Several studies over the past ten years have suggested that dog owners get more exercise because they walk their dog each day. Which only makes sense, right? Walking the dog and staying active can help prevent disease, extend longevity and improve quality of life.
Unfortunately, there's a large part of the population who aren't hitting the pavement together, which can lead to issues such as obesity.
A mega-review of dozens of research papers from 1990 to 2013 found that dog owners aren’t walking their dogs nearly enough. Our own studies at the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention squared with that finding.
We find most dog owners walk their dog less than 15 minutes each day, and this study found that 40% of dog owners don’t walk their dogs. At all!
How long should I walk my dog?
The biggest obstacle dog owners face when it comes to exercising is not knowing how much activity their pooch needs.
Many small dog owners think a few sprints around the yard is plenty while those with bigger breeds feel guilty that they’re not running them enough. The truth is 30 minutes a day is a good start for any dog.
Ask your veterinarian about different types of exercise, frequency and duration best suited for your pet. Maintaining health and preventing disease should be your pet doctor’s top priority, because exercise and nutrition are the basic building blocks of good health.
Where is a safe place to walk my dog?
The next most common excuse for not exercising is inadequate walking environments.
Safe roads or trails, convenient waste disposal facilities and areas that allow dogs to run off-leash are cited as challenges in this mega-review. The surest way to be safe is stay on sidewalks or stroll through public parks during daylight.
Always use a leash and carry a poo bag for neighborliness. Forget the off-leash zones unless you truly trust every dog in the park.
What do I do if I'm embarrassed by my pet's behavior?
The main reason people fail to walk their dogs enough is embarrassment.
Millions fear promenading their pooch because their dog may bark, growl, lunge or otherwise create a spectacle. Because a howling, heaving hound signals an undisciplined, unworthy owner, the leash remains stuffed in the drawer, everyone safe from risk of public ridicule.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
If your dog lacks marvelous marching manners, don’t fret. Ask your vet. If your vet can’t help, there are dog doctors who can.
At the end of nearly every vet visit, I ask the dog owner if there are any behaviors that bug them, even a little. You know, barking at neighbors, jumping up on guests, being aggressive while leashed. The majority confess there is something they’d like to work on.
If every owner and vet started this simple conversation, I bet we’d see a lot more people out walking their dogs. So start talking and go walking!
Updated Jan 6, 2020
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