February 22nd is National Walking the Dog Day. It comes at the perfect time when life is adjusting back to the normal schedule (before the craze of the holidays); and around the same time many people have given up on their New Year’s resolution…. like walking the dog more.
When life gets busy trying to balance work, school, sports practice, P.T.A., church activities, quality family time, and a social life, it’s no surprise that walking the dog gets knocked down the list. But structured walking is an important bonding activity with your dog, and shouldn’t be skipped over.
Walking your dog at least twice a day for 30 mins to 1 hour (depending on the size, activity level, and mobility of your pup) is the best way to give him or her the exercise and mental stimulation they need, as well as build an important and lasting bond with you, their pack leader.
A structured walk means the walk should be a Leadership Walk, not a Comfort Walk.
A Leadership walk is one where you are the pack leader, deciding when the walk starts and stops, walking with focus and purpose.
It is not a Comfort walk, where your dog gets to mark their territory on every tree or sniff every leaf they pass. Instead, they stay by your side and focus on you and the walk. It may take some practice for both of you to do a more structured walk. But stick with it and it will pay off for you both.
It can be hard to get in the habit of exercising your dog every day, but it is vital to their well-being. Dogs were born and bred to work, but most of us are no longer living rural lives. Herding and hunting and is now defined as chasing birds and hunting lizards, which they rarely ever catch. They need daily exercise and mental stimulation to live a happy and well-balanced life.
So take advantage of Walking the Dog Day this month, and start a new routine of regular walks (if you don’t already have one).
Interested in other activities you can do with your pup? Here is a list of activities you can enjoy together:
Walking- Adding a doggy backpack for the dog to carry weights while walking puts a small spin on the traditional walk and gives the dog a more intense workout.
Agility- Provides great mental stimulus as well as physical exercise.
Running or Jogging- If you like to run, your pup would love to come with you.
Bike Rides- Great exercise for larger, high energy dogs but should be done with safety in mind first. It is dangerous to bike with shy and unpredictable dogs or to bike in areas with heavy traffic.
Fetching- Any object that your dog loves to chase will work. Even if your dog isn’t a natural retriever you can train them.
Swimming- If your dog loves water, take advantage. Swimming is a great exercise and good way for overweight or injured dogs to get exercise without putting all the stress on their joints.
Hide and Seek- Hiding toys around the house is a great way to engage your dog mentally but it also encourages them to use their natural tracking and hunting skills.
Racing- I like to race my dogs myself but you may consider entering your pup in an organized race. There are regular Dachshund races every year for Oktoberfest.
Weight Pulling- This may take a little bit of training but weight pulling, like mushing, will give your dog purpose and tire them out more quickly.
Running on a Treadmill- The treadmill at home is a great way to get your pup the recommended amount of exercise, and Cesar Millan recommends it if you can’t fit regular activity with your dog into your day.
Puzzle Dog Toys- A great way to keep the dog busy while you are at work is a toy that will stimulate their mind. There are a lot of dog toys on the market that make dogs work to figure out how to release a treat.
Training- Teaching your dog a trick is beneficial in two ways because it stimulates their mind and teaches them good behavior. Training should only be done in short segments, 10-15 minutes at a time, otherwise your dog will probably lose interest and you will become frustrated.