No Winter Couch Potatoes!

C'mon mom!  There are things waiting to be sniffed!

C’mon mom! There are things waiting to be sniffed!

Walking a dog in the spring & summer is enjoyable.  The warm sun is on your face, birds are chirping, you meet other dog parents out for a walk.  Going for a walk in the cold snowy Midwest winters is a whole other story!  Not only do you have to bundle up with coat, hat, gloves, and bulky boots, but you have to get your dog dressed and apply paw protector balm or put on doggie boots.  It’s a pain and judging by the lack of summer regulars I see walking their dogs in the winter, many people decide it’s not worth it.  But walks aren’t  just for potty breaks and fun.  They are important to a dog’s health and well-being 365 days a year.  In really cold temps, you may need to shorten the walk, but still provide one.  A fenced in yard is not a substitute for a good walk.

Weight Problems

Dogs need exercise all year long.  Walks help maintain a dog’s weight and aid in weight loss if needed.  Obesity is becoming a real problem with dogs today.  Approximately 55% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese.  The extra weight on a dog can cause serious and pricey health risks such as: high blood pressure, joint problems & arthritis, diabetes, cancer, heart problems, respiratory issues, kidney disease, and a shortened life expectancy.  I love my fur baby and would not want to subject her needlessly to any of these conditions.

Sometimes it’s hard for people to realize the seriousness of their dog’s weight because the numbers are different than that of human weight.  What does 5 extra pounds mean to a dog? It may be easier to picture how that would compare to a human’s weight.  This pet weight translator allows you to put in your dog’s weight then see the comparison for a human. For example, a  12 pound Yorkie is 50% overweight or the equivalent of a 5′ 2″ female weighing 218 lbs.  Imagine the extra effort and joint pain that Yorkie has to deal with on a daily basis being overweight!

Joint Benefits

Exercise also helps keep the joints and muscles working properly.  Think about how stiff and sore your muscles are when you don’t use them for awhile.  Daily walks and other forms of exercise keep dogs agile and limber.  If your dog already has joint problems, ask your vet about low impact exercise like swimming or an underwater treadmill.  The buoyancy of water takes weight-bearing pressure off the joints but still provides an excellent workout.  The Swimming Dog website offers a great article on the benefits of swimming and hydrotherapy for dogs.  Many communities now offer hydrotherapy classes for dogs.

Behavior 

A tired dog is a well behaved dog!   A bored and antsy dog will find ways to entertain himself, and probably not in a way you deem appropriate.  Digging, destructive chewing, barking, and stubborn/unruly behavior can be attributed to a lack of exercise.  Tire your dog out with walks or other forms of exercise, and you will likely see a decrease in these annoying behaviors.  A walk before bed time can help a dog sleep through the night too.

Socialization & Exposure

During walks, your dog will likely encounter other dogs, children and people which provides a great opportunity for socialization.  Exposure to other dogs, people, and things can decrease their sensitivity to them.  When I first adopted Suki, she freaked out and would not stop barking around other dogs.  After many walking encounters, she has definitely become less reactive now when an unknown dog approaches.   Unfamiliar noises and things such as cars, bicycles, and loud trucks can also frighten a dog.  Many times, a dog barks out of fear. Repeatedly exposing them to the outside world can help build their confidence with such encounters.

Mental Stimulation

Let’s face it….dogs love to explore anything and everything!  They need to be mentally stimulated as well.  Walks provide a great opportunity to expose your dog to lots of new and exciting sights, sounds, and scents.  Being part Beagle, Suki’s nose rarely leaves the ground on a walk.  She loves sniffing every inch of the neighborhood and reading her pee mail.

Bonding/Training

Walks provide a great opportunity for additional training and bonding with your dog.  I walk Suki with a training pouch of treats.  Every so often during the walk, I’ll have her follow certain commands (sit, watch me, down, stop, stay, etc).   It’s one thing to train inside your quiet familiar home…it’s quite another for a dog to train with all of the distractions on a walk.  The structured nature of a walk increases your dog’s bond with you.  Suki periodically checks in with me on walks to make sure I’ll still there then goes back to her sniffing.

So bundle yourself and your dog up and head out into the world!  Enjoy the brisk air and bonding time with your dog…then head home for some well-deserved hot chocolate for you and a treat for your fur baby.

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Posted on December 15, 2012, in Motley Mix, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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