Did you make a New Year’s Resolution to get more exercise? This is a common goal due to the fact that exercise holds many physical and even mental health benefits. Coincidentally, January is National Walk Your Dog Month: the fitness partner that you need to keep your resolution just may be sitting next to you right now.
Why Walk Your Dog?
A simple daily walk has the power to improve many parts of your life, including your relationship with your pet.
Benefits to you: Walking has both physical and mental benefits. It can help you maintain a healthy weight, strengthen your bones and muscles, and improve your balance. Plus, your pumping heart circulates more blood to your brain, which can improve memory, attention, creativity, and generally keep your brain tissue healthy.
Benefits to your dog: Walking your dog offers your pet many of the same physical and mental benefits. The result is a healthy, relaxed dog that won’t need to burn off excess energy by being destructive at home. Walking together can also help you and your dog bond more closely, and offers the opportunity for you to focus on new training goals, including socializing them with other people and animals.
In order to be sure that you are strolling safely, make sure that you consider both your individual dog’s needs and limitations, and the environment that you will be walking in.
Considerations for Walking in the Cold
As National Walk your Dog Month is celebrated in January, many people in the United States are dealing with cold and snowy weather. Though many dogs love snow and don’t mind the cold, winter walks still require a few extra precautions:
Jackets or Vests: Puppies, senior dogs, small dogs, and dogs with short hair can benefit from wearing a jacket or vest that keeps them warm and dry.
Protect Paws: Your dog’s paws can be damaged by both cold temperatures, and the salt that is placed on sidewalks to prevent slipping. Booties are a good idea, but many dogs won’t tolerate them. There are topical gels and waxes that can be applied to protect your dog’s paws, but remember to remove them when you are done walking.
Considerations for Walking in the Heat
If you live in a warmer part of the country, you may find challenges to walking your dog in the summer instead of in the winter. In order to keep your dog safe, try these tips:
Keep Cooler Hours: Walk your dog early in the morning or later in the evening when the sun is not out and the sidewalks and other surfaces have cooled off. Try not to walk on asphalt or blacktop, as these dark surfaces can absorb more heat and burn paws.
Stay Hydrated: Offer your dog water before, during, and after your walk.
Breed Specific Considerations: Brachycephalic breeds like Old English Bulldogs, Boxers, Pugs, Boston Terriers, French Bulldogs, and Lhasa Apsos need extra protection from the heat. Walk them only briefly when it is hot out, and take frequent breaks in the shade.
Walking together is a simple activity that can provide numerous complex benefits to both you and your dog. Celebrate National Walk Your Dog month today, and start seeing improvements in the health of both you and your pet.