The lovely Chicago weather this time of year can make it challenging to be excited about taking your beloved four-legged friend for a walk. Lucky for you, it’s National Walk Your Pet Month! This is the perfect time to get motivated to get up and get moving!
You may have made your New Year’s resolution to get healthier, which may include walking more. Take your dog along and work on your resolutions together. What a great way to start 2018!
Exercise is very important in helping your pet live a healthy and long life, and walking your dog can actually help you to meet your own fitness goals. Research has found that people who walk with dogs are more consistent in their exercise routine than those who walk with a human—what could be a better way to burn off those holiday calories?
Benefits of exercise:
- Improves strength, fitness, flexibility, and movement
- Increases energy levels
- Helps decrease stress and can help improve your and your pet’s mood
- Improves sleep
- Builds your pet’s social skills and familiarity with the surrounding area
- Prevents pet’s boredom by providing mental and physical stimulation
- Decreases pet’s bad behavior and aids in training
- Improves the bond between you and your pet
- Prevents obesity
The type and amount of exercise needed can differ greatly with breed, age, and energy level. Low-energy dogs usually need about 30 to 45 minutes of exercise a day, while higher energy dogs may need hours of exercise a day.
Cats, too, need daily exercise and setting aside 15 to 20 minutes a day for interactive play will help keep your cat happy and healthy. Cats are nocturnal animals, which means they are at their most active at night. Training them to exercise during the day will help you and your cat sleep at night. Cats enjoy exercise such as stalking, pouncing, climbing, and hiding.
Below are some tips for improving the experience of walking your dog:
Walking Your Dog Is Bonding Time
Walking together is a great time to focus on training your dog and strengthening the bond between you. To get the most out of your time together, don’t walk and talk on the phone. Use this time to focus on your pets. They spend a lot of time alone already and need you. Praise them when they walk well and pay attention to you.
Safety after Dark
During the winter it gets dark early. If you normally walk your dog before the sunrise or late afternoon/evening hours, you want to make sure you can be seen by motorists, bicyclists, and other dog walkers/pedestrians. A lighted leash and collar combination is good for your dog. You will do well to wear light-colored clothes or, better yet, a reflective vest or jacket.
Bring the Necessities
Make the walk pleasant for you and your dog. Always carry bags for cleaning up and disposing of doggie poop. Don’t forget to hydrate, carry water for yourself and your dog, especially in warmer weather. Dogs can lap water from your cupped hands, or you can carry a collapsible water bowl. Don’t forget to pack your dog’s favorite bite-sized treats for rewarding good behavior!
Change It Up
To make walks more fun for you and your dog, rove a little—and travel off the beaten path by taking your dog on different routes, going to cool places like the dog park or a friend’s house (preferably a dog owner!), and taking walks with buddies—borrowing a friend’s dog or asking another owner to join you on your walk.
So grab that leash and take your friend for a stroll! It’s ALWAYS a beautiful day for a walk!
Amber Slaughter, DVM
Medical District Veterinary Clinic