Why Dogs Need Walks
Dogs need regular walks in addition to being let out in the yard for a number of reasons. Walks not only provide dogs with necessary exercise and help keep their joints healthy but give them mental and social stimulation as well.
Many Americans have fenced yards and some mistakenly believe it’s sufficient to let their dogs out in the yard. Dogs need regular exercise and aren’t likely to get enough in the yard by themselves since dogs don’t normally self-entertain. “It’s a rare dog that exercises on his own,” said Karen Becker, DVM, in the newsletter Healthy Pets, “and your backyard doesn’t provide the variety of sensory stimulation most dogs need to ward off boredom.” Becker says that dogs gain knowledge of the world through their noses, so allowing them to sniff around and investigate while on walks is good for them mentally.
According to Cesar Millan, walking your dogs is the single most important thing you can do to keep them balanced.
The Judd family in East Asheville recognizes this. They adopted their Labrador Retriever, Oreo, when she was a puppy. Oreo has always been very energetic, and as a result, the family takes turns walking Oreo several times a day. In addition to long walks, the Judds take Oreo to a dog park frequently and set up play dates with neighbors’ dogs. “She’s a big dog and she is very vocal about when she needs exercise and attention,” says Ginny Judd. Oreo is 4 years old now and the Judds still take her for long walks a couple of times a day.
Glenn Iannicelli of South Asheville also understands how important it is for his dog Sammy, a 7-year-old Chihuahua mix, to get walks every day. When Iannicelli had knee surgery, he had me take Sammy for two long walks a day while he was recovering from surgery and couldn’t walk Sammy. Sammy was used to walking a certain route, and continuing his walks on the same route was helpful while Iannicelli recovered. “It’s important that he can have his daily routine, and it would stress him if he couldn’t get the walks he’s used to, “Iannicelli says. “The walks help keep him alert and mentally aware too.”
Going for walks is relaxing for dogs and helps relieve them of excess energy. “If you have a dog that’s always racing around the house or chewing up your favorite shoes, you have a dog that’s telling you she hasn’t had enough exercise,” Millan says.
Dogs are natural athletes and require consistent exercise. Regardless of your dogs’ size, breed, gender or age, they need physical activity in order to be stable, healthy animals, according to Dr. Becker. Exercise helps keep dogs’ frames strong, helps them stay fit and at a healthy weight, and can ward off arthritis and other degenerative joint issues.
How many walks your dog needs and for how long will depend, in part, on factors such as breed, age, health, and temperament, but according to an article in Forbes magazine, “the consensus among behaviorists and veterinarians is that one hour a day of exercise is required to keep your four-legged friend fit.” But, the Animal Foundation says that some dogs bred for sports or herding activities may need much more.
If your dog is getting into things or chewing items in the house, antagonizing your other pets or pestering you for attention, digging holes in the backyard, or he or she seems depressed, it’s probably time to take the dog for more walks and/or longer walks. If you don’t have the time or energy to walk to your dog daily, which is understandable with a busy schedule and everything you may be juggling, I’m happy to walk your dog for you and/or take him or her to a dog park or on a hike. My visits are usually 30 minutes, which includes a 20- to 25-minute walk, but I can do hour-long visits as well. Your dog’s well-being is dependent on getting enough exercise and getting out of their own yard to sniff and explore. And dogs that do are generally happier, healthier and better behaved.