National Walk Your Dog Month
January is Walk Your Dog Month and after the excesses of the holiday period it's time to get up and start walking. Yes, it can be difficult to maintain motivation at this time of year, but just think how much you and your dog will benefit from walks in the fresh air. It's well known that regular exercise helps to get you fitter. And walking, being a low impact exercise, can have a positive effect on both you and your dog's mental and physical health.
Of course, sticking to a schedule can be a problem, especially at this time of year. It's cold and dark and you'd prefer to sit in front of the fire with a good book. This is where your dog will help you out. Once a routine is set, your dog won't let you sit at home. You'll be up and walking and enjoying every minute of it with your canine companion. Benefits abound for both you and your dog.
Read on to find out the reasons why you should use January to kickstart your health and wellness routine.
How Walking Your Dog Improves Mental Health During Winter Months
National Walk Your Dog Month highlights the importance of taking exercise with your dog. Spending time with your canine companion can provide physical and mental benefits for both of you. Regular walks are vital for your stress management in today's difficult and overwhelming world.
When you exercise, feel-good chemicals are released which help relieve pain and stress. They also play an important part in boosting your mood. Serotonin is one of the key hormones. It helps to stabilise mood and influences an overall sense of well-being. It can also improve appetite and sleep, which you will appreciate when you watch your dog fall into a deep, contented slumber after a long walk.
Just you and your dog walking out in the fresh, crisp air is a great bonding experience. They love attention and you will love observing how he interacts with the world about him.
Dogs also love the mental stimulation a walk will give them. Being outside provides an array of sights and smells they can't get at home. Dogs were born to sniff. Their sense of smell is ten times stronger than that of a human. This is part of their wild heritage when they had to roam for miles to find food or water. It comes naturally to them and although they don't have to search like they used to, they still enjoy a good exploration. You may think its just a walk but to your dog it's a great adventure.
Physical Health Benefits of Dog Walking
Walking will help your dog work off its excess energy. Obesity in our dogs, as with us, can result in a reduced quality of life and shorter life expectancy. Getting out in the fresh air is a great way to burn off those extra calories, accompanied by a healthy diet. Regular exercise increases metabolism and reduces the risk of diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and more.
If you or your dog suffer from arthritis, it is very important to keep moving. The hormone secretions released during exercise help to relieve the pain. A lack of exercise will lead to the development of more adipose or fat tissue which can make the inflammation worse and exacerbate the arthritis.
The physical stimulation of walking also activates specialised cells that improve mass and help to strengthen bones. For most of us bone mass peaks in our 30's. As we get older there is a greater risk of fractures, especially in the hips and spine. Regular exercise with your dog will help reduce these risks and allow you both to stay active for longer.
Research has shown that walking also helps to reduce the risk of diabetes. The sugar that is needed for energy when walking is better absorbed into the cells which enhances stamina and strength. Diabetics themselves, including dogs, will develop better overall control of their sugar levels leading to a more balanced and stress-free life.
Dog Walking Tips
It's always a good idea for you to do some stretching before starting a walk. Warm up those muscles a bit, especially in the cold winter months. Pay particular attention to the front and back of your legs. For senior dogs a gentle massage to the legs will help to loosen them up a bit in preparation for a walk.
Ensure you have all the right equipment with you. Take a good, strong lead and a harness for preference, especially for the brachycephalic breeds where a collar could cause problems with their breathing or even lead to a collapsed trachea. Harnesses are also very useful for those dogs that can't stop pulling.
The winter months are going to be cold so you both need to wrap up warm with good coats. If your dog is comfortable wearing boots, they are a good idea to protect their paws, especially if the ground is icy or has been gritted. Always take water with you even in winter, as walking can lead to dehydration for both of you. Don't forget that if you walk in the dark or the light is bad, then both you and your dog need to wear something reflective so you can be seen.
Of course, take poop bags for clean up and add some bite-sized treats to help with training. Vary your route if you can, your dog will love the different scents and it will make the walk more exciting.
Dogs love walks. We all know that. The mere sight of you grabbing the lead or putting your coat on will get them excited and wagging their tail. Use your dog's enthusiasm as your motivation to exercise. The benefits are enormous for both of you. Physical fitness will improve, and remember those feel-good chemicals which will create a happier and healthier state for both of you. So, this Walk Your Dog Month, take to the great outdoors and make a pledge to provide better health for you and your dog.