By Alexandra Smith
Many people who own dogs may provide them with gourmet food, fresh water, expensive and intricate toys, and plenty of attention. While dogs need food and water, they also require something that owners may not place enough importance on: a daily walk.
According to an article from pedigree.com, a dog food website, dogs have a primal need to walk. The article noted that “In the wild, packs of dogs get up in the morning and walk to find food,” and that walking “fulfills a migration instinct” for a dog. Daily walks not only provide structure to dogs’ lives, but also challenge them physically and mentally. The build up of physical and mental energy in a dog from a lack of exercise often causes behavioral problems such as obsessive compulsive behaviors, hyperactivity, and aggression. If a dog spends the better part of its day alone, without any exercise, owners should not expect a well behaved dog. If owners don’t exercise their dog enough, training can become very difficult because a dog with pent up energy is less likely to be well-behaved than a dog who is consistently exercised and stimulated.
Owners who have a fenced-in yard should not think that their dog is provided with enough exercise just by playing in the yard. Dogs do not exercise themselves, and their need to travel will not be adequately met. Dogs that are fenced-in and not walked on a daily basis often resort to escaping, boredom barking, and other destructive behaviors such as digging and chewing.
All dogs need to be taken on walks, even the smallest breeds such as the Maltese, Pug, Pomeranian, and Chihuahua. The length of a dog’s walk depends on its size, and owners should consider their time commitment to walking before purchasing a dog. Smaller breeds require shorter walks, whereas larger breeds, such as the Labrador Retriever, may require walks longer than 60 minutes each day.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, daily walks help to keep dogs “healthy, agile, and limber,” and “keep dogs’ weight under control.” In an April 2012 article in mnn.com, an environmental news and information website, it was noted that “more than half of the cats and dogs in this country are overweight or obese,” and that overweight pets have an increased risk for diseases such as heart disease, and diabetes.
Because dogs are pack animals, they should always walk beside or behind their owner. If a dog pulls their owner while on a walk, the dog will likely assume that it is the leader of the walk, and ultimately the leader of the pack. The dog’s collar should be high on its neck so that the owner has more control over the dog. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals does not recommend using flexi-leads as leashes because the long line may get wrapped around one’s dog, a person’s leg, or another dog.
All breeds of dogs that are consistently and properly walked are more likely to be well-behaved, and less likely to be aggressive, obsessive, destructive, and suffer from other behavior problems. Walking is a primal instinct for a dog, and when an owner fulfills this need along with food, water, affection, and discipline, he or she will truly be taking the best care of their dog.