Well it’s January, and if you are like millions of Americans, you have begun a New Year’s resolution to be healthier in 2017. So it makes sense that January is also National Walk Your Pet Month! Just like for us, exercise is essential to keep your pet healthy. Research supports that daily exercise helps maintain a healthy weight for your pet, and also decreases the risks of metabolic diseases ( such as diabetes), heart disease, arthritis, and injuries to the knees and back.
If the health benefits are not enough motivation to get them moving, consider the fact that exercising your pet also burns energy which may help to decrease behavioral problems like chewing on furniture and barking out the window. Like humans, animals experience a decrease in stress-related anxiety when they are provided regular daily exercise.
Finally, walking your dog helps to strengthen the animal-human bond. Your pet will look forward to and appreciate the time you spend together. And as the pet parent, you get the bonus of helping to meet your own New Year’s resolution!
Here are some tips to get you started walking your pet with the best foot (or paw) forward:
- Always consult with your veterinarian prior to beginning any new exercise program with your pet.
- Start with 10 minute walks and gradually work up to longer walks. Remember to take breaks.
- Properly train your dog to walk on a leash (rather than off-leash) to prevent injuries to your pet and yourself. Using harnesses and gentle leaders can be helpful in controlling strong dogs. Avoid using leashes that retract.
- Make sure you take plenty of water for you and your pet (especially in Arizona!).
- Be sure to walk your pet during the cooler part of the day, and avoid hot surfaces like asphalt and gravel that can burn their feet. (If you live in a colder climate, avoid the coldest parts of the day and know how to monitor for frostbite.)
- Remember that walks are supposed to fun for your pet. Allow your pet time to sniff around when possible.
- Always keep your pet on a leash and respect the leash laws in your community.
- Remember to pick up after your pet, and dispose of the waste properly.
- Make sure to tell your veterinarian if you notice any changes in your pet during the walk such as trouble breathing, coughing, or becoming tired faster than usual. These are signs of exercise intolerance, and may indicate a serious underlying disease.