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We’ve all heard about the importance of walking your dog. According to certified dog trainer Nicole Ellis, it’s one of the most important things a dog owner can do for their pet. Walking is a big piece of the puzzle for a dog’s health, along with regular checkups at the vet, a wholesome diet, and the proper medication to treat illnesses. But just WHY are daily walks so vital?
Read on for the unique benefits of walking your dog, plus Nicole’s tips for addressing bad behavior on leash.
“If there is one thing I can recommend each pet owner do, it’s go for a walk and spend time with your dog. – Nicole Ellis
Nicole belongs to Rover’s Dog People panel of professional trainers, veterinarians, and dog lifestyle experts.
Dog walking is more than just exercise
- Dog walking provides sensory stimulation. It gets the eyes, ears and nose activated and working, prevents boredom, and teaches your pup how to be a well-behaved canine citizen. A backyard does not provide enough sensory stimulation.
- Walks are a great time to work on training. It’s a perfect time to work on sit, stays, come, and heeling at different speeds.
- Exercise helps the digestive tract keep moving. Walking before bedtime helps dogs relieve everything from their system. As their muscles and body move, the stomach muscles start working to pass along food.
- Walking helps keep the weight off. A fitter, healthier dog has less stress on their heart and joints than an overweight dog. Regular walks help keep your pet feeling like a puppy long past those puppy years.
- Walking is a great bonding and trust activity, especially when it becomes a daily routine. Want to be your dog’s favorite person in the house? Start going on walks together.
- Regular walks help prevent bad behavior. A lot of naughty habits, from chewing to digging, are a result of boredom. Going on walks and getting your dog’s energy out will curb these issues. Caveat: some dogs do require medication for behavior issues, so it’s a good idea to check with your vet or a canine behaviorist if your dog continues to have troubles despite regular exercise.
- Walking is good for human health, too!
What about bad behavior on leash?
With patience and rewards, you can teach your pup to walk around the neighborhood like a natural. When you start, it’s fine to practice around the house or in the yard before venturing out to the sidewalk and all of its distractions.
- Be prepared with the right leash (and poop bags!) A shorter leash like this one, from 4 – 6 ft., is less likely to tangle and is easier to manage.
- Choose a side you for your dog to walk on. Once he has mastered it, you can begin to try the other side.
- Keep your dog at your side in a heel position. This helps in case of unpredictable elements like a loose dog, a child running over, a car backing out, and more.
- At first, reward your dog for sitting next to you. Then take one small step forward and ask for a sit. Be patient and reward when your pup does it correctly, and then slowly add on more and more steps.
- If your pup is pulling, try turning around and switching directions. Your dog will learn that pulling isn’t getting him where he wants to go.
- Perhaps even more important than the heel position is the ability to loose-leash walk. See this article for a full guide to loose-leash walking.
Harnesses to help with pulling
Some types of dog harnesses help prevent pulling, too. Nicole recommends one with a clip in the front, but not one that restricts a dog’s movement and shoulders.
The bottom line
Dog walks are vital for your pet’s quality of life and long-term health.
Nicole says, “exercise makes a big impact on a dog’s health. My dog Maggie is 9 years old. Walking and spending time together has always been a key part of our time, and she still hikes miles with me happily.”
Need help getting your dog enough exercise? Rover makes it easy to find and book a great dog walker (in some areas, even on demand!)
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional veterinary help.