• Sun. Jun 16th, 2024

Health Benefits of Walks with Your Dog

ByJOHANN PILZ

Oct 27, 2022
Little Chinese girl walking with dog in autumn woods

Dogs need regular exercise to live long and healthy lives. But they’re not the only ones who benefit from regular walks. Here’s how walking with your pooch can benefit you as well.

The health benefits of dogs

Dogs love going for walks, to the point that many owners take to spelling out w-a-l-k when talking about the activity to keep their pooches from getting overly excited. Daily walks are not just a great way to exercise your dog; you can benefit from them as well!

Before you head out the door, you’ll need to make sure you have all the right supplies. Always carry plastic bags with you to clean up after your dog. Leaving your dog’s droppings on the ground is not only inconsiderate of other people who use the path, it is unhealthy for the natural ecosystem of the area.

If your dog tends to pull when excited, you may want to get them a harness so that they don’t strain their neck or choke themselves. There are many different styles and types of harnesses. Just be aware that a harness will not stop your dog from pulling—that is the purpose of loose-leash training. The only other thing you’ll need is a pair of good walking shoes, and you’re ready to hit the pavement or path.

Got everything you need? Read on to learn four ways walking your dog can benefit your health.

1. Increase physical fitness

It’s no secret that if you work out regularly, you’ll get fitter. But with many workout programs, half the battle is sticking with it long enough to see the benefits. Walking with a dog nearly eliminates this challenge—they will be your training partner and coach all in one. Once you start to establish a routine, they will be so excited to get outside that they won’t let you skip a day, rain or shine.

Walking is a fantastic low-impact activity you can do anywhere. Over time, it will help strengthen your muscles, bones, and joints. You may even notice that your normal route is feeling a little easy and decide to stay out longer or walk up that extra hill.

How far you walk at a time and per day will depend on the breed and age of your dog—a 2-year-old border collie will have more endurance than an elderly pug, for example. Tailor your walk to your dog’s needs and abilities. If it’s a hot day or you are going for a longer hike, make sure to bring water and a bowl for your dog.

On warmer days, you’ll also need to consider the surface you’re walking on. In the sun, pavement can easily reach dangerously high temperatures and burn your dog’s paws. A good test is to place your hand or bare foot on the pavement. If you can’t hold it there for 10 seconds, it means the ground is too hot for your dog to walk on. On days like this, you’ll just need to make sure you walk on the grass or dirt. Alternatively, you can purchase booties for your dog to serve as foot protection.

Both you and your dog will get fitter the more you walk. If your pooch is up for it, they may one day even make a great running buddy!

2. Better mental health

There is a psychological reason why so many dogs become service animals for veterans and people living with PTSD: walking a dog can improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and research shows that spending time with a dog can reduce output of the stress hormone cortisol.

For people struggling with depression, having a dog can be a complete game-changer. It can be hard to motivate yourself to get out of the house if you are doing it by yourself. You may experience physical fatigue as a symptom of depression, and this can make it challenging to exercise, even though studies have shown that regular exercise can be a powerful antidepressant.

But there’s no better motivator than your dog giving you big puppy eyes and begging to go for a walk. Having a dog forces you to get outside, which starts a long chain of positive effects for your mental health. Physical activity releases endorphins in the brain that energize you and create positive feelings. It will reduce stress, boost mood, and increase mental energy. Additionally, the routine of walking a dog every day can be a healthy distraction from negative thoughts.

The bottom line is that taking care of another living thing can make it easier to take care of yourself.

The companionship dogs can offer as walking buddies can also reduce loneliness. Walking a dog can often lead to conversations with other dog owners as well, and will help you stay socially connected to others.

Even if you don’t own a dog yourself, there are still plenty of ways to spend time walking them to achieve these benefits. Ask a friend or family member if you can take their dog around the neighborhood or look for other places to volunteer. Many animal shelters rely on volunteers to walk the dogs in their kennels. Not only are you getting these mental and physical health benefits for yourself, you’ll also have a boost from knowing you’ve helped dogs in need.