Top 4 Mental Health Reasons for Routine Dog Walks

The tremendous benefits to providing your dog with routine walks goes far beyond physical health.

This might be an obvious "No @#%* Sherlock" moment, but walking our dogs provides tremendous physical health benefits (duh) --- but, have you ever considered the psychological benefits? Today I am exploring WHY a consistent exercise routine is so important to their peace-of-mind (and yours).

“ In a pack, dogs look to the leadership of the pack hierarchy to learn their place and derive confidence. Living with people they look to us for that leadership and guidance, but often the rhythm of our lives can be isolating, hectic and emotional."

While we're only scratching the surface with these insights, here are the top 4 mental health reasons to build consistent walks into your dog's routine.

Top 4 Peace-of-Mind Reasons Your Dog Needs Routine Walkies!

1. Socialization Getting that new puppy you're inundated with information. It is an exciting wonderful time and top of that to-do-list, owners hear about the importance of socialization -- especially in the first six months of a puppy's life. While this is true, socialization should not stop there. Cities can be a wonderful place for dogs, but can be isolating. Dogs that lose "practice" being around other dogs, people, sights and sounds can develop phobias and other anxiety issues over time.

Exposing your pooch, on a consistent basis, to new people, different dogs and situations is a rock-start win for everyone. And for dogs that already have anxiety or fears, it might seem counter intuitive to put them into a situation that makes them fearful, but with the right tools, patience and leadership the socialization and physical act of going for a walk can help reverse behavioural problems.

2. Confidence As pack animals, dogs look to the leadership of the pack hierarchy to understand their place and derive confidence. Living with people doesn't mean that they don't need to develop confidence; in fact they need it even more, because often the rhythm of our lives can be isolating, hectic and emotional. Dogs tap into our energy. They build confidence with consistency, and when they are able to see, smell and experience many different things learning about the world around them. This is yet another way that your dog's ego will get a positive boost from frequent, routine walks.

3. Structure Because we love our dogs sooooo much, we often believe they should have all the freedom in the world. But coming from a pack mentality -- structure is hard-wired into dogs. They actually seek structure -- crave it, and are even happier with it. In fact when they don't believe they have the necessary structure, they often compensate by stepping into that leadership role. This might not be a "Game of Thrones" level coup d'eta, but they are looking for hierarchy. Frequently assuming the role, to fill a perceived leadership gap in their people-pack. Often this is a position they don't want, or feel prepared for. And on the opposite scale, some may take their "top dog" position on with great gusto -- causing them (and you) great stress. Assuming or evolving into this rank can manifest into; aggressive and territorial behaviour, possessiveness of you their owner and a plethora of other unwanted behaviours and anxieties which can crop-up seemingly out of the blue.

Walking our dogs on a routine basis can be a great source of structure and complements the structure provided inside the home. In fact, the two are inseparable: structure inside the home translates to good behaviour outside the home; and structure that’s reinforced outside the home translates to improved behaviour inside the home. Even a dog's free time is better enjoyed by them and is safer when it is provided in a structured, routine way.

4. Fulfilment A dogs excitement to greet us coming home from work or when it's mealtime is different than them being happy and fulfilled. Excitement in dogs can turn into aggression in a heartbeat: so it's not a great indicator of happiness. Fulfillment, on the other hand, is a clam and balanced presence where the dog understands its place, is at ease with their world and has built a relationship of respect, and trust. For a dog there is nothing more basic than the rhythm of a walk: it makes their lives whole. The routine of strolling their neighbourhood, smelling all the smells, fulfilling their curiosity and being out in the open air is key to providing that fulfillment.

When your dog's brain-breaks match their physical needs there is balance. Balance means a happy dog and a happy, balanced dog means an even happier owner. So if your pooch is a home alone couch potato, that would love to stroll their neighbourhood on a more regular basis, or you're thinking your fur-buddy may have usurped the leadership role, as demonstrated by some bad behaviour -- Funk + Waggers that situation.

We're here to provide support and continuity - expending their energy, engaging their brain and bringing peace-of-mind in a caring heart-centred way. Whether you're away from home for a well deserved vacation... or long days at work... or other family commitments... have you looking for support to maintain pet care routines -- connect with Funk + Waggers. We are here to make your life easier and your dog's life happier.

Share with us what's included in your dog's routine?

About the author: Tori is a lifetime pet lover who spends her days joyously caring for and engaging with her clients and their dogs and cats. She is the owner of Funk + Waggers, a south west Toronto, south Etobicoke and south Mississauga area based dog walking, puppy support, dog and cat sitting company. Her objective is to share with pet owners everywhere the importance of exercise, engagement, and leadership for raising happy, thriving, well adjusted pets.

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