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January is Walk Your Dog Month

Jan 21, 2016

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Photo by Kevin Beaty via Flickr

Shedding those extra pounds and improving our health seems to be one of the most common New Year’s resolutions. Well, your dog just might be the motivation you need to help you stick to your resolution. January is Walk Your Dog Month, and what better time to get healthy than walking alongside your canine companion?

Walking not only will get you on your feet, but it also provides physical and mental stimulation for your pet. Plus, it’s fun! 

Benefits of Walking Your Dog

Physical exercise

Just as obesity can cause a multitude of health problems in humans, obesity can also cause health issues in pets. The Association of Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) states that an estimated 54% of dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese. Those extra pounds can cause dogs to have osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, cranial cruciate ligament injury, kidney disease, many forms of cancer, etc. Walking your dog consistently is one of the easiest ways to keep your pet healthy. And if you want more insight into your dog’s fitness progress, there are activity trackers for pets that help you manage your dog’s activity levels, heart rate, calories burned, etc. Contact your primary care veterinarian for more information.

Removes excess energy

Walking your dog every day can also help keep your dog calmer at home. This is especially useful if you are training your dog. Take them for a long walk before training time and they will be more calm and focused during their training session.

Leash training

Walking is the only way to train your dog to walk on a short leash. Walking your dog every day teaches them to walk properly beside you without pulling or dawdling. There are times when you’ll give your dog the time to wonder and sniff to their heart’s content, but leash training your dog will keep you in charge and the ability to control your dog from bolting. Proper leash training will also strengthen the bond between you and your pet, as it requires constant communication during the walk. 

Mental stimulation

Walking your dog introduces your dog to new sights, smells, and sounds. If you find that your dog is timid and insecure, taking them on short walks every day can help improve their confidence as they become more comfortable exploring new surroundings. 

Socialization

Makia_Minich_Visiting_Flickr.pngWalking not only provides mental stimulation, it also teaches your dog important social skills. During a walk, your dog will most likely encounter other animals, people, and children. Encountering new people and fur friends will help build your dog’s confidence. This is especially important for young pups. Dogs that are not walked frequently are more likely to bark and bite due to fear or territorial aggression. If your dog is shy and fearful of others, start training them with short walks in public places that aren’t too crowded. This may help them feel more at ease while getting them used to seeing other people and animals.

Tips for Walking Your Dog

Set a schedule

Make walking a routine for you and your dog. Set a schedule to walk every day for a set amount of minutes. This will help you commit to a time, and your dog will learn to anticipate their walk times.

Get the right harness and/or leash for your dog.

Do you have a small toy breed? A harness might be a safer for your dog over a traditional collar. Or maybe you have large, energetic dog. You might need a thicker collar and leash in order to walk them comfortably and have better control. You can read more about leash and collar options here. If you are confused as to what type of collar, harness, or leash is right for your dog, ask your veterinarian for recommendations.

Cold weather safety

Depending on where you live or your dog’s size, your dog may need a sweater or shoes to protect them from the cold. Some dogs like Chihuahuas, Miniature Pinschers, and Greyhounds have less body fat and fur to protect them from the cold so they may need a sweater to keep them warm. And regardless of size, your dog might need to wear booties if you plan on walking them in cold or snowy weather.

Hot weather safety

Some dogs are able to walk for an hour; others might only be able to walk for 15 minutes. Be aware of your dog’s breed, age, health condition, and body language. Many flat-faced breeds like Pugs, English Bulldogs, and French Bulldogs have trouble breathing and may not be able to walk for long periods of time. If your dog begins to pant and slow down, it’s probably time to stop.

If it’s hot out, place your hand on the ground for ten seconds. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for their paws. Avoid walking on asphalt or cement on sultry days. Or schedule walk times in the morning or evening and avoid the heat altogether.

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Click here to download the full size. 

Take the necessities

Make sure you have the necessary items you need when walking your dog out. This can include treats to reward your dog for good walking behavior, a water bottle to keep both of you hydrated, and let’s not forget, poop bags. Be a responsible pet owner and always clean up after your dog’s waste.

The most important tip: have fun! Walking your dog consistently should strengthen the bond between you and your furry friend. Switch things up and go to new destinations together. We hope you’ll spend not only January, but the rest of 2016 going on many walks and making lots of new memories. Here’s to a healthier year for you and your pet! 



Category: Pet Health Tips