Why Dogs Need Walks
by Julie Davis
For a number of reasons, dogs need regular walks in addition to being let out in the yard. Walks not only provide dogs with necessary exercise and help keep their joints healthy, but also give them mental and social stimulation.
Many Americans have fenced yards and some mistakenly believe it’s sufficient to let their dogs out in that yard. But dogs need regular exercise and aren’t likely to get enough alone in the yard since they don’t normally self-entertain. “It’s a rare dog that exercises on his own,” said Karen Becker, DVM, in the newsletter Healthy Pets. “Your back yard doesn’t provide the variety of sensory stimulation most dogs need to ward off boredom.”
Becker says that dogs gain knowledge of the world through their noses, so allowing them to sniff around and investigate while on walks is good for them mentally.
Many animal experts say walking your dogs is the single most important thing you can do to keep them balanced.
The Judd family in East Asheville recognizes this. They adopted their Labrador Retriever, Oreo, when she was a puppy. Oreo has always been very energetic, so the family has taken turns walking her several times a day. In addition to long walks, the Judds took Oreo to dog parks and set up play dates with neighbors’ dogs. “She’s a big dog and she is very vocal about when she needs exercise and attention,” says Ginny Judd. Oreo is 6 years old now and the Judds still take her for long walks a couple of times a day.
South Asheville’s Glenn Iannicelli also understands how important it is for his Sammy, a 7-year-old Chihuahua mix, to get daily walks. When Iannicelli had knee surgery, he had me take Sammy for two long walks a day while he was recovering. Sammy was used to walking a certain route, and continuing his walks on the same route was helpful. “It’s important that he can have his daily routine, and it would stress him if he couldn’t get the walks he’s used to,” Iannicelli says.
Going for walks is relaxing for dogs and helps relieve them of excess energy. “If you have a dog that’s always racing around the house or chewing up your favorite shoes, you have a dog that’s telling you she hasn’t had enough exercise,” Millan says.
Dogs are natural athletes and require consistent exercise. Regardless of your dogs’ size, breed, gender or age, they need physical activity in order to be stable, healthy animals, according to Dr. Becker. Exercise helps keep dogs’ frames strong, helps them stay fit and at a healthy weight, and can ward off arthritis and other degenerative joint issues.
The number and length of your dog’s walks will depend, in part, on factors such as breed, age, health, and temperament. According to a Forbes magazine article, “The consensus among behaviorists and veterinarians is that one hour a day of exercise is required to keep your four-legged friend fit.” But the Animal Foundation says that some dogs bred for sports or herding activities may need much more.
If your dog is getting into things or chewing items in the house, digging holes in the backyard or seems depressed, it’s probably time to take the dog for more and/or longer walks. Dogs that get enough exercise and get out of their own yard to sniff and explore are generally happier, healthier and better behaved.
Julie Davis is a pet sitter/dog walker at Family Pet Care of Asheville, familypetcareofasheville.com