Animals, People, & the Earth

Walk Your Dog For Health

January is Walk Your Dog Month

Dogs need exercise every day and it’s great if that exercise can be done outdoors. Even if you have a fenced-in yard or dog run where your furry best friend can romp and rollick to his heart’s content, going for a walk with you is still her preferred form of outdoor exercise. She gets to explore while bonding with you, and you get some exercise as well. Walking your dog is a win-win, so this January, celebrate Walk Your Dog Month by committing to walking every day, and following our tips for a fun and safe trek.

Benefits of Walking with Your Dog

Walking is one of the most beneficial exercises for both human and canine health. It is low impact, weight-bearing, and uses many muscle groups. Other than a good pair of shoes, it doesn’t require any special equipment. And you can walk just about anywhere, so all you need to do is head outside and get started. No need for expensive gym memberships!

Beyond physical health, walking benefits mental health as well. The advantages of spending time in nature for humans are well-documented: reduction of stress, depression, and anxiety, improved memory function, and increased creativity are just a few of the positive mental effects obtained from walking outside. For our animal companions, walking engages their bodies and minds in similarly helpful ways, including aiding in socialization and reducing unwanted behaviors, such as destructive chewing or excessive barking. Most importantly, walking with your dog outside improves the bond between you as you spend happy time together.

Foot Protection

In many places, January is a cold month. Just as you wouldn’t want to walk outside barefoot on a frigid day, your dog will likely want some foot protection, too, during a January walk. Paw pads help your dog maintain his core temperature and typically shouldn’t be covered, but prolonged exposure to very cold temperatures from walking through snow or ice or on the ground on a frigid day can disrupt this process. Additionally, walking on chemical ice melts or getting sand stuck in his paws can cause injury. A dog’s paw pads normally provide all the protection he needs, but on very cold or snowy/icy days, it is important to give his paws a little extra help to stay warm and avoid injury. To help protect your pup, consider dressing him in dog booties or applying a paw cream.

Weather Awareness

Before you head out for a walk with your dog, be sure to check the forecast. Storms can roll in quickly and the weather can shift from mild to severe. You wouldn’t want to be out for a long hike and get stuck in a snowstorm or a drastic temperature drop. Additionally, you want to time your walk based on the weather. A sunny 40-degree day calls for a much longer walk than a freezing 10-degree day. While, yes, your dog naturally wears a fur coat, that doesn’t mean that he won’t get too cold on frosty days. Most dogs are fine above 45 degrees, but once it goes below that, you may need to adjust your plans. Very young, old, thin-coated, or sick dogs will need to limit outside time. Healthy adult dogs can generally take the cold unless it is below freezing. At these low temperatures, limit outside time and/or dress your dog in a warm dog coat or sweater.

Leash Walking

If you choose to walk your dog off-leash, be sure that you are in an area where this is allowed and that your dog will not react to other dogs or people you may meet. Unless you are absolutely certain of the reliability of your dog’s recall and you are in an area where other dogs or animals who may be reactive will not be encountered, we recommend on-leash walking. If your dog is a puller, your walk is an excellent training opportunity. Use a system that restricts pulling, such as a harness or a martingale collar, and bring a bag of training treats with you to reward your dog for good walking.

Whether you walk around your neighborhood or head out to a nature trail, walking with your dog is a mutually beneficial activity. So, this January, lace up your sneakers and hit the road with your furry best friend to celebrate National Walk Your Dog Month. You’ll both be glad that you did.

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