January is the month for fresh starts and do-overs. You’ve turned the calendar’s page and made New Year’s resolutions. If you’ve resolved to lose weight, up your activity level or spend more time with your dog, you’re in luck. This month, you’ll have an opportunity to work on all three resolutions at the same time.
All you have to do is walk. With your dog. (Okay, you’ll being taking lots of walkies!)
January is National Walk Your Pet Month and, of course, you’ll want to celebrate the occasion with your canine walking buddy. In addition to keeping your resolutions and achieving your goals — which is always satisfying — you and your pooch will reap a variety of other benefits from regular walks.
#1. Walking helps keep you and your dog healthy, and observing Walk Your Pet Month helps keep you motivated as you form a new habit.
This one is a no-brainer. Exercise helps keep everyone healthy. The truth is that obesity is a common problem for us and our dogs. Fortunately, regular walks and increased activity not only can help limit the risk of developing obesity but can also help you both shed unwanted extra pounds. Walking also helps preserve muscle tone and joint movement, and helps prevent digestive issues like occasional constipation.
Recent studies show that adults who walk their dogs get more total physical activity, on average, than those who don’t. They’re also more likely to meet the American Heart Association’s standard exercise recommendation of 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Regular exercise helps keep your blood pressure lower, your heart healthier and your energy level higher.
Some people find regular walks are easier to do when they’re done for the sake of a four-legged friend. If you tend to focus on others first, your dog’s need for exercise to stay healthy may help get you out the door day after day regardless of the weather. And if your dog likes being active, you never have to worry about your walking partner cancelling.
#2. Walking helps release energy that builds during the day and may help reduce hyperactivity and destructive behaviors.
Dogs can build up a lot of energy during the day, especially if they’re home alone while you’re at work. Regular walks, as well as other forms of exercise, can help burn off some energy and calm your pet. Unruly behaviors such as jumping on people or knocking over furniture can be a sign of pent-up energy. Walks and playtime can help curb these behaviors and can help reduce destructive chewing, digging or scratching behaviors.
#3. Walking provides mental stimulation.
As with indoor-only cats, dogs that are stuck inside all day can become bored. They need mental stimulation to stay healthy and happy as much as cats (and people) do. Daily outdoor walks expose dogs to a variety of sights and smells that they can’t get while indoors. Walking can also satisfy dogs’ natural instincts to explore even as activity helps lower their stress level.
#4. Walking is a great way to build and reinforce the bond you share with your dog.
Spending quality time walking with your dog is very important to building the bond between you. This activity can be something that only you two do together, and your dog has all of your attention. And if your dog is timid or fearful, regular walks can help your pet to develop confidence and comfort that in turn leads to a strong, trusting relationship.
#5. Walking encourages socialization, builds community spirit and decreases loneliness.
If your dog likes to get outside and walk, you don’t need to look very far for an enthusiastic walking partner. Walking together can make walks more enjoyable and may also reduce loneliness when your relationships with other people aren’t going well.
Plus, walking your dog is a great way to explore your neighborhood and community. That includes meeting and talking with your neighbors. In a study of more than 800 people over 50 years old, those who walked a dog at least four times per week were more likely to report feeling a strong sense of community, compared to people who didn’t own a dog.
What are you waiting for?
A big reason some pet owners give for not exercising their dogs appropriately is that they’re “too busy.” National Walk Your Pet Month is a great opportunity to set some small targets to get walking. And if you’re already struggling with your resolution to exercise more, just look for your dog — who’s probably waiting by the door with his or her leash.
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