When you commit to becoming a doggie pawrent, you will have accepted that regular walks will become a part of your daily life. Mostly, you would have assumed that these walks would be a response to nature calling. But walking your dog offers benefits more numerous than simply for your dog to relieve itself.
Benefits of walking your dog
What are the benefits of walking your dog? Far more numerous than simply avoiding a messy accident on your carpets.
According to veterinary research, there are many health benefits for your dog that come through regular walks:
- Managing weight and body condition;
- Keeping joints healthy;
- Regulating digestive and urinary health;
- Mental stimulation.
But walking your dog has many benefits for you too. Regular walks offer dog owners increased physical fitness, improved muscle and bone strength, a boost to mental health and cardiovascular health, and improved sleep.
What happens if you don't walk your dog? Well, you're probably in for some messes to clean up, not to mention more behavioral problems resulting from boredom.
How long should you walk your dog?
There's no one-size-fits-all approach regarding how long or often to walk your dog. The optimum length and frequency of walks can vary significantly among breeds as well as in relation to your pup's age.
A general rule of thumb is to aim to walk your dog for between 30 minutes and 2 hours a day. Larger breeds and those more energetic breeds like shepherds and retrievers will definitely need longer walks to get the maximum benefits.
You can choose to spread your dog walks so that you're doing three shorter walks throughout the day or one long walk – see what your dog enjoys most. It’s up to you to choose a dog walking schedule that works for your lifestyle and dog.
It's unlikely that older dogs will have the stamina for one long walk and may benefit from shorter walks throughout the day.
Best time of day for dog walks
When should you walk your dog? The best time to walk your dog will likely depend on your lifestyle and your pup's preferences.
Mornings are suitable for older dogs and very young puppies who may need to potty first thing. Mornings are also ideal for doggos who need to burn off energy early to elicit better behavior throughout the day.
If your dog has arthritis and you live in a cold region, chilly mornings may worsen joint pain, so keep that in mind.
Afternoons are the best time to walk your dog in the winter as it's less icy, but in the summer, it can be too hot to walk your dog at this time. Long-haired breeds will struggle in the heat at this time. If this is the only time you can make it, ensure your dog's feet are protected from burning on hot cement and roads using booties. Also, make sure you bring water along for you both.
Evenings are a popular time to walk dogs and great for socializing your pup with all the other dogs out and about. Heavy traffic might be alarming for the more skittish canine, so be aware of that when choosing your route.
Night-time walks are necessary for dogs prone to accidents at night and those doggos that need to burn off a little more energy before bed. There's less traffic, fewer other dogs, and generally, conditions are much quieter, so if you've got a nervous dog, this is a good time for a trot. Make sure you and your pup are visible, and stock up on some reflective gear.
Best weather for dog walks
Time of day may boil down to convenience, but the weather and temperatures are just as important to note. Dogs are susceptible to heat stroke because, unlike humans, they cannot regulate their body temperature with sweat.
Signs of canine heatstroke include panting, dark red gums, and thick saliva. If your dog is overheating, ensure you have water on hand for them to drink. Still, you can also help them cool down by hosing them or letting them splash about in shallow water like ponds or splash pools.
Remember, hot days also pose the added risk of burnt paws. Walking your dog on cement or roads that have been baking in the sun all day can cause your dog's paws to burn. You can now purchase booties to help in these instances or choose a different time of day.
To assess if the pavement is too hot for walkies, apply the 5-Second Rule: put the back of your hand on the sidewalk. If it's so hot that you can't hold your hand there for 5 seconds, it's too hot for little paws.
What about cold weather? The chances are pretty good that you won't want to brave the cold, but your dog will let you know what they will and won't tolerate. If your dog is older, suffers from arthritis, or is of a very small breed, try not to take them out if the temperatures dip below 32°F (0°C). Temperatures below 20°F (-6.6°C) are a hard no for any breed as hypothermia and frostbite can occur.
Emergencies and safety during dog walks
When heading out for a walk with your pup, there are a few safety considerations:
- Make sure your dog is vaccinated.
- Make sure your dog knows and responds appropriately to voice commands.
- Make sure you have the right leash and collar/harness.
- Bring water for you and your dog, especially when it's warm out.
- Both you and your dog should have identification.
- If you're walking at night or in poor light, make sure you and your dog have reflective gear or lights to make you more visible.
The most important advice to heed before heading out on a walk with your dog is to be aware of your surroundings. Being mindful helps you to make appropriate decisions in good time.
Common frustrations during dog walks
Dog walking sideways: a dog walking sideways is cause for concern and must be seen by a vet. 'Crabbing,' as it's known, is more common in some breeds, like border collies, spaniels, pointers, and vizslas. Still, it can indicate hip dysplasia, injury, or vestibular disease.
Dog having sudden trouble walking: any sudden change in your pet should be taken seriously. Sudden difficulty walking can be something straightforward like blisters, muscle injury, or anything much more severe.
Dog stops walking and won't move: this is most likely your dog's way of telling you that he's had enough walkies. Maybe consider shortening your walks or splitting the time into two shorter walks. If the problem persists, consult a vet to investigate further.
Tips and supplies for the best dog walks
Set yourself up for dog walking success with this list of handy equipment and supplies:
- A good quality leash and collar/harness;
- Poop bags;
- Dog treats;
- First aid kit;
- Hand wipes;
- A dog jacket and booties to protect against the elements;
- Collapsible dog bowl and water;
- Flashlight or headlamps;
- Backpack to carry essentials;
- Identification for you and your dog.
No matter how careful you are on your walks with your dog, the risk that something might go wrong exists. In the worst-case scenario, you don't want to find yourself without the financial means to care for your canine companion's health.
Petcube's Emergency Fund is an affordable alternative to traditional pet insurance. For just $29 a month, you have 24/7 access to an online vet and up to $3000 per year of emergency veterinary care.
In an unexpected veterinary emergency, you can enjoy peace of mind that your pet will be taken care of.
What do you do if an off-leash dog approaches you while you are walking a dog?
If an unleashed dog approaches your dog, try to remain calm, as your dog will pick up on your energy. Try to avoid the interaction altogether, if possible, by walking away. Using dog treats to distract the visitor is an excellent way to diffuse the situation. Throw the treat to break up the situation altogether while you and your dog walk away.
Why is my dog having trouble walking all of a sudden?
This could be due to painful joints or spinal issues. Arthritis is usually the cause, but it's definitely worth getting to a vet.
When is it too cold to walk your dog?
When temperatures drop below 20°F (-6.6°C), it's too cold to walk your dog.
When is it too hot to walk your dog?
Anything over 89.6°F (32°C) is considered too dangerous to walk your dog.
Is it ok to walk the dog in the rain?
You can walk your dog in the rain, but it's probably a good idea to keep the walk shorter than usual. Make sure you're wearing gear that is visible to motorists. If you can purchase a doggie raincoat and some doggie rainboots, things could be even better.
If there's thunder and lightning, maybe give it a miss, as this can frighten your doggo.