Image via iStock.com/DuxX
By Deidre Grieves
Walking your dog is one of the key responsibilities of pet parenthood—and it comes with huge health benefits for both dogs and humans.
In fact, a study from Michigan State University concluded that dog owners are 34 percent more likely to get in the recommended 150 minutes of exercise each week compared to non-dog owners. A study done at George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services found that individuals who walk dogs on a regular basis are less at risk for certain self-reported diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
“Walking your dog is an important low-impact exercise for both you and your dog,” says Dr. Bruce Silverman, owner of Village West Veterinary in Chicago and founder of the Critical Animal Relief Foundation (CARF). “It helps with blood circulation and to burn calories. It's also a critical bonding time for people and their pets.”
But if walking your dog has become a chore rather than a bright spot in your day-to-day routine, it’s time to shake things up. Try these eight dog walking tips to bring some new excitement to your outdoor strolls.
1. Let your dog make the decisions. If you’re used to walking your dog around the block on the same route every night, it’s probably time for a change. “Every so often, allow your dog to determine the route,” says John D. Visconti, CDPT-KA, owner of Rising Star Dog Training in North Carolina.
“Changing the walk route allows the dog to encounter novel scents and new scenery. Dogs love routines, but to get the most out of your walks, don’t become robotic about them.”
2. Use some training treats. Most dogs are food-motivated, so bringing along dog training treats on a dog walk can spur interactions between you and your pet, and help reenergize a walk.
“For many dogs who are driven by food, treating them a few times along the walk can help to motivate them and get them excited for the next walk,” says celebrity dog trainer Joel Silverman.
Silverman recommends small, bite-sized training treats, like Bil-Jac Little Jacs small dog chicken liver training dog treats, for treating during walks, but make sure you don’t overdo it. Too many treats will negate some of the health benefits of the walk.
3. Walk in a new location. Besides just changing the dog walking route in your neighborhood or near your home, consider hopping in the car and driving to a whole new spot for your dog’s weekend walks.
“Taking the same walk over and over again can get really boring,” says Dr. B. Silverman. “Try visiting parks, neighborhoods or forest preserves you've never explored.”
4. Change up the pace. If you’re used to going at one speed from start to finish, consider changing up the pace of your dog walking. “Not only should the route be changed, but the pace of the walk should be varied as well,” says Visconti. “Occasionally, take a look at [your dog] and happily say, ‘Let’s go!’ and then quicken your pace—even if only for a short distance.”
5. Incorporate training for fun interactions. Pet parents should consider walks as an opportune time to interact with their dogs and practice training in a fun environment. “Every walk presents an opportunity for interaction and bond building,” says Visconti. “Doing simple things like asking your dog to sit—and paying for performance with a high-value treat—is an easy way to interact with your dog, and a way to make the walk more enjoyable for all involved.”
Consider using novel and interesting dog treats like Blue Buffalo Wilderness Trail grain-free duck dog treats, Sojos grain-free duck and cherry flavor dog treats or Walk About grain-free kangaroo jerky dog treats for yummy and motivating rewards during your dog walks.
6. Switch up your dog’s walking partners. If the same person in your household always walks your dog, consider passing on the dog leash to another member of your family. “Because walking is prime bonding time, everyone who lives in the house should walk the dog,” says J. Silverman.
7. Try a group walk with other dogs. If your dog is social and friendly, getting together with some other dogs in the neighborhood for a group walk can add to the enjoyment of your dog walking routine. “Group walks can be a great experience for both dog and owner as long as the dogs know each other,” says J. Silverman.
8. Let loose and have fun. Dog walking shouldn’t be monotonous, says Visconti, so put away your phone and use the opportunity to just enjoy the time with your dog. Let your guard down and be a little bit silly. “Sing to your dog. Dance with your dog. Interact with your dog. Be happy,” he says. “Walks should be fun. If they are, they won’t become boring or routine.”