You made that New Year’s resolution to get in shape and lose some weight. So where do you begin? If you have a dog, the answer is sitting at your feet. January is National Walk Your Pet Month so get out there and take your dog for a walk. It’s the very best way to bond with your dog and it will help both you and your pooch, especially with your resolution to get in shape.
According to a recent study done by the University of Missouri and reported in the New York Times, “people who walk dogs are more consistent about regular exercise and show more improvement in fitness than people who walk with a human companion.”
In their 12-week study of 54 older adults at an assisted living home, 35 people were assigned to a walking program for five days a week, while the remaining 19 served as a control group. Among the walkers, 23 selected a friend or spouse to serve as a regular walking partner along a trail laid out near the home. Another 12 participants took a bus daily to a local animal shelter where they were assigned a dog to walk.
Dog walkers showed improved fitness and an increase in walking speed compared to human walking partners. And the human walkers soon started making excuses for why they couldn’t walk.
According to Rebecca A. Johnson, a nursing professor and director of the Research Center for Human Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine, “In the human walking group, they were regularly discouraging each other from walking. Missouri is a hot state. We would hear them saying: ‘It’s hot today. I don’t want to walk, do you?’ ” (In Michigan that would be, “it’s so cold today…”)
The response from participants in the dog-walking group — and their dog companions — was very different.
“When the people came to the animal shelter, they bounced off the bus and said, ‘Where’s my dog?”’ Ms. Johnson said. “And the dogs never gave any discouragement from walking.”
So whether your goal is to lose weight, get in shape or just bond more closely with your best friend, grab that leash and take a walk. You’ll both benefit and have some fun too!
For more info: If you need to work with your dog on loose leash walking here are a few ideas:
Consider joining the Yahoo! Group Start Puppy Training for suggestions on how to train your dog to walk nice on a leash. It’s a great resource whether you have a puppy or an adult dog.
Make sure you have the correct leash and collar for your dog. For smaller dogs, it’s best to use a harness instead of a collar to walk them. Collars can cause problems with airway collapse in some smaller breeds. If you have a strong dog or a puller, consider using a Gentle Leader, Halti or Easy Walk harness. They help you maintain control without harming your dog. For more information, check out this great article by Detroit Pet Training Examiner Robin Zajicek.
If you need to, hire a trainer or take a training class to help you work with your dog properly. There are training classes all around the metro area including regular classes at both Petco and PetSmart stores. Be sure to check out the weekly Coming Events for information on training classes.
If you need help finding a trainer, talk to friends, vets and groomers. Many of them can recommend a trainer for you. You can also check out the Michigan Dog Training Directory or the Dog Trainers in MICHIGAN list. Be sure to be clear about what type of training you want and, IMHO, steer clear of dominance training people or companies.