The Importance of Walking Your Dog

Walking your buddy is so much more than just a way of exercising him. It stops him from getting bored, it's a behavior training opportunity and it teaches him how to behave in canine company. On top of all this, it gets you out and about.

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Exercise and Health

A sedentary pooch can quickly become an overweight one, and that brings a bevy of potential health problems with it. He also needs an outlet for pent-up energy, especially if he's a lively pooch. Young dogs need around an hour of daily exercise, but some dogs bred for sports or herding activities may need much more. You'll benefit from having a well-exercised dog because a tired dog is better behaved according to experts at Montgomery County Humane Society.

Walking isn't the only form of exercise you can give him if you have a yard he can play in. But don't expect your dog to create his own exercise routine just because you've put him outside. Dogs don't self-entertain, so if you want him to tire himself out, play catch or fetch with him. If you're at work all day, consider getting an exercise buddy to take your pet out during the day. He'll be glad of the company and you'll have a happier dog greeting you when you get home.

Training

Walking your dog is a training opportunity. He needs to learn how to walk on a leash for a start. Dragging you along behind him is not an option, but if you don't assert yourself, he's more than likely to do just that. Walks provide the perfect opportunity to reinforce commands such as "heel," "sit," "stay," and "come" in an area outside your home. This teaches him how to focus on following your commands and ignore distractions from unpredictable external stimuli. Be sure to bring plenty of treats as rewards!

Socialization

While you're out walking, your pooch is most likely going to meet other dogs. This enables him to learn acceptable ways of socially interacting with other pooches. It also builds his confidence so that when he meets new canine chums he isn't afraid. If he does show fear, taking him to a puppy training class is a great way of removing that anxiety. Animal behavior experts Daniel Estep and Suzanne Hetts say that a well-socialized puppy still likes a bit of rough and tumble play with other dogs while he's out for a walk, but he'll know when to stop and come away without any battle scars. You can also teach him that jumping on humans to greet them isn't acceptable either by getting him to sit when a person wants to say hello to him.

If you have multiple dogs, walking them together allows them to figure out their pack's social hierarchy, which leads to a more harmonious home life.

Exploration

Like a child, your puppy wants to know the world. If he's confined to the house for too long, he'll get bored, and boredom leads to destructive behavior. A wild animal learns about his environment through his mother and other members of his clan. A domesticated animal only has that opportunity for a few weeks while he's with his mum and siblings. So, he's dependent on you to take him out so he can explore the smells, sights and sounds of his world, and the ASPCA recommends varying the places you take him to when possible. If you're a new dog owner you'll probably notice how busy your dog gets when he's walking; every nook, cranny and street light is an opportunity for discovery.

By Eleanor McKenzie


References:

Montgomery County Humane Society: The Importance of Exercising Your Dog
Delta Community Animal Shelter: The Importance of Walking Your Dog
ASPCA: Dog Walking 101
PAW: Socializing Adult Dogs

About the Author
Based in London, Eleanor McKenzie has been writing lifestyle-related books and articles since 1998. Her articles have appeared in the "Palm Beach Times" and she is the author of numerous books published by Hamlyn U.K., including "Healing Reiki" and "Pilates System." She holds a Master of Arts in informational studies from London University.