We all know that one of the main obligations of having a dog is walking them. That being said, although the reasons behind it are the same for all dogs, dogs benefit from a tailored routine, specific to their needs.
We’ll help your dog get the most out of walking with this article!
Why is walking my dog important?
Helps them to maintain a healthy weight - getting their blood flowing, muscles working and burning off any extra calories helps keep your pet in tip-top condition, and decreases the risk of obesity.
Provides enrichment - allowing them to sniff, meet other dogs and explore their surroundings on a walk is a great way to keep their mind healthy. It can also help them to feel calmer and happier at home.
Helps keep their musculoskeletal system in good condition - getting up and moving around, and making appropriate use of their muscles and joints helps keep them in good condition.
How often should I walk my dog? - factors to consider
Now we know why walking our dogs is so important, let’s see how various factors can influence our dog’s walking schedule. Before we begin, it’s good to note that what we are referring to below, is talking about your dog’s possibility to have physical exercise, rather than just toilet breaks. This means the tips we discuss below don’t apply to how often you take your dog out solely for pooping and peeing. In general, it’s best to let your dog relieve themselves, at least 4 times per day, regardless of how many times you walk them. In general, it’s recommended to make sure that a healthy dog has around 1 hour of a walk per day. Depending on the factors we’ll discuss below, you might want to think about breaking this down into smaller walks (for older dogs or those with debilitating conditions) or extending this for those who have more energy.
It’s no surprise that younger dogs and puppies (especially more active breeds) will feel happier if they are walked more often, and most likely for longer. This will help them to explore, use up excess energy so they’re calmer at home, socialize and even provide opportunities for training. Just like us humans, as dogs age, their needs in terms of exercise become different due to changes in their bodies and energy levels. This means that senior or older dogs often don’t need to go out as frequently as younger four-legged friends. When taking an older dog out for a walk, it’s good to take it slow and allow them to enjoy their time. ‘Sniff walks’ are an especially good enrichment opportunity for older dogs, allowing them to stretch their legs and their senses, providing a healthy form of enrichment. We’ll give some examples of other things you can try in the section ‘Health Conditions’.
In the same way, as age affects a dog’s physical need and aptitude for exploring, their breed often does too. Different breeds of dogs are often considered to have different energy levels. Taking them out for the right amount of time will help them to feel happier and even affect their behavior. For example, a high-energy dog who’s not getting walked enough may start to become stressed and show destructive or anxious behavior because their needs aren’t being met. On the other hand, a dog with lower energy who’s been walking too much, could feel too tired and start to enjoy walks less. We’ve listed some examples of dog breeds with different energy levels below:
Higher energy - Spaniels, Collies, German Shepherd Dogs, Retrievers
Lower energy - Pugs, Dachshunds, Bulldogs, Shih tzus, Chihuahuas
It’s also good to take their character into account, as well as their breed and health condition (we’ll talk more about this in the next sections).
Your dog’s health condition is also a factor which is important to take into account when thinking about how often to walk them. For example, care should be taken to help dogs with debilitating conditions (such as arthritis or cognitive decline), enjoy their walk as comfortably as possible. This might mean dividing their walk into multiple shorter walks, taking them on less strenuous routes, or in calmer locations. If your dog is less able-bodied, you might want to consider other options to help them get moving, such as physiotherapy, special toys, and exercises at home. Another thing to consider is your pet’s physical fitness and anything which might affect their ability to enjoy the walk. For example, brachycephalic dogs have difficulty breathing and are especially prone to overheating, so it’s better to walk them in cooler temperatures, and perhaps not as intensively. On the topic of climate, it’s good to always consider the temperature of the surface your dog walks on. It may be enjoyable for us humans to take a walk on a sunny day, however, don't forget that your pet walks directly on the ground. Always be sure to check the temperature is comfortable for your pet, before taking them out. Whatever their health condition, if at any point, your dog suddenly looks like it’s in pain, is uncomfortable, or starts behaving abnormally, don’t force them to continue. Check them thoroughly for any signs of pain or injury, (such as stepping on something sharp) and if possible resolve it or take them home.
Your dog’s lifestyle also affects how often you’ll want to walk them. For example, dogs living in flats, without access to a garden, need to be walked more often than those who have constant access to a garden or outdoor area. Similarly, if you’re lucky enough to be able to take your dog to work with you, and they get more company and exercise than they would at home, then you’ll want to take this into account when planning your walk schedule.
Walking your dog has a range of benefits and to make the most out of them, it’s best to tailor your dog's routine according to their age, breed, health condition and lifestyle. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading how to do the above in this article and that it will help you to continue enjoying the perfect walk with your dog.
Credit to Charlotte Francesca Stiles