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Just as many of us try and start the new year off with a healthy
new workout routine, the same should be true of our pets. Whether
they’re old or young, large or small, all pets should be properly
exercised on a routine basis to ensure their health and happiness.
Since we all have busy schedules, a simple way to provide this for
our dogs is taking them on a daily walk.
“Walking your dog helps keep them physically fit, can improve
their behavior, and improve the bond they have with you,” said Dr.
Stacy Eckman, lecturer at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary
Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Frequent walking has been
proven to help potty train your pet as well.
The number of times a week that you should walk Spot, as well as
how long the walk should be, is very dependent on your dog’s age
and size. “As young puppies, they may not be able to go as far, but
as they get older they will be able to go further. If they are
small, one and a half to one mile may be plenty; however, larger,
more active dogs could go for several miles,” said Eckman. “The
duration and frequency of the walk also depends on the purpose. If
it is done strictly for exercise, once daily may be enough, but if
they are going for elimination, they may require shorter walks four
or more times daily.”
It is also important that you only begin walking your dog once
they are finished with all of their immunizations. “Ideally they
should be finished with all of their vaccines and be on heartworm
and parasite prevention, which is typically around 14-16 weeks of
age, to decrease their exposure to contagious diseases and
parasites,” Eckman said.
Finding the time in your busy schedule to walk Spot can be
difficult, but daily walks are important for both you and your
dog’s health. “Some pets benefit from both morning and evening
walks—this may cut down on behavior problems while you are away at
work,” said Eckman. “During the summer when temperatures soar, it
is best to go either in the early morning or late in the evening so
they do not overheat.”
Often, the struggle of getting your dog to cooperate can
overpower your desire to walk them. To prevent your dog from
“walking you,” or fighting the leash as opposed to creating slack,
basic training is a must. “Teaching basic commands such as sit,
stay, and heal helps keep you in control and also adds safety while
on your walk,” said Eckman. “There are also leashes that help keep
pets from pulling, like Gentle Leader or Promise Collar, which take
a bit of training to use, but are most helpful when basic commands
and routines are not working. Often, once dogs get into a
routine, they settle into the walk and stop walking you.”
So as you contemplate your New Year’s resolutions, be sure to
add one that will benefit your best friend as well. Spot will be
healthier, happier, and better behaved, and you may be as well.
Just as we sometimes need a buddy to hold us accountable, it will
be hard to turn Spot down when he greets you at the door with a
leash in his mouth; just say yes.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary
Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.
Stories can be viewed on the Web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for
future topics may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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