Walk the Dog!
Treat your canine—and yourself—to daily excursions.
No matter what type of purebred or mixed breed dog you own, chances are he’s not performing the duties he was bred for: herding sheep, chasing vermin into their burrows, tracking large game across open plains.
Modern life offers few chances for dogs to do their intended work, and as any veterinarians or vet assistants can attest, such inactivity can show up in a dog’s waistline. So how can owners provide the exercise and stimulation their dogs need?
The answer is simple: Take your dog for a walk. A good long walk outside won’t do you any harm. Since October began with Walk Your Dog Week, now is a good time to resolve to walk your dog more regularly.
The frequency and duration of these walks depends on many things, such as your dog’s size, breed, health and age. A young Lab or Shepherd mix can handle much longer and more vigorous walks than an elderly Pug. Ask your veterinarian for guidance and pay attention to how tired your dog is getting. In general, a young athletic dog should be walked for 30 minutes to an hour once or twice a day, while a small lapdog can get plenty of exercise from a 20-minute walk. A dog who gets enough exercise is much less likely to exhibit nervous barking and destructive behavior around the house. Walk him at roughly the same time every day if possible.
Choose a secure collar and, if desired, a harness, plus a study nylon or leather leash. Walking in an urban area requires a shorter leash so you can prevent your dog from entangling other pedestrians, while walking in an open area allows you to use a longer leash. A retractable leash can work well for both these scenarios.
Before leaving the house, provide your dog with proper identification. A tag with the dog’s name and your phone number on it plus microchipping in case his collar is lost are the ideal combination.
To make the walk more pleasant for both of you, teach your dog to heal rather than drag you along behind. If your dog persists at pulling on the leash, try using a head halter, which redirects his efforts so he can’t pull you.
Find interesting places for the two of you to walk. Your dog will find plenty of interesting smells and sights in your neighborhood, but once in a while he should get to walk someplace new, such as a park, nature trail, lake or beach. Check first to make sure dogs are allowed at the location you plan to visit. If your destination is a dog park or dog beach, make sure your dog is comfortable around other dogs before venturing out.
Walks are when many dogs relieve themselves, especially if they’re apartment dwellers. Besides marking new and old territories with urine, they’re bound to defecate while on walks. Whether you’re on a mountain trail, on a city street or in your own front yard, pick up your dog’s solid waste and discard it appropriately. Carry some type of baggies with you on every walk.
If the walk will be a long one, bring water for both you and your dog, especially in hot weather. Collapsible bowls, soft foldable bowls, receptacles that clip onto human water bottles and many other types of drinking containers are available at pet supply stores. Bring along a pocket full of your dog’s favorite treats, too, to reward good behavior.
Having a dog and walking him regularly not only gives you both much-needed exercise, it facilitates bonding. Dogs look forward with great anticipation to their walks and to spending time exploring the world with their favorite human.
About the Author: Lisa King is a freelance writer living in Southern California. She is the former managing editor of Pet Product News International, Dogs USA and Natural Dog magazines. Lisa is also the author of the well-received murder mystery novel “Death in a Wine Dark Sea” and the recently released “Vulture au Vin.”