How To Enjoy Walking The Dog
Do you enjoy walking with your dog? There are so many benefits for, both your dog and, you to getting outside and enjoying a walk.
Somewhere between 30% – 60% of all dogs are overweight and approximately 60% of adults in the UK are also overweight. Being overweight can lead to health problems for both dogs, and humans, and can lead to a shortened lifespan for both!
Yet walking, ideally with your dog, is the cheapest, easiest exercise to do. All you need is the right clothing, shoes, a bottle of water (poo bags if you’re with your dog) and away you go! It is now believed that just 30 minutes of brisk walking a day can lower your risk of serious illnesses, like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. These 30 minutes don’t even have to be done all at one time, you could do 3x 10 minutes of brisk walking throughout the day.
I think you’ll be surprised just what brisk walking is, it’s really not that fast. There’s a fantastic, free, app called Active 10 which (as long as you have your phone with you) logs your daily walking minutes and more importantly your brisk walking minutes.
Exercising With Your Dog
If you have a dog, you really don’t have an excuse not to get some daily exercise in. I remember when I was single and some weekends really wanted to go for a walk, but felt I would look a bit silly walking on my own, I sooo wished I had a dog to walk with!
In the early days of having Barney, I was ill with ME/CFS (I still am, but I’m much better than I was 🙂 ) with very low levels of energy, I walked like a 90 year old woman! One of the things that really frustrated me was that I couldn’t even walk my dog properly! To be honest, he didn’t mind, my very slow pace and short walks suited him as he loves to sniff and pee on every wall, post and tree! As I’ve got better, my energy levels have improved and I frequently get my 30 minutes of daily brisk walking in (I still have to rest afterwards, but this is a great achievement!).
I love to walk the dogs, come rain or shine! As the old saying goes;
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” ~ Alfred Wainwright
No longer the trendy, stylish coats, I used to wear. Hello sensible, warm, waterproof, dog-friendly coats!
How Much Exercise Do Dogs Need?
Different breeds, need different amounts of daily exercise. This is why, before getting a dog, it is a good idea to think about how much time in the day you will have available to walk your dog.
Regular exercise is not only important for you but for your dog too. It is always a good idea to check with your vet, especially if your dog is on a diet, overweight or has arthritis, as to how much exercise is good for your dog.
But it’s worth bearing in mind, that puppies need much less exercise till they are fully grown (which differs for every breed). A general rule of thumb, is a ratio of five minutes exercise per month of age (up to twice a day) i.e. a 3 month old puppy would have 15 minutes of exercise, up to twice a day.
Senior dogs still need exercise, maybe not as much as when they were younger, but you should still ensure your senior dog gets daily exercise, it helps to keep them fitter and ‘younger’.
So which breeds need the most daily exercise? Below are some examples of breeds and how much is suggested for them;
- 2 hours plus (!) a day ~ Border Collie, Boxer, Dalmation, English Springer Spaniel, German Shepherd, Labrador Retriever, Rottweiler
- 100 – 120 minutes a day ~ Border Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier
- 80 – 100 minutes a day ~ Golden Retriever, Siberian Husky
- 60 – 80 minutes a day ~ Basset Hound, Tibetan Terrier, West Highland Terrier, Whippet
- 40 – 60 minutes a day ~ Cairn Terrier, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Miniature Schnauzer, Toy Poodle, Shetland Sheepdog
- 20 – 40 minutes a day ~ Miniature Dachshund, Yorkshire Terrier
- 20 minutes a day ~ Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apso, Bichon Frise
Something important to think about, if you are planning on bringing a dog into your family.
Enjoying A Walk With Your Dog
It is well documented in the press, nearly every week, how important getting exercise is for you but what if you don’t enjoy exercising? How can you make a walk more enjoyable for your dog and you?
Be In The Moment, Or Be More Dog
One of my pet peeves, is seeing people walking their dog, either on the phone or with headphones in. How can you enjoy the walk, if you aren’t in the moment, you aren’t paying attention to what is going on around you, or you aren’t engaging with your dog throughout the walk?
It can be dangerous for you and your dog, whether they are on or off lead. You can’t hear people trying to get your attention, you can’t hear another dog coming up to you and you, probably, aren’t aware of where your dog actually is, if they are off lead.
Instead, try to take in your surroundings, listen to the birdsong, watch the seasons change around you, marvel at the sunrise/sunset, look up, look at the trees, and wildlife around you. Just what is your dog sniffing so intently? Go over and take a look, it might be something interesting or even, something you don’t want him near.
Instead of rushing round your route, stop, let your dog have a good sniff and give yourself time, time to breathe, really breathe properly. Try to clear your mind of the days tasks and instead enjoy being out in the fresh air. How lucky, are you, to have this time? Sometimes the peace and stillness, even in the city, is amazing.
Enjoy the weather whatever it is, the warmth of the sun on your skin, the cooling rain drops on your face, don’t grumble about it, although in fairness I hate it when it’s windy, but a good warm hat pulled down definitely helps! 😆
Change The Environment
The great thing about taking the dog for a walk, is searching out new places. If you are lead walking around your area, you will find places you didn’t even know existed, it’s a great way to discover your neighbourhood and meet local dog owners. It makes it more interesting and fun for you both.
All dogs should be able to walk safely and calmly on lead. So, whilst everyone loves to let their dog off lead to run free, lead walking is something that should be practiced regularly. Generally, our two have a morning lead walk and an afternoon of off lead freedom to run and play. Try to vary your daily route, this keeps it interesting for your dog, a sniff around is good for their mental health.
Change up the pace, do some brisk walking for 30 seconds, a little jog here and there, and back to normal walking pace, try this randomly through-out the walk. Let your dog choose the route sometimes, quite often, when I leave our house, I say ‘which way shall we go today, up or down the hill?’ I let them chose our direction. Also, if one of they pulls me off in direction I wasn’t planning, I follow along with them. I think it’s great to let your dog chose the route sometimes.
Search out new environments for your dog, big wide open green spaces where they can safely run around off lead. In cities there are often many dog-friendly parks. We are very lucky, in London, to have some fabulous parks which allow dogs off lead (as long as they under control), other parks have fenced-off dog-walking areas where you can let your dog off lead safely as it’s enclosed.
Head out to the countryside, search out woods and public footpaths (just be aware of any fields that have livestock in them, always keep to the countryside code).
Our favourite place to walk the dogs are the wonderful beaches around the UK. Many do have seasonal restrictions for dogs, but there are still a lot of beaches that allow dogs all year round. Head down when the tide is out to take advantage of the full expanse of sand and enjoy the sheer happiness of your dog enjoying so much space to run free in.
If you do get snow (lucky you!), don’t forget to let your dogs have fun in it, they love the snow too!
Training On Walks
Walks are a great time to reiterate home training sessions and can make the walk more interesting and exciting for your dog. All training can be done off lead or on a long training lead. Make sure you have plenty ‘high-value’ treats with you!
Recall is the obvious command to practice but also try ‘wait’ too, teaching your dog to stop and wait for your next command is important one. ‘Leave’ is another good one to practice, especially if you are playing with a ball or frisbee. We love to play ‘find’ when out on walks. I start by asking Barney for a sit and stay, then, whilst he is watching me, I either hide treats close by asking him to find them, or throw treats into the distance asking him to find them. This not only gives him physical exercise, but mental stimulation too. Both are great for tiring your dog out.
Playtime On Walks
If you can, in the right location, engage with your dog on walks. Find something that they love to do and do it with them. Throwing a frisbee or ball, chase around after them, or let them chase you about. Hiding behind a tree, where you can still see them, and calling them to you. It gets you moving about and encourages a great bond with your dog. Try changing the tone of your voice, to get them interested about something you’ve found and bring them over to you.
Talk To Your Dog
This might seem like an odd one, but don’t spend the whole walk with your dog, in silence. As well as commands, try having little chats with them, I think doing this keeps your dog connected to you, not just through the lead. Talking to your dog can be calming and reassuring for them too.
Meet Up With A Friend
Meeting up with a friend is a great way to enjoy walking the dog, even more so if they have a dog too! Hopefully, if the dogs get on well together, they can enjoy playing and socialisation, whilst you chat the walk away!
Fun Instagram Poll
Yesterday, over on our Instagram account in Stories, I conducted (oh, sounds very official) a fun poll, with questions about walks on Walking The Dog Day.
Drumroll…..the results are in:
- “Do you enjoy walking your dog?” A whopping 99% of you said you ‘Love It!’ with only 1% saying ‘It’s A Chore’.
- “How many walks a day does your dog have?” This is great to see, because ‘Two or more’ came in with 67% and only ‘One’ walk 33%.
- “Does the weather bother you?” I was a bit surprised by the results on this one, considering how much us Brits moan about the weather! 73% of you said ‘No, Rain or Shine is Fine’, with 27% saying ‘Yes! Only Sunny Days’.
- “Where are your favourite places to walk?” Topping the leader board with 64% was woods, followed by parks at 54%, serious hill hikes 46% and, lastly with 36%, beaches (I’m so surprised!).
- “Does your dog like to play?” This one was pretty much even, with ‘No – sniffing all the time’ getting 52% of votes and ‘Yes – ball crazy’ 48%.
- “Do you meet up with furpals?” Another pretty even one and this is great to see dogs getting socialisation whilst on walks. With 53% ‘No’ and 47% ‘Yes’.
This was a fun poll, but I thought it is great to see how positive the results are. So, it’s within your power to make walking the dog more fun, interesting, engaging and healthy for both you and your dog.
Do you have any tips to help make walking the dog more enjoyable? We’d love to hear them, please do share them with us in the comments.