You already know that your dog needs regular exercise, potty breaks and a chance to interact with other people and dogs. But if you're not blessed with a fenced yard where your dogs can relieve themselves and get at least a little run time, getting your pup outside can sometimes be challenging. Whether you're frequently busy with family and work or are an apartment dweller without free access to a yard, it's important to work in walks and exercise time that can help keep your dog physically and mentally happy.
Why Walking Your Dog is So ImportantYou want to do the best thing for your dogs, and regular exercise is vital for their well-being. Why are walks specifically important? Here's why:
- Health. Exercise can help prevent obesity or help your dog shed unwanted pounds. But there's more health benefits to walking besides weight reduction or maintenance. Your dog's cardiovascular system and digestive system will both work better with regular walks; you can improve joint health and reduce the impact of arthritis, too.
- Mental Stimulation. Your dog needs new adventures to stay mentally alert, and walking to new places and seeing new things can help. Walking also improves mental health and reduces unwanted behaviors like chewing or digging, being anxious or hyperactive and whining or unnecessary barking.
- Learning His or Her Place in the Pack. Your dog relies on a social structure that helps him understand his place in the world. Your job is to identify yourself as the pack leader in a way that makes sense to your dog. Walking can help you establish your dominance by the way you hold the leash and where you let your pet walk in relation to you.
- Socialization. Seeing other people and dogs and learning how to appropriately respond to various situations can help your dog become a valuable family member and doggy citizen. Going on walks can present your dog with many learning experiences and help him or her to feel more comfortable in a variety of environments.
How Much Exercise Does My Dog Need?No one wants a pudgy pup, but more than half of the dogs in the U.S. are either overweight or obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Much like with humans, the health risks associated with excess weight are many: diabetes, arthritis, heart and kidney disease and reduced lifespan, to name just a few. What's making our beloved dogs so fat? While overfeeding has a huge impact, the lack of exercise is a big factor. Your dogs likely need more exercise than you're giving them -- but knowing the right amount and making sure your pet gets it can be challenging. If you're looking for a good starting point, begin with walking for 30 minutes. You don't want to completely wear out a dog who has been sedentary for a while, and you want to make exercise fun for you both. You can expand the number of walks or the time that you're out after you become comfortable with your half-hour excursions. Have an active breed? These are usually pets with lots of energy and a genetic background as a working dog. Some of the smartest breeds are the most active, and size doesn't matter. Your poodle may need more exercise than your Great Dane does! Try to look at your 30 minutes of walking as an absolute minimum with these dogs, and work in some play time that gives them hard aerobic exercise as well. You may want to work up to 60-minute walks for exercise and mental stimulation for all but the most sedentary dogs.
How Far Should You Walk Your Dog?For dog owners who like to hike, or at least go on lengthy walks, the question can come up of how far your dog can reasonably walk with you. Here's where age comes in: Dogs who are very young (under 1 year) or older should never be forced to go for more than an hour. The exact distance that translates to can vary depending on how fast you walk and the size of your dog. Dogs are generally fine to go until they are tired -- and most owners can tell if their pets are worn out. Panting, hesitation and slow gait are all signs that your dog may have had enough. Take note of how far you've gone and work up to traveling longer distances before you go so far again.
How Frequently Should Your Dog Go Out?Many variables come into play when determining how often you'll need to go outside for at least a short walk.
- Breed. Some dogs have especially small bladders and will need to go more often.
- Size. Smaller dogs may not need lengthy walks as long as they get a chance to potty and some exercise.
- Diet. Grain-free foods are particularly notable for reducing the amount of waste your pet produces. Some diets may lead to more or less need to eliminate.
- Water. Some dogs drink water like crazy, while others are much less frequent drinkers. The amount that goes in dictates how much will need to come out.
- Age. Puppies who are learning bathroom habits may need to go out a lot. Older dogs also may need to eliminate more frequently.