As soon as you first look at the leash, your dog has your attention. You stand up to walk toward the door, and his tail starts to wag.
You ask “Do you want to go for a walk?” and your dog starts jumping for joy!
Many of our dogs love nothing more than to explore the world on a daily walk.
It’s a great activity to get them physically active and mentally stimulated, in ways that backyard time alone can’t do. Daily walks can help increase their flexibility, strengthen muscles, reduce the risk of obesity and other health problems, and regulate bowel movements.
How Much Walking do Dogs Need?
There is no hard and fast rule for how many minutes of activity dogs should have per day — this will vary based on your dog’s breed and age. Generally, this number should be between 30 minutes and 2 hours, with toy breeds coming in on the lower end and large breeds such as retrievers and shepherds needing multiple hours.
In case a long outdoor exercise is not an option for you, we have some great suggestions for indoor dog exercise.
But did you know that walking your dog can offer health benefits for you too? Read on to learn four of the ways that taking your dog for regular walks can benefit your overall health and well-being.
Strong Muscles And Bones
One of the biggest benefits of dog walking is strengthening muscles and bones (of both you and your dog), and which can lead to long, happy lives for both of you!
Walking is a fantastic low-impact activity that is excellent for joint strength as well.
You do have to make sure to train your dog to walk on a leash. If they are tugging and dragging you every which way along the sidewalk, they can not only hurt themselves, but put a strain on your arm that’s holding the leash.
Teach your dog to walk politely by your side (“loose leash”) by starting in a low-distraction environment, such as a quiet room of the house. When your dog starts to pull, stop in place, and in a cheerful tone, say “no pull!” When your dog releases the tension in the leash, reward with verbal praise and a treat.
Take a few steps forward, and if your dog follows without pulling on the leash, reward them!
Help You Get Your Sleep
You might have noticed your dog lay down for a nap soon after coming home from a walk or playtime. This is because exercise is tiring—for them, but for us, too!
Although adult humans don’t need as much sleep as dogs (we require 7-8 hours, compared to their 12-14), studies have shown that daily exercise can lead to better sleep at night.
When your body is tired, even after some light to moderate aerobic exercise, you will have an easier time falling asleep, and sleep more restfully.
A minimum of 30 minutes of activity is necessary to achieve this benefit.
For some individuals, exercising late at night can actually interfere with sleep. Luckily, including your dog in your exercise routine will make it easier to contain your walks to daytime hours.
A Healthy Heart
Another benefit of walking your dog daily is improving your cardiovascular health, meaning the health of your heart and blood vessels.
Just like exercise will help strengthen the other muscles in your body, it will also strengthen your heart muscle, helping it become more efficient at pumping blood throughout the rest of your body. Improved blood flow reduces clots, which can lead to heart attacks.
More good news: your daily exercise doesn’t need to consist of training for a marathon in order to reap this health benefit. In fact, walking with your dog might even be better in some cases, because their infectious enthusiasm and eagerness to get outside will likely help you stick with the routine.
Keeping your heart healthy with regular aerobic exercise will aid in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease, stroke, and heart failure.
Tighten Your Waistline
Your pooch would probably love to walk multiple times a day, and if you have the time, you can certainly indulge them! But starting off by walking in the morning is a great idea if weight loss is one of your goals.
Studies have shown that exercise in the morning can lead one to make healthier choices throughout the day in other aspects of life, such as choosing fresh fruit and eggs at breakfast instead of pancakes and bacon.
Exercising with your dog will help keep you more motivated than if you were doing the same activity on your own. Once you start to get into a routine, they will be so excited for their daily stroll that they won’t let you get on with your day until you get moving!
Walking your dog is not only great for your health — it will benefit you too, by strengthening your muscles (including your heart) and helping with sleep and weight loss.
If these benefits sound great to you, but you don’t want a dog that will trigger your or a family member’s allergies, consider getting a hypoallergenic breed!
These dogs produce minimal dander, so you’ll be able to achieve your health goals together without worrying about sneezing and itchy eyes.
What is your favorite benefit of walking your dog?
John Woods is the Founder of All Things Dogs, a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, and has been a dog lover since he was 13 years old.