Walking has many benefits, both physical and mental, for dogs and humans alike. The physical perks to be gained from walking are numerous; cardiovascular health, weight loss, muscle power, bone strength and endurance, as well as helping to reduce the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes and other health problems. Walking is also fantastic for mental health, and has been shown to boost mood, improve sleep quality and reduce stress. Those suffering from depression, anxiety or other mental health issues have reported walking to significantly improve their mental wellbeing, as well as their physical fitness. So, with National Walking Month 2019 taking place in May this year, what better time to lace up your trainers and head outdoors? And who better to do it with than your canine companion? James Wellbeloved looks at different types of dog walk you can enjoy with your dog…
DOG WALKING: BEGINNER
If you’re a new dog owner, you may not know where to start when it comes to dog walking. If you’re after advice, these five handy tips will help you to start your dog walking journey. If you have a puppy, you’ll need to start off slowly. Puppies, being smaller and weaker than adult dogs, naturally need less exercise each day and tire more easily. Over-exercising your puppy may also cause them health problems in later life. You should take your puppy for two small walks per day to start off with, gradually increasing the length and duration of each walk as they get older. For more information on puppy exercise, these tips will help. A good base to start dog walking is a local park. If your dog is unaccustomed to walking, or nervous around other dogs, a quieter park would be best, with fewer dogs and people. You may want to consider rivers or lakes as well – can your dog swim? Although most dogs can ‘doggy-paddle’, some dogs may not enjoy swimming, and certain breeds find it harder to stay afloat than others. If you have a dog who isn’t a fan of the water, choose a walk that sticks to dry land.
DOG WALKING: INTERMEDIATE
More varied and interesting types of dog walk could include forests, lakes or even the beach. If you’re lucky enough to live near one of these more interesting locales, why not jump in the car and head to the coast for the sea breeze and a sandy trail? If you decide to take your dog to the beach, first check that it’s a dog-friendly beach, as beach restrictions may apply, especially at certain times of the year. It can be extremely entertaining to watch a dog’s first time at the beach, especially as many of them will not know that sea water is salty! There will be plenty of new smells and sights for your dog to explore. Just remember to always clean up after your dog – and if your dog wants to swim in the sea, check for dangerous currents beforehand. After your dog is out of the water, take care to wash the salty water off, as it may irritate their skin or cause illness if ingested when licking their coat. If you’d like to take your dog to an outdoor space more exciting than the park, set off into the countryside to follow a walking trail. Many pubs have cottoned onto the fact that we love taking our dogs wherever we go, so are now dog-friendly, and may even offer your pup a few snacks or a drink while you enjoy your own meal. For inspiration, why not look at the National Trust, which has some beautiful riverside walks and dog-friendly green spaces that you can both enjoy.
DOG WALKING: EXPERT
If you’re a true dog walking expert, you may want to consider some more adventurous options when it comes to taking your dog for a stroll. As we all know, dogs love the outdoors, and the chance to join their beloved owners on a fun-packed adventure is too good to be true! Therefore, it’s no surprise that some dog owners decide to take their pet on adventure holidays with them; including hiking and camping. If you plan to take your dog on a hiking or camping trip, you must make sure that they are properly trained and will listen to your instructions. Always have a lead on-hand in case. You must also ensure your dog is up-to-date with all their injections. If you are hiking for long distances, you will need to bring certain items for your dog, including food and water, bowls, a first aid kit and disposable bags to put your dog’s waste in. Water is particularly important, especially if the weather will be hot- you should also give your dog plenty of opportunities to rest – choose shady spots to do this on hot days. It’s important to remember that some dogs may not suit long trips or intense walks, particularly smaller breeds or breeds which may be predisposed to joint or breathing issues. If you are unsure whether to take your dog away with you, always check with a vet first.
BENEFITS OF DOG WALKING
Regular exercise is beneficial for both you and your dog. Due to their energetic and inquisitive nature, dogs make great motivational partners and can make walks more fun. Most dogs need at least one proper walk per day, and particularly active breeds or larger breeds may need more. A rough guide to a proper walk is a half-hour run off-lead – which is much more exercise than a half-hour walk on the lead. Off-lead walks are also more mentally stimulating for your dog. Dogs who aren’t walked regularly may risk health issues such as obesity, which can lead to more serious problems if left untreated. If dogs are not mentally and physically stimulated, they can become bored, which may lead to destructive behaviour around the house. Dog walking is also a fantastic opportunity to meet other dog walkers and socialise more. If you own a dog, why not get together with a group of friends and do a group walk? It’s a great chance for both you and your dog to enjoy some fresh air while also socialising with friends.