One of the MOST IMPORTANT things I can tell people is that they need to walk their dogs — properly. (I haven’t posted about walking properly, but there are all sorts of articles on how to do it, with different ways of teaching you and your dog to walk together. Try Googling it!)
I’ve also hit a LOT of resistance from clients lately. I hear a lot of reasons as to why someone feels they don’t need to walk their dog, so I’m going to debunk some myths here.
1. My dog isn’t energetic.
That’s probably true. Dogs are like children; most kids I know would rather play video games than go to martial arts class. But just like children, going for a walk is better than napping. Whether or not they get out and work their muscles, they still have a need to exercise. The fact that they’re bottling energy up just means it has to go somewhere — likely toward whatever behavior we don’t want them doing, or to feed anxiety, aggression, and stress. A low energy dog still has energy, and in fact, many high energy dogs look lazy — they’re bottling that energy up. My pit bull, Lily, is a VERY HIGH ENERGY DOG. She sleeps all day. If I don’t make her get out and exercise, she looks low energy… and then she turns that energy she bottled up into anxiety and destruction. (Furniture, to be precise.)
2. My dog has a yard to play in.
Again, let’s look at kids. Are your kids more likely to sit and play video games, or go wander around in the yard by themselves? If they do head into the yard, do they get bored and come back in if no one is out there playing with them? And if you banish them to the trampoline by themselves, do they wear themselves out or do they come back in shortly, bored? All those same answers are true for dogs, too.
3. But training is going so well; the problem’s gone away.
The problem has gone away because you are exercising your dog and because you’re working on it. It takes both things to solve your problems. Like getting fit requires both exercise and eating healthy, and one doesn’t work without the other, keeping your dog emotionally fit requires boundaries and exercise. As soon as you stop exercising your dog, they take that energy and put it right back toward arguing with you.
People laughingly say that tired dogs are good dogs, but it’s true. Walking them works their body and drains off energy that MUST be put toward some use — if not walking, then arguing. Walking them also stimulates their minds so they aren’t just stagnant and bored and pondering bad ways to get attention. How do you feel at the end of the day if you’ve done nothing? Dissatisfied? Edgy? Cranky? Your dog is the same way. Now what if you’ve gotten something done? Do you feel accomplished? Tired? Satisfied? To a dog, walking is getting something done — they’ve followed their leader, seen new things, made sure the neighborhood is safe, worked as a team with the rest of their pack (you).
Even if you don’t walk correctly, walking is still important. It is the number one most important thing you can do.
So get out! Get some air! Get some sun and some exercise. Take your dog to the coffee shop, the post office, around the block, to the park. Enjoy the day… and make your best friend mentally and physically healthier!