If you’re a new pet parent, you may not realize just how beneficial regular walks can be for your dog. Being outside and moving their bodies are biological needs for your pet, just as they are for people. Not only do regular walks improve your dog’s physical health, but the mental and behavioral health benefits are substantial too.
There are many other health benefits as well, and these include benefits for you! We’ll give you some pro-tips from the ASPCA and tell you how to reach us for more info about the importance of regular dog walking.
Mental Health Benefits
There are many mental health and emotional health benefits of getting outdoors, moving our bodies, and exploring the neighborhood. The first important benefit is socialization. Dogs need to socialize with other dogs and people in the community. This helps them communicate information about themselves, learn information about others, and have a healthy boost of feel-good neurochemicals that promote good mental and emotional health. Dogs, like humans, are a social species and thrive on interaction within their own social hierarchies.
Even if you don’t pass other dogs on your walk, your dog is still learning about them. Remember that dogs also interact with the world through sound and scent. Your puppy pal is listening to sounds, sniffing scents, and gathering information wherever you go. This can help make dogs more familiar with one another when they do cross paths.
Socializing with other people is important too. Your best friend cares about you and your role in his social hierarchy too. Interpreting interactions like body language, voice pitch and tone, and whether they get a pat on the head from a passing neighbor will help them to be better socialized among strangers. Watching you interact with other people will give your dog important social information, too.
Mental Health Benefits Compound Over Time
Exploring nature is a mood booster! Your furry friend loves not only to gather intel in the neighborhood but to breathe fresh air, feel the breeze on his fur and the grass on his feet, and just be present in the experience of the outdoors. Being outside with the ability to explore helps promote a positive attitude and calmness among dogs, similar to how it affects humans.
Daily dog walking and daily exercise have the potential to compound these benefits over time. Having a regular schedule that allows your dog to rely on that important outdoor time is crucial for expending excess energy, relieving stress and anxiety in pets. This is important because excess energy, stress, and anxiety can manifest as behavioral changes that you might not love. They include pacing, panting, whining, and even destructive behavior like chewing or changes in bathroom behaviors.
Physical Health Benefits
There are just as many physical health benefits as mental health benefits for regularly walked dogs and their parents. This list is by no means exhaustive, and we encourage you to research the many benefits of regular and consistent dog walking as a form of exercise. Your dog’s physiological and biological processes overwhelmingly benefit from walking, especially if you incorporate long walks. Each of the independent system benefits is overlapping, which means your dog’s overall health will benefit exponentially as individual system health improves.
One important benefit is in your dog’s overall cardiovascular and heart health. Exercise like walking can help your dog’s heart and lungs build strength and resilience. It can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, all factors which affect heart health. Frequent walks and other physical activities help your dog’s cardiovascular system become more efficient at removing cholesterol, transporting metabolized energy from food, and providing oxygen to working muscles. This is especially true of long walks and other extended aerobic exercise.
Just like human bodies, our dogs’ bodies work to maintain homeostasis at whatever activity level we demand of it. If your four-legged friend is often sedentary, that means his joints are typically less lubricated and less prepared for spontaneous movement and physical exercise, like running and jumping. Regular walks help your dog maintain joint health and protect the joints during more rigorous play.
The Importance of Healthy Muscle Tone and Weight
Regular walks also help build and maintain muscle mass throughout your dog’s body. Healthy amounts of muscle help your dog maintain proper health, including better cardiovascular health and digestion. They also help your dog maintain a healthy body fat percentage.
Healthy body fat percentage is just as important in animal health as it is in human health. We emphasize the importance of a healthy weight because being overweight or obese can greatly increase your dog’s chances of heart disease, high blood pressure, breathing problems, liver disease, joint problems, digestive issues, diabetes, some cancers, and other conditions. There
Added Physical Benefits For Puppies
For puppies, the importance is more on building strong bones than maintaining joint health. Puppies, like human children, build bone density through diet and exercise during their early growth periods. Factors like a properly balanced diet and high-impact exercise like running and jumping are crucial for your pup’s skeletal and joint health throughout life. Don’t skip the walks during puppyhood!
Daily Walks Benefit Dog Parents Too
There are so many other benefits to regular walks for your dog, and most of them are the same for pet parents. Here are a few of the bonus benefits of regular exercise with your furry friend:
- Build your relationship with your pet, and increase your pet’s quality of life.
- Get the opportunity to be outside, away from devices, present in the moment.
- Take advantage of a training opportunity and practice behavioral training when your pet is relaxed and might be most receptive to it.
- Opportunities to study your pet, see your neighborhood, meet other dog parents and build community.
Pro Tips From the ASPCA
The ASPCA offers a few pro-walking tips for walking your dog:
- Keep your dog on a leash in new areas or areas with a lot of human or animal action. Overexcitement can lead to anxiety or impulsivity in some dogs, so it’s important to keep them leashed for their safety. It is also impossible to predict the behavior of other pets, people, and drivers or cyclists in densely populated public spaces.
- Always have proper identification for your pet. Public policy regarding pet companionship and how strays and runaways are managed in animal shelters changes from place to place. Collar tags are important to protect you from a potential citation and to help you reunite with your pet in the event of separation.
- Avoid walking in extreme weather conditions. Remember that not only is your pet more exposed to the elements (no sunglasses, shoes, sun visors, etc.), they’re also wearing a fur coat. If they’re overweight, extreme weather can be even more of a challenge for them. Extreme weather conditions include excessive heat or sun, heavy rain, snow, other precipitation, low temperatures, and poor air quality days, among other harsh conditions.
- Make sure you have a plastic or environmentally degradable bag for cleaning up after your pet. Nobody loves the pet parent who leaves poop on their lawn*
- Don’t forget to bring some fresh water for your pet on long walks. You might also need a bowl or some other receptacle for your dog’s water if they’re unable or unwilling to drink from a bottle while you pour. (You can test this before your walk if you have a garden hose.)
*Hate picking up what your pet leaves behind? Let one of our kindhearted caregivers take over from here.
Ask Us Your Dog Walking Questions
Little Friends Pet Sitting is a pet care service provider that deeply understands the importance of your dog’s walk schedule. We are best-practice experts when it comes to your pet’s needs, even as weather patterns change and some of us return to in-person work schedules. You can check out our other blog posts with hot topics that’ll help you become the best pet parent you can be.
If you have more questions about why regular walks are so important for your dog’s health, please feel free to get in touch with us. We’re happy to answer any of your dog walking or pet sitting questions any time. If you’re ready to enroll your fluffy buddy into a regular walking schedule with one of our professionals, you can read more about those services here. If you’re ready to create an account, you can browse pricing and schedules, and we’ll match you with one of our informed and compassionate dog walkers today.
It’s possible your dog is not getting nearly as much exercise as they need for healthy mental, physical, and behavioral health. Without regular walking, it’s almost certain that they’re not. Too little exercise and sensory stimulation can lead to concerning health issues later in life.
Fortunately, regular walks are easy, free, and a very healthy habit for you, too. There are also many fringe benefits to regular walks with your dog, including strengthening your bond with them.
Our latest blog explains some of the many health benefits of regular walks for your pup, and a few for you too! Check it out to learn more about your furry canine friend, and how to get in touch with us if you have more pet-walking questions.