I got such a fabulous response to my article “The Power of Daily Walks” that I feel the need to expand on the topic.
Many people asked me if their dog should go on daily walks if they have a large yard to run and play in. The short answer is “yes.” The long answer is “Heck yes!”
Having a large fenced yard is nice. And yes, if your dog lives on 20 acres and roams the property, that is the exception to the guideline. Most dogs have 1/2 acre or less, which is plenty of room to potty, play ball, and chase the occasional squirrel. Why are walks different? Lots of ways!
First, just because your dog has a large yard does not mean he uses it. Is he running laps routinely? Does his Fitbit say he’s getting his daily step count? Doubt it. Sure, chasing out intruders is good exercise, but that’s a burst of a few seconds. Walks are steady exercise. They get the heart rate up, and they use leg muscles. Most dogs with a yard simply go out in the yard, sniff a little, do their business and come in. Some like to sit and be watchdogs, which is great, but not very much exercise.
Why is it so important to walk AWAY from your yard? Most importantly, walks off the property have new smells. This is the ultimate mental stimulation we can give a dog. Sniffing is the social media of the dog world. It’s how your dog catches up on the latest news in the neighborhood!
OMG Ginger and Dino were BOTH at this tree!
Who’s this new guy? Need to really check this out.
I marked this bush a day ago, but need to refresh it, just so everyone knows I’m a player.
Yes, simply by sniffing the pee from previous lucky walkers, your dog can tell not just the basics, like male or female, spayed or neutered, in heat or not. Your dog can tell if it’s his own or his housemate’s. He can sense things like diabetes, or bladder infections. Some postulate the can even detect levels of stress hormones in other dog’s urine.
Man, Maggie sure needs to loosen up.
Now add the smells and excitement from other animals. Dead worms on the ground? The snap decision must be made to eat it or roll on it before our owner intervenes. Dogs in the yard barking as we pass? Yep, we’ll not only pee on the tree, but boldly wipe our feet in a two-legged dance. Feces from another dog or a wild animal? To sniff or snack – the debate rages on!
So by sniffing all of these spots away from your house, your dog’s mind gets as much exercise as his body! In his yard it’s the same old smells. Only going out of the yard will give your dog the physical and mental exercise he deserves, and craves!
So if your dog seems “hyper,” high energy, or anxious, try getting out of the yard! Yes, the walks might be a bit crazy at first if he has not been on a leash much. Patience and persistence will pay off. Keep trying, keep getting him out. The more energy he burns and mental stimulation he gets, the better he will act in general!
Web-DVM guest blogger Dr. Karen Louis is a practicing small animal veterinarian. See more of her articles at her blog at VetChick.com