With spring just around the corner and warmer days ahead, it’s time to store away the winter boots, dust off those walking shoes, grab the lead and head out for adventures with your four-legged friend(s) in tow.
By Vivian Sandler.
Walks are essential for our dogs’ physical and mental health and can greatly impact our own. As if that’s not pawesome enough, these moments provide priceless, quality bonding time between ‘pawrent’ and ‘human’s-best-friend’.
Let’s go on a Sniffari!
You must be barking if you think we’re just talking about taking your dog out for quick ‘walks’ outside to relieve themselves. It is important to schedule multiple walks with your four-legged companion throughout the week—aiming for at least 30 minutes each walk—where they can indulge in all the sights, smells and sounds and interact with fellow walking dogs around them. Ensuring that your pooch gets a healthy dose of social interaction a few times a week is crucial for their mental stimulation and for them to create positive relationships with others. Studies, such as this one from BMC Veterinary Research, point to dogs taken at least once a day on a walk to be more friendly and willing to interact with others. Dogs who are not taken on walks are missing out on a positive opportunity for behaviour training and are often left feeling uncomfortable, anxious and possibly frisky when they finally do go out and come into contact with other pups.
Keep those paws moving!
Whether your four-legged friend is a puppy, adult or senior, it is important to keep them moving—whether that means allowing them to release those zoomies after a walk to the local dog park or taking them on an easy-going stroll. An active pup, no matter what level of intensity their walks are, is more likely to maintain a healthy weight—something that is crucial for their longevity. Studies, such as this one from the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, have shown that obesity in dogs can shorten their lives by an average of two-and-a-half years. This is especially troubling, as it is estimated that in the UK, nearly 50% of dogs are either overweight or obese. Keeping those pounds down also means your pup is experiencing less pressure on their joints, making for longer walks with a more comfortable and pain-free pooch.
Pawrents benefit too!
The wag-nificent thing about walking your pooch is that you—the pawrent—benefits too! Not only is it heart-warming to see your pooch’s tail wag as their senses are being stimulated, but you are also exercising with them and likely to be having your own social interactions with fellow dog parents. A study in Scientific Reports found that dog owners are four-times more likely to meet current UK physical activity guidelines than non-dog owners. Also, a study from Wood et al. (2015) reveals that pet ownership positively correlates to humans getting to know more people, forming more friendships and cultivating social support networks.
‘Given growing evidence for social isolation as a risk factor for mental health, and, conversely, friendships and social support as protective factors for individual and community well-being, pets may be an important factor in developing healthy neighborhoods (Wood et al., 2015)’.
As if these aren’t reasons enough to get you both moving, imagine the dog nap you’ll both be taking after a satisfying walk!
In the mood to get more active with your pooch but don’t know where to go? Consider joining the Facebook group ‘I Love Hiking and Dogs UK’, created by the animal welfare charity International Aid for the Protection & Welfare of Animals (IAPWA).
Here, you can see where fellow group members have taken their pooch for their latest adventure, which can inspire your next dog walk! Joining this group is the paw-fect way to connect with like-minded dog parents who love their pooch, venturing to exciting trails and sharing about it. We hope to see you there!