It's National Walk Your Dog Month! So walk your dog!
Surely ‘walking the dog’ is synonymous with bringing a dog into your life. It’s one of a dog’s many selling points that’s being drawn to our attention by National Walk Your Dog Month.
Apart from being a free chance to get outdoors, enjoy fresh air and nature, walking the dog is an aerobic exercise that reaps mental and physical health benefits naturally: that’s not just for yourself, but your pooch too!
Yet pre-pandemic research revealed that 31% of dog guardians regularly relied on dog walkers and less than half of owners walked their dogs every day.
An average weekday walk being only 20 minutes, despite 30 minutes to two hours being recommended by welfare organisations depending on the age and breed.
Excuses for not walking the dog pre-pandemic ranged from being too tired after work, wanting to stay in the warm and dry or simply not having the time.
In our new ‘covid’ age, many of us are working from home, or with reduced time in the office, so there’s no excuse not to walk the dog?
Heaps of science proves that walking the dog or ‘daily movement therapy’ is a natural antidote to sedentary lifestyles, stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness – that’s in dogs, just as in humans.
We’ve seen anxiety in humans and dogs soar in recent years, not least due to the pandemic, with anti-depressant prescriptions for both humans and dogs at an all -time high.
Studies concur the benefits of daily exercise, just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise like walking creates anti-anxiety physiological benefits like reducing inflammation in the body and releasing endorphins that lasts up to five hours – that’s for dogs too, and its cumulative!
In an age where ‘being stressed out’ is a familiar adage, stress and its cousin anxiety can be classed as an environmental stressor to dogs.
Dogs can smell cortisol rising in our breath and our sweat, and can read tense facial expressions, so we can unwittingly transfer our stress to our dogs, causing anxious symptoms.
Whether your dog has issues with separation, hyperactivity, incessant barking, fatigue, no focus: these are all signs of latent anxiety, or stress.
Daily rigorous exercise rewires the fight or flight stress response, soothing anxiety, boosting confidence and well-being. It also helps shift unwanted Christmas pounds!
Walking your dog is your duty of care, it’s a way of celebrating the partnership you share with your ‘best friend’ as a sentient being and family member.
The dog walker service sector exploded in 2005, and it still remains unregulated despite animal welfare charities promising change like mandatory first aid and dog training qualifications.
‘Back in the day’ there was no choice but to walk your own dog. It was also an era when vets weren’t prescribing anti-depressants to dogs.
Nothing beats relationship building than spending proactive time together: training, playing, or simply taking in the sights, sounds and smells, getting muddy- simply being in the moment respecting your dog’s innate need to be outside.
Enrich your dog’s walks by tuning into what they want to do by turning their world into a game, based on teamwork. My Bull Terrier, Prudence, loves to sniff, so I taught her ‘scent work’ to the seek out the British truffle!
If daily exercise can do so much to balance our sedentary lifestyles, fight obesity, depression, anxiety, and arthritis, it’s a no brainer to get out and maximise walking your dog.