I used to hate taking Pi for walks. She pulled. She growled at strangers. She went crazy every time she saw a rabbit. But now we walk happily all over town. 15-minute walks easily turn into two-hour long adventures. We have discovered beautiful open spaces, interesting old houses and smelly things for Pi to roll in. Pi is a calmer, happier dog and I’m a cheerier, more relaxed person when we make a point to walk every day!
Turns out, there’s science behind this. Dogs and wolves come from a common ancestor – one that foraged for food, covering miles of territory every day. Today, our canine companions don’t have to go searching for food (that’s what they have us for!)- but walks help satisfy other basic needs. Sniffing out other animal smells and encountering new things in their environment provide great brain stimulation. Even a ten-minute walk can help mentally-exercise your dog! (Just like ten minutes of doing tough math or word problems can help exercise our brains.)
Walking is good for us too. A study done at the California State University- Long Beach, showed that walking benefits humans in more ways than just the physical exercise. The study followed 37 subjects over a 20-day period. Professor Robert Thayer, leader of the study noted, “We found that there was a clear and strong relationship between the number of steps [participants] took and their overall mood and energy level,” (If you want to read more about that study, click here: http://www.csulb.edu/misc/inside/archives/vol_58_no_4/1.htm)
It took some time, patience, and a lot of training treats to get Pi to walk nicely on a leash, but the effort was totally worth it! I recommend using a training tool so you have a little more control over your dog if they get distracted. I used a Easy Walk Harness and a Halti head collar when I was training Pi to walk nicely. I still pull them out when we go to a new trail or exciting environment where she might “forget” her leash manners.
Walking Pi in the morning also allows me time to gather my thoughts before starting my workday, and walking her in the evenings helps me to unwind and review the day. Pi’s always happy to get out and see who’s peed on each fire hydrant since she smelled it last. If walking isn’t part of your routine yet, take your dog for a 5-10 minute walk around your block. I’m willing to bet you’ll both have some fun. If you and your dog are already getting out for regular walks, we want to hear about that too! Tell us where your favorite route is!