Not just exercise – why your dog loves their walk

Posted On Nov 14, 2023 |

Why do you walk your dog each day? Many people think of dog walking as a pleasant and easy way for their dog to get exercise and have a toilet break. However, taking a stroll with your dog can fulfil many different needs for both of you. Let's look at some of those now.

Mental stimulation – something to do to prevent boredom

Most dogs will sleep for many hours a day, but when they are awake, they will be looking for something to do. Walks can provide that ‘something’ just from being outside in a different environment. Taking different paths, watching wildlife, meeting new people, and engaging in training and play are all examples of how walking a dog stimulates the dog’s brain (and yours)! Bored dogs are often called ‘naughty’ dogs – really, they are just making their own entertainment.


Physical fitness – maintains fitness, agility, and a good weight

Walking and (for some dogs) running support heart, muscle, and joint health so long as exercise is low-impact and not excessive. Activities on a walk like play, parkour, or trailing can help build physical abilities and increase mental well-being. For dogs who can’t be off-lead a long line can increase their range and the amount of ground covered.


Emotional well-being – can lead to calmer behaviour in the home

Spending time having fun with you and receiving your focused attention, helps to support your relationship and deepen your bond. Activities like scenting, Parkour, and play can help to raise endorphin levels in both you and your dog. So do training exercises using positive reinforcement with food or toys. These hormonal changes can increase feelings of joy and calm, which can reduce unwanted behaviour.


Sensory enrichment – tires a dog more than physical exercise

Walking in interesting and novel places like woods, fields that have held livestock, tracks used by horse riders, industrial estates and so on, can stimulate a dog's sensory systems. Scenting is the dog’s most powerful sense, but interpreting a new environment through smell, sound, sight, texture (touch), taste and even movement and balance all enrich the experience and help to calm and tire the dog.


Training – offers both short and long-term benefits 

Even just using cues consistently and rewarding desirable behaviour reinforces the behaviour and adds an extra dimension to the walk. Training can involve all the categories above and can help your dog to remain relaxed and receptive. Keep training sessions short and don’t forget to give your dog the freedom just to sniff, investigate, and explore the delights of the environment.


Always consider your dog’s health, age, fears, and preferences when planning where and how you will walk. Include both the new and the familiar in terms of activities and wherever possible try to offer your dog the choice of which way to go or what activity they want to initiate. A dog familiar with Parkour might jump onto a fallen tree trunk to ask for physical play, and a dog who enjoys scenting might prefer their treats thrown into the long grass. Time to get creative, listen and enjoy each other.

In the next blog post, we will look at walk alternatives. How can we offer the same benefits without going out for a walk?