Walking the dog; yep pretty much everyone does it right? Well I wish that everyone did it but sadly many people simply don't. Lot's of dogs live day in and day out in their house and backyard, that's it, that's all. Sad. Every dog should get out at least 3-5 times a week for a great walk. I say 3-5 times a week because even my own old girls don't need a walk everyday. Sometimes everyday is too much for Tilley at 14 years of age and suffering from Vestibular disease. Often we just visit a park and sit, the getting out is important.
So, there are two types of walks we take with our dogs. One is the on leash walk, very important, good mental stimulus, time for training, learning to walk nicely on leash. Then there is the exercise walk, off leash, ripping and tearing around for the sheer joy of stretching your legs. Exercise is very important for dogs, even if they get two nice on leash walks, dogs have to get off leash to make it really count. That is; unless you are a runner or use a bicycle hookup or something like that.
Dogs who are never given the chance to run are really lacking in the muscle department. Running in an open field or at a park going in circles, deeking and diving, going after a ball etc uses different muscles than the just walking muscles. Dogs who are more muscled will fair better as they start to age and lose muscle due to the aging process. So using those muscles will help protect joints and keep everything nice and limber.
The old saying "a tired dog is a good dog," is very true, to a point. Sometimes a dog is too tired, maybe had too much stimulation or exercise so more is not always better when talking about exercising our canines. With all of the dog parks popping up many people pull up to the park, let the dogs go and sit and chat for hours at a time. A single hour at the dog park is a very long time to socialize and exercise for a dog. They can become over stimulated and exhausted. So short and sweet is the key to power exercising at the park. If the park is filled with powerhouse runners then let your pooch get out their ya ya's and then head for home.
If you are hiking in the woods then longer will work. It really depends on the workout that your dog is receiving as far as length of time. You must factor in other dogs, size, velocity, stimulus etc. etc. Sometimes our dogs get too much of a good thing and need more and more to become a tired dog. Think about marathon runners, when they started out they were probably exhausted by a mile or two but after a year or more of running they never tire. We want tired dogs at the end of the day. A dog who settles in the evening, maybe watches some tv and then has a nice sound sleep.
The more controlled walk, the on leash walk is just as essential. Dogs who are only ever off leash and allowed to run wild have a very hard time dealing with the structure of a walk. Way back when Luke was young we had a field that we frequented to allow the dogs off leash. When we would get to this field Luke was very unruly and was not interested in listening. This field meant fun to him, it had nothing to do with behaving properly or structure. So we turned that around in a hurry. We would get to the park and go through our obedience. I would regularly practice long down stays, with each dog while the other participated in ball or frisbee. This was amazing training and perfected "you only go crazy when I say you can go crazy," idea.
Variety is the spice of life; I tend to become bored quickly so like to switch it up a lot. Sometimes a leash walk at the beach is far more exhausting from all the sights, sounds and smells than an off leash run at a familiar park. And then there are other times when a good ole run is all that is going to do it for a particular day. There is nothing better in life than watching a dog run for the sheer joy of running. In my life with my dogs running is very short and sweet, a big burst and then walking. But when they were young, what joy they took in running. Ears flying, tongue flying and hearts soaring.
So get your walk on.