Another year, another month, more National Pet Days. Today’s special day is National Walk Your Pet Day and given that so many people have losing weight or another health-related goal as a new year’s resolution it’s not at all surprising.

If you’re like my dog Coconut, walking your dog is about so much more than just “potty breaks.” When Coconut and I walk we both get much-needed exercise but we also have socialization opportunities, mental stimulation, and the chance to bond and to have fun together. It’s also a chance for continued behavioral training on such things as come when called, dropping things he picks up from fallen trash, not pulling the leash, and more.

If you’re like me all you have to do is to reach for the leash or put on a coat and he knows it is time to go for a walk, walk, walk. That’s what I call it and there might music involved. Coconut loves routines and he wants to know his surroundings and make new friends. The mental stimulation he gets while on our multiple walks helps him to become comfortable with the people and sights and sounds and smells. The cool thing is that the more we walk the more we vary the locations the less bored he is and when he’s not bored he’s not destructive. Sounds like human children, right?

Walking to Health

When we first took our dog to the vet we knew he was terribly underweight but had no idea of if were even feeding him the right food not mention the correct amount. We had no idea of how much exercise he should be getting, a goal weight, or how to get him started learning about how to live in our home. We booked a six-week behavior class but there was a gap in time and we wanted to start immediately. The vet told us Coconut was about ten pounds underweight and together we set a weight range and off we went. Two years later Coconut is solidly in the middle of those two numbers and I know the main reason is that we are vigilant about the food and snacks he gets along with the number of walks and exercise opportunities. I learned early on that a “tired dog is a good dog” and walks are one way to get him the exercise he craves.

Socialization

There are dogs who love to be around other dogs, dogs who adore people, and dogs who would prefer being alone or just with you and your family. My dog loves all dogs, except big dogs who bark, and all people. The highlight of our walk is when he meets people and dogs and can interact with them. Unlike my kids who balked at standing at the supermarket long after our shopping had been done because I was talking to friends Coconut is never happier than when hanging around people. We’ve lived here for two years and having Coconut has helped me to meet our neighbors and I know it’s improved my quality of life because he is an easy entrée into our ever-changing community.

Training

People in my neighborhood sure seem to eat a lot of chicken and bread because I’m constantly saying, “Drop it,” and he’s getting better and better at those commands. Our walks are also wonderful training opportunities to help him to not jump on people in his excitement and to “sit” and “wait” until some of our new friends are ready to feed him a treat. Doing training while we walk is fun and a wonderful learning opportunity.

How Much?

The rule of thumb is that both you and your dog need at least thirty minutes of exercise each day but depending on your dog’s age, breed, size, and overall health, that might not be enough. Younger dogs and dogs bred for sports or herding activities may need much more. We add at least two days of daycare at NEW PAWSibilities into the mix as well as trail walks and, when they are open, dog parks. Most dogs don’t self-entertain so it’s up to you create those opportunities.

If you’re at work all day NEW PAWSibilities has a great doggy daycare you might like to try. Instead of sitting on the sofa or in the kennel all day your dog can make new friends and play as long as desired. You might also consider hiring a dog walker or asking a friend to come and exercise your dog when you are out.

Whether you walk your dog on your own, hire someone, or use a daycare you and your dog will be happier and healthier if you walk every day.