Dog owners with fenced-in backyards may think their furry friends are getting all they need during their nightly exercise sessions in the backyard. While such yards provide safe places for dogs to relax and run around, the American Humane Association (www.americanhumane.org) notes that even dogs who run wild in their backyards each day can benefit from daily walks. The following are a handful of ways dogs benefit from daily walks.
· Socialization: The Animal Humane Society (www.animalhumanesociety.org) notes that puppies between three weeks and 20 weeks old are generally accepting of other dogs, and nightly walks can provide the perfect opportunity for puppy owners to acquaint their furry friends with their fellow dogs. Continued exposure after 20 weeks can help further the socialization process for young dogs.
· Behavior: While puppies can learn to socialize on daily walks, older dogs may or may not reap the same rewards. But daily walks can help dog owners instill better behavior in their dogs. The AHS advises that owners of older dogs use walks as opportunities to teach dogs to behave calmly in public. Bring treats to reward dogs for sitting quietly when encountering other dogs and new people along the walk.
· Exercise: Of course, daily walks provide great exercise for dogs. Dogs who are let out in the backyard each night but are not played with may not be getting the exercise their owners think they are. Dogs left alone in a backyard may briefly run around before plopping down in the grass and enjoying the fresh air. That’s not enough exercise for many breeds, and it’s certainly insufficient for dogs who may be overweight or obese. Nightly walks can help dogs lose and/or maintain healthy weights, and the AHA notes that such walks also help dogs build strength and endurance.
· Stimulation: According to the American Kennel Club (www.akc.org), dogs need both physical and mental stimulation to stay healthy and happy. Walks obviously provide physical stimulation, but they can stimulate dogs mentally as well. Dogs often interrupt walks when their curiosity gets the better of them, stopping to observe or investigate something while on walks, and that’s mentally stimulating. Resist the temptation to pull the leash when dogs want to stop to check something out, affording them a little time to do some mental exploration before continuing the walk.