Walking your dog is not just a fun activity for you and your precious pups. Taking your dogs for a walk is an important ritual for both your dog’s health and mental stability. The reason dogs need to walk in order to be mentally and physically healthy lies in their instincts. Pack animals, such as dogs, need to walk in the same way that birds need to fly and fish need to swim. It is a core part of their survival instincts.
January is National Walk Your Pet Month. So, along with your New Year’s resolutions, now is the best time as any to get into the habit of walking Fido every day the right way.
5 Healthy Habits to Try When Walking Your Dogs
Get Into the Habit of Walking Every Day
Whether you walk your pup or divide the responsibility amongst your family, get into the habit of walking every day. Having an ample amount of backyard time is not enough. For most dogs, a backyard is like a fish tank. There is room to run around but walking a substantial distance is like a fish swimming in the open ocean. Now walking (or any outdoor exercise) may be a tough habit to form in the thick of winter but cold weather is no excuse! These tips for getting you and your canine family exercising in the winter will help you stick with it.
Mix it up! Try New Routes and Dog-Friendly Destinations
To keep things fun for you and your pup, mix up your walking routine. Try taking your dogs on new walking routes and to new places. He’ll love experiencing the different sights, smells and sounds at a fresh location. Additionally, change up your routine by walking to places that are enjoyable for your pup. Ending your walks at the beach, the local dog park, or a friend’s house with other dogs to play with, keeps daily walks from becoming monotonous.
Train Your Dog to Walk the Right Way
Just as dogs need to walk in order to thrive, they also need to walk properly in order to promote positive behavior patterns. What does this mean? Always remember that you are the pack leader, and this is especially important on dog walks. First and foremost, always walk in front of your dog. When a human allows a dog to walk in front, they are sending signals to the dog that he is leading the human, which can lead to behavior issues. Instinct tells your dog that the leader of the pack walks first and you being the “pack leader” is best for your pets.
Use a Short Leash on Your Dog Walks
A short dog leash has many benefits. Most notably they promote proper walking behavior in dogs and act as a tool for training. In addition, a short walk leash is especially important for walks on roads where there may be cars, a lot of road traffic, and other hazards. Not only will a short leash keep your pups safe but it will give you the right amount of control should they impulsively run after a car or nearby animals.
Set Aside Enough Time to Walk Every Day
The amount of time spent walking your dog every day varies by breed. Sporting and working breeds will need more than smaller and toy breed dogs. As a rule of thumb, aim for 30 minutes a day, either at once in the morning or broken up throughout your day. Younger pups and extremely active breeds will need even more time, but 30 minutes is a good place to start.
Remember, habits are not formed overnight. The key is to stick with it (and don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss here and there). Over time, it will become second nature. Start today with the right walking habits and you and your four-legged family members will both reap the rewards of sound minds and strong bodies.