Let's go for a walk! Here are four benefits of taking a stroll with your pup

Monday, October 3, 2022

This week is National Walk Your Dog Week! We are feeling the first wave of Florida fall weather, so it’s a great time to get into a daily habit with your pup.

Most dog owners can relate: when you say that magic four-letter word, our dogs light up with excitement and are ready to hit the pavement. Why do they get so jazzed about a jaunt around the neighborhood? Walking is so much more than just exercise for our dogs. Jennifer Johnson of The Good Steward Training Company advised us about just a few of the ways our pups — and us, too! — can benefit from taking a stroll.

1. Physical exercise

Walking our dogs is good for them physically! 

Walks will rarely "tire our dogs out" for the day physically, but they are important for their long-term health! Walks offer low-impact exercise for our dogs, which is important for healthy joints (low-impact activities are especially important for puppies and seniors). 

They serve to maintain healthy hearts and muscles by using them for the purpose they are adapted for. Walks can also help to build muscles, especially those used for jumping and stabilizing because we can use environmental elements like logs and low walls to encourage our dogs to jump up on things.

2. Mental stimulation

Walks are incredibly important for mental health!

A dog's sense of smell is amazing! While humans have about 6 million olfactory receptors in our noses, dogs have around 300 million! The area of their brain devoted to processing smells is forty times larger than the area of the human brain that serves the same task.

What does this tell us? Smelling is SUPER important for a dog's wellbeing.

Smelling is their primary way of interacting with the world around them. What seems like "just a yard" to us may hold massive amounts of information for our dogs to gather and process. And this processing time benefits all of us! Smelling engages a significant portion of a dog's brain, meaning the more they smell the more exercise their brain gets! And this mental exercise is necessary for our dogs to be healthy and fulfilled. Unmet mental needs are one of the leading causes of "problem" behaviors like endless barking, jumping, mouthing, and getting into "trouble" around the house. When their needs are fully met, they can rest and relax.

Smelling on walks can also serve to fulfill social needs. When our dogs read and write their "pee-mail" they are getting to know one another!

3. Exposure to new and different things 

Walking is also essential for emotional well-being!

We've already touched on how walks create healthy bodies and minds - but what about our feelings? Physical, mental, and emotional health are linked together, and when we build up one we help build up or protect the others.

An added benefit of walks is that our dogs are able to take in, process, and become familiar with many elements of the world around them. Remember, our dogs can perceive many sights, sounds, and smells that we can't. When we are able to gradually expose them to these sensations in a safe way, they become desensitized or habituated to these things, meaning all these things become "just part of the norm". This helps our dogs to be confident and to see new things as fun or interesting instead of scary.

4. Relationship-building with your dog

Walking together makes a positive impact on our relationships with our dogs! Instead of looking at it like "I am walking the dog,” shift your perspective to "My dog and I are going on a walk together.” When we take this approach, we can really share in the experience with our pup. We can give them opportunities to choose our route, and through it get to know more about what they find interesting. When they stop to smell, instead of going on our phones we can crouch down and talk to them, encouraging them with questions like "what did you find? Is that interesting?" If we come across a stick we can grab it and entice our pup into some play. And when we come across a challenging situation where they are unsure or where what they feel driven to do isn't something we can allow, we can use positive reinforcement-based training to help navigate as a team. When we take this approach to walking, walks become shared experiences in which we deepen the trust, joy, and bond our animals feel towards us. By engaging on their level and getting to know them through the choices they make, we can celebrate our dogs as individuals. Remember, no one else in the whole world has the opportunity to know your dog the way you do. It's a special gift entrusted to you. 

Thank you, Jennifer!

P.S. Maple, our dog walking photo model, is available for adoption and loves to go on a daily walkie!