Today is Walking the Dog Day! This is wonderful opportunity for both animal guardian and their canine companions to not only bond more closely, but also to get some well-needed exercise. A great aspect of this special day is that one can walk anywhere with their dog: on the street, in the park, on the beach, etc. In addition to the benefits of exercise, there are social benefits for both human and canine, in not only meeting other dog walkers, but also for dogs to socialize with other animals.
No matter what time of year it is, making dog-walking a regular part of your daily routine will enhance the health of everyone. Unfortunately, the incidence of obesity and all of the related secondary diseases are on the rise in both people and pets. While a poor diet certainly plays a role, the lack of safe exercise like walking is also a major factor.
Depending on the time of year, all one needs is adequate clothing, footwear, a leash/harness, and perhaps a supply of water, when embarking on a walk with Fido. The length and duration of the walk should depend on your dog’s age and current health, as well as the breed of dog. Large, sporting breeds such as golden or Labrador retrievers usually need longer walks for maximal benefits, while toy breeds such as the Maltese or toy poodle should have shorter, less intense walks.
Other breeds known as brachiocephalic breeds (for example, pugs and bulldogs) also require special attention, especially during certain times of year. These breeds are more prone to anatomic airway diseases that may make heavy or intense exercise more risky certain times of year; consequently, it is very important to have regular veterinary exams and evaluations, before starting on any exercise program, including long walks. These breeds may get short of breath with wheezing and/or coughing if they overexert themselves. As with certain people, including the elderly and/or chronically ill, many of these breeds may be more prone to overheating in the summer and hypothermia in the winter.
During the colder months, many smaller breeds lose heat rapidly, and will benefit from pet jackets before going out in the cold weather. Because of the presence of snow, ice and road salt, the incidence of paw injuries is much higher this time of year. It is important to regularly inspect dogs’ pads after prolonged walks down icy streets or fields to look for any penetrating injuries and/or foreign irritants on the pads. During the warmer months, one must be on the lookout for different seasonal hazards, including other wildlife, snakes, lizards, frogs, in addition to the more likely availability of potentially tasty foreign material on walks, which many dogs find irresistible, and can often present significant health risks. As the weather warms up, grasses are often sprayed with pesticides, which also can be risky to many pets.
As mentioned above, walking dogs offers a wonderful opportunity for socialization and improved relations of both animal and human; however one must also be certain to have their pet on a leash at all times(except at designated areas of dog parks), and be aware to ask other guardians from a distance, whether their dog is socialized and friendly. This will help cut down on the increasing incidence of dog bites and injuries, which often are a result of lack of canine guardian lack of awareness of these issues. Rabies vaccination status should be current as well, which in most states is required every 3 years.