By Cesar Millan
I think it’s safe to assume that we all want what’s best for our dogs, all the time. We make sure they’re properly fed and have enough water. We take them to the vet regularly. We keep them clean and groomed.
All of these things are necessary, but there’s one area where people are sometimes lacking, whether it’s because of time, physical issues, the weather outside, and so on — so the most important thing we can do for our dogs doesn’t get done. That’s a shame, because it’s something you can probably do right now.
Take your dog for a walk.
If you can’t do it right now, do it as soon as you can, and do it at least three times a day, every day.
This week is National Walk Your Dog Week, but we shouldn’t need a special week to be reminded to do it. Every week should be “Walk Your Dog Week,” because it is the single most important thing you can do to give your dog the best, which is to keep them balanced. A balanced dog is a happy dog, and humans with happy dogs are happy Pack Leaders.
I know that some people think that their dogs get enough exercise because they have a big yard to play in, but that isn’t the same for two reasons. First is that playing in the yard is not structured and it can actually make a dog more excitable and hyperactive because they aren’t getting the proper discipline. Second is that there’s a lot more to the walk than just exercise.
Here are five benefits of walking your dog every day:
The first part of my fulfillment formula is exercise, and the walk is the best way for your dog to get it. Exercise helps drain excess energy to bring her to a calm-submissive state, and it will help keep her from misbehaving because of that extra energy. If you have a dog that’s always racing around the house or chewing up your favorite shoes, you have a dog that’s telling you she hasn’t had enough exercise.
Obesity isn’t just a human problem. According to a recent survey, nearly 53% of dogs in the United States are overweight, and they’re overweight for the same reason that humans are: they take in more calories than they use up. This is particularly the case for dog owners who associate food with affection, and indulge their dogs with too many treats, or feed them human food from the table.
In reality, healthy dogs do not actually need to eat every single day, a holdover from their days in the wild when the pack only ate when the hunt was successful. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t feed our dogs every day — routine is important — but we should keep an eye on their weight, and regular daily walks will help burn up those extra calories and keep your dog in shape.
People who never get out of the house can live isolated lives with few friends, and dogs are the same. On the walk, you’re both likely to run into other humans or dogs, and the more your dog is exposed to other beings, the more social he will become as he gets used to making new friends and gets more comfortable with the old ones. It will also give him a sense of his “territory” outside of the home, which will help to calm him down once you’re back there.
Sharing new experiences with your dog on the walk can help build his self-confidence and reduce things like anxiety or fearfulness. The more often the two of you encounter new things with nothing bad happening, the easier your dog will be able to handle novelty without panicking.
The most important aspect of the walk, when done properly, is that it establishes your roles in the pack, with the humans as the leaders and the dogs as the followers. This connection will help with every other aspect of your relationship with your dog.
If you’re a calm-assertive Pack Leader on the walk, then you will be one everywhere else with your dog because you will have earned her trust, respect, and love. You’ve taken the pack out on the “hunt” and safely returned to the den, and your dog appreciates that.
It’s Good for You
All of the reasons above also apply to you. A nice, calm walk can be very relaxing to humans, and it gives us an opportunity to unwind or just enjoy the beauty of nature. The health benefits of exercise that your dog receives are good for you, too, and the socializing you can do with friends and neighbors is great for your mental health.
And don’t forget that the bonding works both ways. As your dog learns to trust you, you will learn to read his body language and energy. This will teach you how to communicate the way that dogs do — instinctually — until it becomes second nature to you.
So there are my five reasons to take your dog for a walk every single day. As a Pack Leader, it’s the best thing you can do for them.
Stay Calm, and keep walking!
Now, tell us about your personal reasons for taking your dog on a daily walk.