Exercise and maintaining a healthy weight is important for health. In fact, research has shown that a 30-minute walk (and it doesn’t have to be high-energy) three times a week is good for blood pressure, joints, digestive function, and sense of well-being – for you and your dog – By Jenni Davies
Make sure I’m up for it
I’d love to do some exercise – us dogs are built to move and it’s fun for us, but some of us can’t do as much as others. Some dogs have flat faces or shortened ‘windpipes’ which can make breathing difficult; some have very thick fur which makes it not so fun to walk when it’s hot. Oldies and puppies, as well as dogs with health problems like arthritis or diabetes, also can’t do as much as the rest of us.
If I’m not used to doing exercise or you have any doubts, please take me to the vet for a check-up? They will listen to my heart, check my joints, make sure I’m healthy, and help you decide what’s best for me.
Don’t run before we can walk
Once we have the vet’s stamp of approval, we can get going – yippee! But, as exciting as that may be, let’s not overdo it, please? We can start with a stroll around the block or a walk in the park; maybe even just playing ball in the yard. Keep an eye on me to see that I’m doing ok. I will show you if I’m struggling by panting heavily, walking very slowly, dragging my feet, limping, or even refusing to walk.
I love learning and making you happy. So, let’s find a dog club nearby so we can try a basic training class. Learning to walk, sit, heel and more, is super-fun and it will be such a proud moment when we do well – we might even get a certificate.
Some dogs are not well-behaved on lead but this is not their fault; just like human children need to learn how to behave, us dogs do too. If you haven’t trained us, please don’t get cross that we don’t know what to do? By having lessons and positive reinforcement, walks together will be much more pleasant and rewarding.
And, once I have had basic training, there are lots of other things to do, like agility, fly ball, and show-level obedience. Who knows? I may just be a star in the making!
Let’s try something new
We live in such a beautiful country with wonderful places to walk. There are beaches, forests, mountains and more – let’s explore them all! Check first, if dogs are allowed there and, if I’m not as well-behaved as I should be (sorry!), keep me on lead.
Also don’t forget to bring some – ahem – poop bags. For some reason, humans don’t like finding a dog’s business lying around (I, on the other hand, find it fascinating!) so, to avoid making people angry and maybe even banning us dogs from walking in certain places, please clean up after me.
Social media for dogs
As much as you want to get fit, this is my walk too. You see gardens and plants – I see messages everywhere. Please give me a chance to stop and smell the roses (and everything else), find out what’s been going on in the neighbourhood and leave a comment of my own. Imagine you were scrolling through your newsfeed and someone chased you away…
I know it’s tempting to get the walk finished fast but sometimes I’d actually rather stroll and smell, than sprint and rush.
It’s about more than just exercise
Going for walks is good for our health, but it’s also a great time for us to bond. Walking together makes me trust you more and, if we work on training while we’re doing it, my respect for you will grow.
If you can’t take me for walks and have a dog walker instead, please spend time every day hanging out with me. It’s so nice to work at something with you.
Always, always, always make sure I’m on a lead and that I have a tag and microchip. There are many different types of collars and harnesses and what works for one dog may not work for another, so do a bit of research and ask the vet for advice.
Going off-lead is fun and I know I’m well-behaved so you trust me but not all dogs are as good as I am; if a dog should attack me, having me on a lead means you can get me away safely. Also, let’s face it: I’m a dog and sometimes things catch my interest – like a squirrel or a cat – and I can’t contain my excitement and I run off.
Please don’t walk me when it’s really hot. Remember, I’m not wearing shoes and the ground gets really warm – I could even get burn injuries to my paws. I also overheat much faster than you do (imagine going for a walk in midday in summer while wearing a fur coat). Stick to early morning and evening and keep to the shade if you can.
Please remember my friends at the shelter
I’m a lucky dog, because I have you, but not all dogs are as lucky; some dogs live in shelters and don’t have the luxury of someone to walk them. Find out if the animal shelter near you has dog walking and spend a day a week (or more!) taking them for walks. They’ll really appreciate the attention and the exercise.
If you don’t have a dog, then it’s perfect: you get to walk a dog and a shelter dog gets an outing – it’s a win-win situation.