January is National Walk Your Pet Month

January, 2017

If you’re one of the 45% of Americans who make New Year’s Resolutions, chances are that weight loss and/or exercising more often is among them.

You probably already know about the health benefits of losing weight. There’s less stress on your joints, your heart, etc. But did you know that when your pet loses weight, he or she enjoys the same benefits?

According to Pet Obesity Prevention, 57.9% of American pets are overweight or obese. Even an extra two pounds on your cat (or five on dogs) is associated with greater risk for disease.

January is National Walk Your Pet Month which makes is perfect for the dogs in your life. Maybe for your cat too but most aren’t interested in walks.

And if the exercise benefits aren’t enough, dogs also enjoy mental stimulation by getting out in the neighborhood and sniffing the trees, sidewalks, fire hydrants and each other.

Walking Your Dog is Bonding Time

Walking together is a great time to focus on training your dog and strengthening the bond between you.

To get the most out of your time together, don’t walk and talk on the phone. Use this time to focus on your pet. They spend a lot of time alone already and need you. Praise them when they walk well and pay attention to you.

If your pet needs leash training, find a class, hire a dog trainer for a few sessions or watch YouTube videos on how to train your dog to walk on a leash. It’s no fun (and possibly dangerous) if your dog is doing the zoomies down the street at top speed about to pull your arm out of the socket.

If your dog already walks great on a leash, congratulations! Now you can focus on enjoying the walk and maximizing it for calorie burn:

Maximize Your Walk

You already know a slow meander isn’t going to do much for revving up the metabolism. However, if you’ve been more sedentary than active, you’ve got to start somewhere. Even a few minutes at a slow pace have more health benefits that sitting on the couch. As soon as you can though, speed up your walk, even if it’s only for a few seconds at a time.

An average is about one mile in a 20 minute period or 3 miles an hour. Are you walking that fast already?

Sometimes dogs can be tricky. They get caught up in the smells and slow your progress. This is another reason the leash training comes in handy. There’s a time to let them sniff and a time to walk. Maybe you start out slow or slow down when you get to a favorite spot. Over time, they’ll adapt to your rhythm if you train them to trot along beside you.

Of course, if you have a high energy dog, then your pet needs to run—daily—to burn off that excess energy. If you’re not a runner, then take your dog to the dog park or find a pet sitter who’ll run with your dog.

It’s hard to walk calmly on a leash when you’re filled with pent up energy.

Safety after Dark

It is January after all and it gets dark early. If your dog walking activities take place in the predawn or late afternoon/evening hours, you want to make sure you can be seen by motorists, bicyclists and other dog walkers/pedestrians.

A lighted leash and collar combination is good for the Fido in your life. You will do well to wear light colored clothes at least and better yet, a reflective vest or jacket.

What about you? How will you participate in National Dog Walking Month?