Just as many of us try and start the new year off with a healthy new workout routine, the same should be true of our pets. Whether they’re old or young, large or small, all pets should be properly exercised on a routine basis to ensure their health and happiness. Since we all have busy schedules, a simple way to provide this for our dogs is taking them on a daily walk.
“Walking your dog helps keep them physically fit, can improve their behavior, and improve the bond they have with you,” said Dr. Stacy Eckman, lecturer at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Frequent walking has been proven to help potty train your pet as well.
The number of times a week that you should walk Spot, as well as how long the walk should be, is very dependent on your dog’s age and size. “As young puppies, they may not be able to go as far, but as they get older they will be able to go further. If they are small, one and a half to one mile may be plenty; however, larger, more active dogs could go for several miles,” said Eckman. “The duration and frequency of the walk also depends on the purpose. If it is done strictly for exercise, once daily may be enough, but if they are going for elimination, they may require shorter walks four or more times daily.”
It is also important that you only begin walking your dog once they are finished with all of their immunizations. “Ideally they should be finished with all of their vaccines and be on heartworm and parasite prevention, which is typically around 14-16 weeks of age, to decrease their exposure to contagious diseases and parasites,” Eckman said.
Finding the time in your busy schedule to walk Spot can be difficult, but daily walks are important for both you and your dog’s health. “Some pets benefit from both morning and evening walks—this may cut down on behavior problems while you are away at work,” said Eckman. “During the summer when temperatures soar, it is best to go either in the early morning or late in the evening so they do not overheat.”
Often, the struggle of getting your dog to cooperate can overpower your desire to walk them. To prevent your dog from “walking you,” or fighting the leash as opposed to creating slack, basic training is a must. “Teaching basic commands such as sit, stay, and heal helps keep you in control and also adds safety while on your walk,” said Eckman. “There are also leashes that help keep pets from pulling, like Gentle Leader or Promise Collar, which take a bit of training to use, but are most helpful when basic commands and routines are not working. Often, once dogs get into a routine, they settle into the walk and stop walking you.”
So as you contemplate your New Year’s resolutions, be sure to add one that will benefit your best friend as well. Spot will be healthier, happier, and better behaved, and you may be as well. Just as we sometimes need a buddy to hold us accountable, it will be hard to turn Spot down when he greets you at the door with a leash in his mouth; just say yes.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pettalk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.