One of the most enjoyable parts of our day is getting outside and taking Coral for her at least daily walk. No matter how stressful our day has been, we can’t help but smile as we watch Coral’s joy at being able to stalk and point birds and bunnies, sniff who-knows-what appealing smells on every bush and pole, get her feet and belly wet in the shallow irrigation canal along our walking path, and roll on her back in the newly mowed grass in the park.
Turns out, walking our dogs has all kinds of healthy benefits for both us and our canine companions. If you’re not in a routine already, here are just five really good reasons to walk your dog every day. Before beginning or expanding your walking program, check with your physician and your veterinarian to ensure doing so will not cause harm to either of you.
1. Walking aids in weight loss for both people and dogs. By now we all know that obesity is a big problem in the U.S., with one recent study from the Centers for Disease Control showing that one in four adults is considered obese. This is also a problem for our dogs, with another study concluding that one in three dogs is overweight. A 2005 study found that walking 150 minutes/week was more important for weight loss and heart health than more vigorous intensity exercise.
2. Walking helps you feel good. Numerous studies have found that walking has additional health benefits including boosting our immune systems and improving our moods. So not only can walking improve your physical health, it can also just help you feel better.
3. Walking is good exercise for your dog. You may think “Oh my dog has a big yard – he’s got plenty of room and opportunity to run around.” Despite having big yards, most dogs do not self-exercise. They may engage in brief bursts of activity, such as chasing a squirrel across the fence, but they generally don’t sustain physical activity for 20 or 30 minutes as they would during a walk.
4. Walking is mental enrichment for your dog. Most of us consider our dogs to be smart, yet most dogs don’t have as many opportunities as they should have to engage their brains. Although your walking route may be the same each day, for your dog there are always new sights and smells. Sniffing and processing the information contained in smells and odors engages your dog’s brain. Sniffing is hard work – just talk to the handlers of any dog that does any sort of scent work. The instructor of Coral’s Nose Work class told us to expect her to be quite tired after each class – and she was right!
5. Walking with your dog improves social interactions and attitude. A study of seniors who walked with and without dogs uncovered differences in the types of conversations with people who were encountered during walks. When a dog was not present, conversations tended to be about health problems and past events. With a dog along, talk was more about the dog and present day events. The dog’s presence helped seniors focus on the here and now and have a more positive attitude about their health.
We’d love to hear your comments describing what you enjoy most about walking your dog, so let us hear from you in the comment box.