According to multiple studies, walking your dog has many health benefits. Anywhere from 30% to 70% of dog walkers walk their dogs regularly, depending on which study you look at and what factors you monitor. Some say that dog owners can be up to 34% more likely to get the exercise they need. No matter the statistics, there are plenty of dogs (and people) who aren’t getting regular walks in.
I grew up with dogs. When I went off to college, the apartments I lived in didn’t allow dogs, so I got a cat. One cat became two cats, and they lived long lives as indoor cats, accompanying me to a few different moves across states. They were great, but they did little to get me out to walk or exercise regularly. When I found myself without any animals, I knew it was time to go back to my roots and get a dog. One of my goals in finding a canine companion was to look for one that could accompany me when I went out for runs.
I adopted my dog, Magic, about a year and a half ago at the time of this writing (the photo is of her as a puppy, on one of her first walks). Though she is a mix, she is a mix of a few high energy breeds and thus needs her exercise or she gets bored and potentially destructive. So, walks with Magic (that’s right, plural) each day are important. On average, I go for walks with her at least twice a day, sometimes more. Since I spend so much time with her on these walks, here’s what I’ve learned:
- Bonding with your dog – walking together creates a bond. She’s relying on me to get her back home safely and I’m relying on her to keep me safe on the walk. The bond helps build her trust in me, and that in turn helps her mental state to be a calmer dog.
- Walk with a purpose – she likes exploring new places (new smells! New things to look at! New people to meet!) and so it gives me a reason to walk; we go on specific hikes or have a destination in mind each time we walk.
- Daily exercise – walking is good for you, and it is good for your dog. Maintaining a healthy weight is important for both me AND Magic, so when we set out on walks, we’re getting our daily exercise in.
- Socialize – I’ve met so many more people since I’ve gotten a dog. Other dog walkers, other people, neighbors, etc. Magic likes meeting most dogs, and since she can’t talk, it is up to me to talk to other owners and see if we can meet. Not everyone is responsive, and not all dogs have been friendly to her, but this just helps her learn how to interact and get through situations calmly without incident.
Having a dog has been a huge responsibility, and quite a shift from being just a cat owner. Do you have a dog? Do you know someone who does? For me, the benefits of dog ownership outweigh any negatives, for so many reasons, one being the push to get outside and make sure she gets enough exercise. We both benefit. So, if you have a dog or access to a dog, I encourage you to get out and take them for a walk.