Happy National Walk Your Dog Month! (So we’re just barely squeezing it in, but better late than never, right? Right!) And because walking is good for you and your dog — and because owning a pet is awesome — we thought the best way to celebrate this special month would be with some fun facts from animal welfare expert, Aimee Gilbreath at Found Animals. Read on for her 10 awesome and hilarious reasons why you should walk your dog today!
1. The Dog Ain’t Gonna Walk Itself
Look, the sad truth is that dogs refuse to take responsibility for their own health. While I’m at work, my dogs have all day to play and run around together in the backyard. But do they do it? No. When I come home 9 to 10 hours later they jump up, suddenly energized, expecting me to entertain them. I have explained to them numerous times the importance of diet and exercise to their overall health and have encouraged them to be proactive. They always act like they’re listening very attentively, but then later I’ll see them snacking on a cat turd before falling asleep in the dirt. Next day: same thing. So here’s a simple rule I live by: if it licks its butt, you are the boss of it. Be the boss. Make it walk.
2. If Your Dog is Overweight, You’re Not Getting Enough Exercise
A few years ago, I suffered a traumatic injury to my ankle and was laid up, off and on, for months. Guess who gained weight besides me? Scout aka Chubby Bunny and Boo the Boodozer. I was painfully aware that I had gained weight, but didn’t realize my dogs had until I took Scout in for a check-up and the vet tech called her “Chunky Monkey.” You, too, may be living in denial. You see your dogs every day so you may not have noticed their widening girth. Dogs, like humans, can suffer health problems due to excess weight. Vets are seeing more instances of overweight pets as our lifestyles become more sedentary. So do it for you; do it for Fido. Walk off the pounds, together.
3. A Wolf in “Shep’s” Clothing
Your dog comes from good stock. Wolf stock. No matter how small, coiffed, cute and domesticated — all dogs share one origin — the very undomesticated, wild wolf. Wolves are nomads by nature and spend up to one-third of their time on the move, sometimes covering over 100 miles in a day in search of food. This wanderlust is deeply ingrained into your dog’s DNA. Does your dog get crazy excited before a walk? This is “pack” behavior similar to what wolves do to work up adrenaline before a hunt. Wolves wander, hunt and eat, in that order. Your dog wants to walk. Your dog needs to walk. Bonus: if you walk your dog before feeding him, you are fulfilling his elemental psychological drive to “work” for his food.
4. A Tired Dog is a Good Dog
Does your dog bark excessively/chew/dig/run away/jump on people/talk with his mouth full/leave the seat up — oh, wait a minute. The point is, any unwanted behavior that your dog exhibits is often borne of frustration and boredom. A bored dog will find things to do to amuse herself. These things will most likely not amuse you. Luckily, your dog is beautifully easy to entertain — no complicated Russian novels or marathon rounds of Words with Friends needed. Simply take her for a walk.
5. This Land is Your Land, But I’m Gonna Pee on It
It is important to dogs that they know their “territory” and are able to leave evidence that they were there. With each sniff in the grass or at the base of a tree, the dog’s nose is communicating to him a rich history of what and who passed by that way before. When a dog pees and/or “peels out,” that is his way of “bookmarking” the spot for himself later while at the same time letting others know he belongs there, too. A walk around your neighborhood lets your dog have the opportunity to get to know, by scent, the players in his stomping ground and keeps his mind active — just as important to your dog’s health and happiness as keeping his body in shape.
6. These are the People in Your Neighborhood
A walk with your dog is an excellent exercise in socialization. She will get to know all the sights and sounds of her neighborhood by meeting other people and other dogs, encountering small animals such as birds and squirrels, and becoming familiar with common noises. Cars, motorcycles, bicycles, skateboards, horns, lawn mowers, you name it — the more your dog encounters on her walks with you, the less likely she will be scared or nervous of new sounds in the future.
7. The More I Know You, the More I Love You
One of the best benefits of walking your dog is that it cultivates bonding. Your dog loves you and your dog loves walking, so walking your dog is like a mini lottery win for Rover. Spending time with your dog discovering new places and sharing experiences strengthens and enriches your relationship.
8. Walk On, Fearless Leader
Dogs need constant reinforcement of pack hierarchy in order to feel secure. In your dog’s mind, you are the pack leader (at least, you’d better be). As pack leader, it is your job to rally and lead the rest of the pack in the hunt — even if the hunt is just for a good place to do some “business.” A walk is an ideal time to exert your leadership and reinforce your position. You are Alpha, so use this opportunity to step up and prove it. Make your dog sit and wait a few times or give him other basic commands to let him know you’re still Top Dog.
9. Hello, My Name is Boo Boo and I’ll Be Your Poster Child Today
One of my favorite things to do when I walk one, or all three, of my rescue dogs is to take time to talk to people I meet along the way. If they comment on how nice, pretty, handsome, well-behaved or cute my dogs are, I always thank them and mention that Boo Boo was a stray, or Scout was from an unwanted litter, or Big Duke was dumped at the shelter as an 8-year-old because his parents were divorcing. In other words, show people how great your “secondhand” dogs are.
10. If I Could Put Time in a Bottle … I’d Still Whine, Moan and Complain About Not Having Time
Alright, so this one is actually about overcoming those obstacles that prevent us from walking our dogs like we should. “I don’t have time.” Those four words have derailed the loftiest goals and best intentions more than any of us would care to admit. If we are being honest with ourselves, though, is it really true?
In my list of daily priorities, was texting back and forth with my friend, composing a political tirade on Facebook, or watching “Real Housewives” really more important than walking my dogs? Of course not. My dogs didn’t lobby to come live at my house — I sought them out for my own gratification. Now that I have them, it would be unfair to treat them like an inconvenience.
Fortunately, dogs don’t keep score. If you truly can’t carve out 30 to 60 consecutive minutes of walking every day, what can you manage? Fifteen minutes of running? Twenty minutes of hiking? Ten minutes of hide and seek? Five minutes of chase? Aim for a longer walk every day, but on the days you can’t do it, be creative! Your dog doesn’t care if his exercise is unorthodox and he won’t criticize your ideas. He will just be happier and more “balanced” because you’re spending time caring for his well being. And so will you.
How many minutes will you walk your dog today? I think Siena will just have to get an extra lap or two around the ol’ block tonight. —Jenn