Christmas is over and the new year is upon us. We are plump from Christmas turkey and the stress of family/friends visiting. As well, January is historically one of the coldest months of the year and it is very tempting to just close the doors, turn up the furnace and hibernate until the thaw. However, there are many benefits to walking dogs: happier pets, fewer accidents in the house, and trim waistlines.
Fit dogs are less likely to suffer from osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, liver disease and insulin resistance. Walks also make dogs happy! They love checking out the sights and smells of the neighbourhood. But the most important thing of all is: they look forward to spending time with you. There’s nothing like an exercise partner who’s waiting by the door with a wagging tail to keep you motivated. As well, a good dog is a tired dog. Dogs that do not receive sufficient exercise can easily become bored and destructive.
Most dogs need to be walked at least once a day. Some dogs, particularly active breeds, may require more. The level of fitness and age, will determine how long and how vigorous your walks should be.
Tips for winter dog walking:
- Aim for at least 30-minute walks but do head back home when your dog is lifting his/her paws.
- Make sure your dog has proper identification.
- Thin or short-haired dogs should have a coat or sweater that does not absorb moisture.
- Protect paws from the cold by using booties or paw balm.
- Avoid salt on the sidewalks.
- Supervise your dog around young children.
- Don’t forget your poop bags!
Not only does walking help your pet’s mental and physical wellbeing, it can also benefit your own health. Dog owners have improved cardiovascular fitness, lower blood pressure, stronger muscles and bones, and decreased stress compared to their sedentary counterparts. Dog walking can also benefit your neighbourhood/community. Researchers in Australia found that dog owners were more likely to acknowledge and greet people in the streets, exchange favours with neighbours and meet up with others in their neighbourhood. They are also perceived by other people to be friendly and approachable.
Non-dog owners, don’t feel left out! You do not need a dog to reap the health benefits.
- Stroking and petting any friendly animal can reduce physiological indicators of stress, including high blood pressure.
- The non-judgemental companionship and unconditional love offered by pets have considerable mental health benefits for owners, including increased self esteem and alleviating symptoms of depression.
- A study of human patients waiting for dental surgery found that watching fish swim around in an aquarium is as effective as reducing stress as hypnosis.
As a dog owner, you are fully and legally responsible for any harm or damage to people, property or wildlife caused by your dog. Therefore, it is important to keep your dog in control on a leash in any public area. In off leash areas, make sure your dog has excellent recall so you can steer them away from danger.
Remember, there is no bad weather, only unsuitable clothing. So, bundle up and head outside with your dog! There are too many benefits to lose by staying inside, and your dog will thank you for it. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please contact your friendly neighbourhood veterinarian at Edgemont Veterinary Clinic. Happy walking and stay warm!