Friday, December 12, 2014

Yet another reason to walk your dog: You could get fit, too!

This is what Liam looks like each and every time I ask him if he'd like to go for a walk. He tips his head, he thinks for a moment and he drops whatever he's doing to run to the door. He absolutely loves to hit the sidewalks. It's something that makes him happy, and that's a big reason why I make time to walk him at least once every single day.

I've talked a lot about walking with dogs on this blog (here's a recent example), but I recently read a New York Times article that gives me yet another reason to promote walking. And it's a biggie.

This particular article discusses a study conducted in Maryland. Researchers split participants into two groups. Everyone who participated had an obese dog, but only half of the owners were given dog exercise guidelines from a veterinarian. They were typically told to walk the dog at least 30 minutes per day. The other participants were given general guidelines for pup weight loss only, with no prescription for exercise. And apparently, some vets in both groups stressed the importance of weight loss for a dog's health.

When the researchers followed up three months later, those that were specifically told to exercise had done so, and the dogs were slimmer. Also, those that were just told that being obese was bad for puppy also had exercised said dogs more (even if they weren't specifically told to do so), and the pups had lost weight.

Liam preps for a pre-dawn walk.
But here's the thing: The owners lost weight, too.

The researchers suggest that dogs can be powerful agents for change. We'll do things for their health and well-being that we won't do for ourselves. We love them, and we want what's best for them, so we'll make those sacrifices for them. Where these people may not have considered walking for their own health, when they were told that the dogs needed to walk, they hit the bricks. And everyone got better. (Read the column here.)

Of course, walking a dog brings all sorts of other benefits, too. A walk helps you to establish a line of communication with your dog, and that often means you have a stronger bond when the walk is through. And walks help to stimulate your dog's mind, so the pup has less of a boring existence.

And, best of all, walks wear the pups out. See how tired Sinead is after her walk?
She's ready for a good, long nap. And a walk gave that to her.

So if you're not walking your dog now, I encourage you to start. And if you do walk, keep it up! It's good for you and your pup.

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