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The Benefits of Dog Walking

Updated on June 17, 2012

Walking the dog has many benefits for dog and owner. Mostly if there is a benefit for the dog, there is a benefit for the owner. Whilst it is possible to dog walk with the dog and owner both using a treadmill, this sort of walking has fewer benefits then getting outside and going for a proper walk.

Walking the Dogs

Walking the Dogs on Hammeldon Hill, Lancashire
Walking the Dogs on Hammeldon Hill, Lancashire | Source

Health benefits of Walking

Walking has health benefits for dogs and humans:

In humans, studies have shown that walking can prevent, reduce or alleviate many illnesses for example regular exercise, such as walking the dog, reduces the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's Disease by up to 40% (walking for Health.org.uk) and walking regularly can prevent us developing type 2 diabetes,reducing the risk by 26-60%. (The Textbook of Diabetes, Holt I G et al, 2010). In addition, ‘The British Association for Cardiac Rehabilitation’ recommends “appropriate walking as part of a comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation programme”.

Having a dog to walk increases the chance of us making walking a regular activity, Most dogs are prepared to take the odd day off from walking, but if they are used to being walked you will find they have ways of reminding you that it’s time you both went for a walk again.

Although I haven’t seen any similar studies done for dogs it’s reasonable to suspect that as they suffer from many of the same diseases as us, they might similarly benefit. Certainly my own vet believes that the longevity of my own 16 year old German Shepherd type dog, is partly down to regular walking. Although he walks very slowly now up to two miles a day, the change of scenery seems to keep him alert and interested in life. It also helps him to maintain some muscle tone which, along with medication and supplements, supports his arthritic joints.

For both dogs and humans exercise such as walking helps to burn calories so is good for maintaining a healthy weight or as part of a weight loss program. For example, according to about.com a 180lb (approx. 13stone) person would use 400 calories walking 4 miles in an hour or 286 calories walking 3 miles in an hour.

The Psychological Benefits of Walking

The jury’s out as to whether dogs understand human smiles and have true smiles of their own, but never the less, it looks to me as though dogs are usually pretty happy and relaxed out on a walk and are often alert and interested and keen to investigate sights, sounds and especially smells. Speaking from experience, dogs who have used up some of their energy in a walk which has engaged their interest, are less likely to chew up household items out of boredom and are more relaxed when left home alone if you have to leave them.


Something to Smile about

There is always something to smile about out on a walk
There is always something to smile about out on a walk | Source
unless you get caught out in the rain without your coat on! Bob shelters under a bridge during a rainstorm.
unless you get caught out in the rain without your coat on! Bob shelters under a bridge during a rainstorm. | Source

What is Happening over There?

There are always things for a dog to look at out on a walk
There are always things for a dog to look at out on a walk | Source

Although dogs are many generations removed from their wolf relatives they do still share a desire to roam and explore. One study by David Meach and Dean Cluff (Movements of Wolves at the Northern Extreme of the Species' Range, Including during Four Months of Darkness) showed wolves often travelling up to 25 miles a day, but was based on straight line distance between recorded points, so actual distance travelled is likely to be further. A walk fulfils some of this instinctive need in your dog to travel and work for their food. Although it is fair to say that this instinct is very well hidden in some couch potato canines!

For people there are positive psychological effects to being out and looking at a natural environment which walking encourages. Even if you have to walk mostly in town you will find areas planted with trees which are soothing to look at and be surprised to find nature such wild flowers in unexpected crevices and even peregrine falcons gazing down from high rise buildings on the lookout for a pigeon dinner.

The Social Benefits of Walking

Because you lead the activity, walking is a particularly good opportunity to bond with your dog. Unless your dog is a reluctant walker, or a fair weather walker and you’re out in the rain! Your dog will see you as a provider of interest and good things whilst out enjoying a walk. It’s also an especially good chance for you and the dog to meet new and old canine and human friends. Out on walks you can accustom your dog to other new things as well, such as livestock or passing traffic. A well socialised dog makes for a much better companion and is likely to be perceived more positively by none dog owners too.

Meet New Friends While Walking

A shiba inu and a valhund meet each other on a walk
A shiba inu and a valhund meet each other on a walk | Source
Walking Back to Happiness
Walking Back to Happiness

a novel about the redemptive properties of dogs and walking

 

How Far Should I Walk my Dog?

How far you walk depends on the individual health and fitness of both human and canine and the breed or type of dog. Tiny dogs such as Chihuahuas often love walking but are putting in a lot more effort to travel a mile then a Labrador is for example. Brachycephalic (short nosed) breeds such as british bulldogs and pugs can struggle to walk far because their breathing is often hampered by the shape of their nose and muzzle.

As a guide I have found 1 ½ hours walking covering up to six miles is quite acceptable to German Shepherd dogs, a Belgian shepherd dog, greyhound, lurchers, terriers, a Labrador and several mongrel dogs I’ve owned. They were all happy to do more on days when time allowed.

If you and or your dog are not fit and used to walking any distance, it is worth starting of with 20 minutes twice a day for at least a week and building distance and speed up from there.

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    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA

      Although I don't currently have a dog, I do agree that there are many benefits to walking a dog. You've almost convinced me that it's time to get another dog --for my own health! Good article, and I loved your dog photographs! Voted up across the board.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Great article. Another benefit psychologically is the ablity to perform kinhin, walking meditation, at the same time. WALK YOUR DOGS, for both of you!

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Thank you Stephanie - I'm sure there's a homeless hound just waiting for you somewhere.

      Dr Mark, that's a good idea I didn't think to mention. I have tried some walking meditation with the dogs occasionally, but tend to end up giggling because they give me funny looks.

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 5 years ago from Southern Nevada

      Good hub, love your great photo's of your dogs. Also all the information you have provided .

      Voted up useful and interesting, Joyce.

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Thank you writer20. I'm glad you like the pictures. The dogs don't all live with me (much as I'd love them to!), some of them are ones I walk at the local dog shelter whilst they wait for new homes.

    • urmilashukla23 profile image

      Urmila 5 years ago from Rancho Cucamonga,CA, USA

      Great article. love the pictures of your dogs. Enjoy reading it. Voted up!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      This says a lot for the benefits for walking and exercise in general for all living beings.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      I agree with everything you wrote here in this hub about walking dogs, well done !

      Vote up and more !!!

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      I think I got a lot more exercise when I had a dog and took it for a walk regularly - maybe I should consider getting one again. Very good tips here, and sweet photos of your furry friends! Voted up and up!

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Thank you urmilashukula, avian novice, Kashmir and Marcy. Perhaps one day courtesy of technology we'll be able to get together and have a virtual dog walk together (you're invited whether you get another dog or not Marcy!)

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 5 years ago from Hawaii

      I own a husky and a German Shepherd. Yes, they find six miles (or more!) pretty easy. Keeping my pups exercised is a constant challenge.

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Hello Natashalh - You've definitely opted for two breeds that will be happy to walk as a far or further then you want to! Thank you for visiting and commenting.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

      It is sad--for both me and my medium-sized dog--that I have limited mobility and pain if I try to walk more than ten minutes (tops) at a time. This confines us to walks in the back yard several times a day. Both my dog and I are also sensitive to bright sunlight (I have blepharospasm, and she was recently diagnosed with canine KCS), so that aggravates the problem. Before an accident eight years ago, I loved to walk at least an hour before dinner every day, and I often think how lovely it would be for my dog and I to walk like that every day. It would be enjoyable, but even more important, it would protect us from other diseases.

      As for me, I can do aqua-therapy to partially compensate for the loss of walks. Perhaps I can get my dog some sunshade goggles and hire a dog walker!

      Voted Up++

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Jaye I think you're doing a great job with your dog - she gets loads of attention and your company and even though you can't manage the long walks you put a lot of effort into the walks in your yard, which is so commendable.

      Thank you for commenting for your votes.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      I have a Miniature Schnauzer, Baby, who looks forward to her walk each afternoon. In fact, she knows what time we go (I swear she knows how to tell the time!) I have a nice large fenced in yard, and my friends think I'm crazy to walk her, but I know the health benefits for me.

      You wrote an excellent Hub here on the subject of walking your dog. I voted this UP, and will share.

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