight because their bodies burn more calories (unless of course they're over-fed).
As you can see, neglecting your dog of adequate exercise has zero benefits. Yet providing adequate exercise for your dog results in nothing but positives. The importance of providing your dog with a daily means of exercise can't be stressed enough. Get them moving and keep them moving.
So how much exercise is enough?
Exercise needs are based on a dog’s age, breed, size and overall health. It is generally recommended that your dog engage in 30 minutes to 2 hours of exercise every day. No dog was bred to just mope around the house and yard all day.
Now granted, a dog that's used to bouncing off the walls and chasing balls or frisbees for hours on end isn't going to get much exercise from walking at the pace of a human. But the mental stimulation it provides, social opportunities, and the fact that you and doggo are sharing some quality bonding time together is as equally important as the physical part.
Small dogs with little legs must take way more steps than us to cover the same distance. So, if you walk at a decent pace, small dogs can get great exercise out of a moderate 30-minute walk.
Even older dogs with joint issues benefit greatly from casual 20 to 30-minute walks. Mild exercise pumps fluid into stiff joints which helps make them more limber. With regular casual walks, you'll be pleased to see that your dog's condition improves for the better. Yay for doggo!
Prevent boredom and unwanted behaviors
The phrase "an idol mind is the devil's playground" doesn't just apply to humans. It applies to the dog as well. Any unwanted behavior that your dog exhibits usually stems from boredom and frustration. Unwanted behaviors are a tell-tale sign that your dog is lacking the adequate exercise and mental stimulation he or she needs.
When dogs become bored or frustrated, they'll often find ways to release their tension on their own. Behaviors like excessive chewing, barking, digging, pacing, licking or gnawing on paws, chasing or biting their own tails, irritability - or even worse - listlessness. All of these are a clear indicator that you're not holding up to your end of the "best friend" bargain.
Daily 30 to 60-minute walks can help tremendously with these issues. As a matter of fact, watch how your dog sparks up every time you grab his or her leash. It's like asking a kid if they want to go to the toy store.
Uhh... but I hate walking and exercise.
Unfortunately this isn't about you. This is about the living breathing four-legged responsibility you decided to take on. Dogs rely on humans for pretty much everything. It's our job as owners to provide them with the physical activity and mental stimulation they need to stay healthy and happy.
Think of it like this: The 3 meals a day, cable TV, and soft beds aren't what make prison a punishment. It's being confined to the same house and yard day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year that do. So, don't imprison your dogs - they don't deserve it. Grab a leash and make walking your dog a regular habit.
The bottom line
If you love dogs, love them the way they need to be loved. As stated earlier, getting out and exploring is equivalent to sensory bliss for a dog. It's one of the best things you can do for them mentally and physically. It's not just something they want, it's something they need.
One more thing
Your dog has been waiting all day for this small fraction of time with you. So put your phone away and live in the moment. Praise them and make it a positive experience. Stay engaged with your dog and enjoy the quality time together. Even if it doesn't mean much to you, that 30 to 60 minutes (2 to 4% of your time) means the world to your "best friend".
The Safety Series Pup Scruffs are great for walking your dog. Bright colors and 2 reflective strips keep your dog visible.