Did you know January is “National Walk Your Pet Month?” (No really, it is.)
Around this time every year we’re all staring down the barrel of our resolutions, but what would your dog wish for if he could set his own goals? Our guess: More walks, since active dogs are happier, healthier, and better behaved.
Want to get out there more but just can’t seem to make it happen? Here are 5 concrete suggestions for making walks a more regular part of your routine.
1. Learn the Right Way to Walk
Um…I already know how to walk?? you’re saying right now. And of course you do! But believe it or not there’s a right way and a wrong way to walk your dog. If you’re doing it improperly, you may inadvertently making the whole experience less pleasurable for both of you. The more you like walking your dog, the more you’ll make a point to do it.
Leash training is a simple process but requires consistency. Once you teach your dog how to “loose leash” walk beside you, all that annoying pulling will be history. If you have somewhere safe you can practice with your dog off-leash as you learn, the process will go even smoother.
2. Know Your Different Walk Types
Dogs need to walk for four distinct reasons: elimination, exercise, stimulation, and training. It’s important to remember (and easy to forget!) that every walk doesn’t have to satisfy all these reasons. In fact, setting up a routine where walks are purposeful can help you stick with it.
Elimination walks? These are usually short and to the point, and that’s okay as long as they’re not the only walks your dog gets! Stimulation walks are for your dog’s benefit – go at his pace and stop to let him smell the roses. Exercise walks are usually long, tiring, and good for both you and your dog…aim to do one of these a day if possible. And training walks? Those can happen when you need them to. Ideally all walks will incorporate the training principles you and your dog have worked on.
3. Set Your Alarm
No one likes rolling out of bed to walk their dog. But a morning walk is important for your pup, particularly if you’re gone most of the day. Setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier with the express purpose of taking your dog on a walk (or a longer walk) helps you set a healthful routine.
It helps to make these morning jaunts something to look forward to. Is there a coffee shop you can walk by to get your fix every day? Or maybe you use the time to listen to podcasts or chat with a friend in a different timezone? Time is a precious commodity for all of us but time spent being physically active is never time wasted.
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4. Create a Shared Goal
Odds are, your dog is getting fat. It happens. Walking is the absolute best way to help manage your dog’s weight which can ultimately extend his life by years. Slow and steady is the way to build up a walking routine for a dog who’s become largely sedentary.
Walking your dog more can help you hit your own fitness goals, too. Set yourself a milestone for steps you want to take in a day, or even miles to walk in a week. Once you’ve met that goal, set another. Gamifying walks is an excellent way to make them something you enjoy, not something you dread.
5. Hire a Dog Walker
No one said you have to be the one to walk your dog every time! If you simply can’t dedicate any more of your schedule to walking your dog than you already do, stop feeling guilty and bite the bullet. Dog walkers are less expensive than you think and they’re a simple way to get your dog much-needed exercise and mental stimulation.
Forming a bond with a dog walker is actually a really positive thing for a dog. The right walker can help your dog become less anxious or even more social if the walks are communal. And don’t think of dog walkers as all-or-nothing propositions. Having a walker come two days a week is better than none at all.