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Walking your dog can benefit both pet and owner

Running & Fitness
Saturday, May 11, 2019

One of the points fitness experts mention to individuals that do not exercise, and want to start a fitness program, is to walk their dog. This is good for both the individual and the dog. Letting the dog, or dogs, get out of the yard and put in a mile or two of walking neighborhoods has several advantages. The most obvious advantage is that the exercise is very beneficial for the health of the dog. A lesser advantage is when neighbors see you walking the dog they will learn to recognize the dog. When the dog escapes your yard and goes for a walk without you, the chances of a neighbor recognizing the dog and getting it back to you, are very good. This saves you the price of paying the fee at the dog kennel to retrieve your dog.  

Starting a dog walking exercise program is not always easy. The training of your dog may take a few excursions before the walking program goes smoothly. I have had several dogs that I have taken on walks and some went better than others. I had a Siberian Husky dog that would follow along beside me without a leash and even kept up with me when I ran. He would get too hot during some of the summer runs. He would find a pool of water and jump in to cool off and then join back with the group. He was good about staying by my side when he saw a stray cat or animal so that helped.

Another dog I tried the walking program with was a Great Pyrenees. These are big dogs and very strong willed. Many of these dogs are used on ranches to protect sheep and cattle from predators. When we went for a walk, and I use this term with some hesitation, it was more like the dog was taking me for a walk, or slow jog. The first block was a brisk run before he slowed down. Trying to slow, or lead, a determined Pyrenees is a futile effort. I used to think that as hard as he was pulling on the leash we could have plowed a field. The lead changed after several blocks and he let me do the direction and pace for the remainder of the walk.  

The most frustrating dog walking experience came with a small pit bull dog.  There were two things that were a problem. One was that if she saw a cat in a neighbor’s yard she tried to run after it. Fortunately, I had a good leash on her. If I saw the cat first I could flex the muscles of my arm and shoulder to lessen the quick pull on the leash. If she saw the cat first, the quick and sudden pull on the leash would almost dislocate my shoulder. The best part of walking this dog was that it made me more attentive to things around me and better at observing the neighborhood.  

The second problem was that once we got into the walk it seemed like she had to sniff every bush, tree, fence post, telephone pole and even a grassy area on the path. The walk was five yards walking, sniff, five more yards, sniff, etc.  When you tried to encourage her to keep walking the legs braced and held us up until the sniff was complete.  

The most humorous account of walking with a dog I had was at the beginning of a fitness program. We were walking up a steep hill and my legs were not doing a very good job of moving. I thought that if I called the Rhodesian Ridgeback of my walking partner to come close I could get an assist up to the top of the hill. The dog came back to my side, gave me a lick on the face, and headed back up the hill. 

The encouraging point of walking a dog is that it is great exercise for both of you. I watch other friends walk by my house at a brisk pace and the dog walks alongside the person without a hesitation or need to chase a cat. I am sure there were several training runs before this level of an enjoyable walk was able to take place. Seeing these success stories makes the effort of taking the dog for a walk worthwhile.

I have had several dog owners enter some of the 5K races that we have in the city with their dog. Most of the person/dog partnership entries are in back of the pack of front runners. I usually require the team to start in the back so that the possibility of the dog moving to the side does not trip another runner. Once the group of runners thins out the dog and runner can move at their own pace.  

There are occasional posts on media sources of a dog running along with the pack of runners and following them to the finish line.  The one post was about the dog completing a half marathon distance of 13 miles.  The dog finished in the top 10 of the runners.  

Walking with a dog is a very satisfying experience. The best part is that on a day you lack motivation to go for a walk, your dog will let you know that the two of you need to head out the door for a walk. They may even bring you the leash to remind you it is time to walk.

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666