Want to live a long, happy life and create the same for your loved ones? Get those legs moving — all six of them.
You already know that owning a dog is synonymous with the responsibility to exercise him or her. But do you know all the good you’re doing for yourself and for your four-legged friend when you take them out for a long jaunt? Here are a few of the ways that activities with our pups dramatically improve the health and happiness of everyone involved. Read on for increased satisfaction with your daily jaunts, and perhaps inspiration to take a few extra steps.
1. Exercise….for the sake of keeping your home intact and your pup calm and anxiety-free when they’re home alone. A restless and under-exercised dog is far more prone to destroying everything in its wake, whether it’s to release energy or to act on feelings of stress, anxiety, and loneliness when you’re out of the house. Giving active, healthy four-legged friends (be mindful of what’s best for their physical needs) the time to stretch their legs and get their heart rate up every day from 30 minutes to an hour is incredibly helpful in preventing restless behaviors.
2. Exercise…to start your own day off better. Walking or running your pup first thing in the morning before you take on the day improves your mood and focus throughout the rest of the day. The best care for your dog first and foremost requires making sure you’re healthy, too — so don’t feel guilty about tending to the little acts of self-care that keep you going throughout the day, week, and month. Without these moments of dedication to your own health, you wouldn’t be able to give Fido what he needs.
3. Exercise…to encourage your dog’s healthy digestion. Got a pup that sometimes struggles to process their food well and absorb all the essential nutrients they need? Frequent exercise can get things moving, so to speak.
4. Exercise…to calm social anxieties. Taking your dog to partake in social-based exercise is beneficial in a number of ways. Of course, taking them to a dog park requires vigilance to ensure the safety of all pups involved, but with the right care and encouragement, being around other dogs and engaging in play can help shy or anxious dogs overcome some squeamish tendencies and build confidence.
5. Exercise…to build muscle, improve your heart health, and increase your lung capacity. There are so many different ways to exercise and achieve the physical benefits that movement brings. You don’t have to be an ultra runner to work towards a healthy body that will let you do all the things you love in life, plus take the best possible care of your dog.
6. Exercise…to prevent obesity in dogs (which can develop faster than you think). It’s easy to rack up the calorie content you feed your dogs. From the extra treats that are so easy to dole out when your pup is being their cutest self, to table scraps, to a half an extra scoop of food at their dinnertime, all these seemingly-minute extra calories affect dogs far more than they would affect us, and it starts showing quickly. Canine obesity can lead to other serious problems that cause pain and a shorter lifespan, such as hip dysplasia.
7. Exercise…for the sake of exploration. Taking a long rambling walk with your dog, especially in a new area of your neighborhood or city, is a great way to combine multiple health benefits. Not only do you get the baseline positive effects of exercise as mentioned earlier, such as cardio, muscle building, and endorphin-generating, but both you and your pup get the opportunity to expand your sense of adventure and experience new things. Your dog will love checking out all the new smells, and you’ll get a break from your usual routine.
8. Exercise….to boost the effects of your training. The process of training your dog requires a tremendous amount of time and patience no matter what, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve the process with a few tricks — like tuckering your four-legged friend out with a long walk, run, hike, or dog park session first. Once you get all the excess energy out of your bouncy little pup, they’re going to be significantly more focused and open to learning all the tricks of the canine trade.
9. Exercise…to boost your creativity. Studies show that exercise increases our ability to think in divergent and convergent ways — also known as the main building blocks of creative thinking. Divergent means to produce multiple solutions for a single problem, while convergent addresses a singular solution. These findings aren’t surprising when you consider the exercise positives touted above, such as increased focus and a better mood, but it just goes to show how multifaceted this whole exercise benefit package really is.
10. Exercise…to bond more with your pup. Inserting time for a walk or dog park trip in your daily routine gives you and your dog precious alone time, and they start to associate you with the sheer joy of the exercise that they crave. This focused time on each other is key for learning more about how you both communicate and respond to outside stimulus.
No matter where you and your dog are in your lives, whether you’re taking on a brand-new puppy or trying to keep your adult dog healthy and happy, whether you live in an apartment or on a sprawling home property, exercise is a life-changing routine. Sometimes it can feel like a monumental task, but the good news there is that there’s no one right way to exercise. You and your pup can explore walking routes, dog parks, or hiking trails that work for your life and schedule. And when it comes to exercise that involves your dog, exercise isn’t just exercise — it’s precious quality time with your precious pooch.
Casey Dickson, Rover.com community member. Rover is the nation’s largest network of 5-star pet sitters and dog walkers.