You don’t have to keep walking your dog everyday.
Yes, I said it. Please keep reading before you throw your leash away!
Tzila doesn’t get daily walks. Walks are actually rare in winter. I am not able to tolerate cold weather, and warmer winter weather tends to lead to icy surfaces. Slips alone can land me in bed for several days at a time, nevermind falling. The risk is too high, so our outside activity levels are minimal during this time. That doesn’t mean that neither of us gets exercise, though!
Myth: dogs require walking every single day
We somehow have been hoodwinked into believing that dogs need to be walked every single day and if you don’t, you’re a bad dog owner. That’s not true, though, and we’re ready to change the conversation. What dogs do need everyday is time with you and mental stimulation.
How much do you do in a day, compared to your dog?
Compare your day to your dog’s. You do many things, besides take the dog for a walk or two. You make breakfast, do laundry, go to work, make dinner, have a shower, go for drinks with friends, play with your kids or play video games, maybe you have some other after work activities – these are all things that keep you physically or mentally stimulated and will eventually lead to running out of energy at the end of the day. How many similar activities does your dog take part in? How else does your dog expend its energy?
Your dog wants the same kinds of engagement in its day as you get in yours. Sitting around and sleeping all day while they wait for you is not engaging, nor tiring. Some dogs are able to entertain themselves non-destructively, but most – especially puppies – need direction and interaction. They WANT to be involved with what you’re doing, and the more they are able to do with you the more tired they will be. A tired dog is a good dog!
Regular walks have become a societal norm that everyone expects they have to follow through with day in and day out with their dog. The problem with this is that it’s often ALL people do with their dog, and it’s not enough. No amount of walking or running will be enough for some dogs because this isn’t the TYPE of engagement they need most. Walking in a straight line where they get to stop for a pee break or a quick sniff at things now and again are minimally engaging at best.
LET’S $&#* THIS UP!!!
When dogs are bored they find their own forms entertainment, which are often destructive to the home or to themselves because the dog is UNDERstimulated. It’s looking to expend pent up energy that it doesn’t have a proper outlet for. Doing the same activity, eating the same food and being generally uninspired can drive people to dangerous thrill seeking behaviors just because they need to do something to get out of feeling stuck. It’s no different with dogs. They will sometimes turn to destruction and chaos in order to get out of the loop they feel stuck in.
The other time they may become destructive is if they are OVER tired! Puppies and senior dogs need more sleep than the average adult dog. If your dog has been playing or otherwise engaging and it seems like it needs more because it won’t stop, consider giving them some quiet time for a snooze instead of engaging further.
Playing, training and otherwise engaging WITH them will make a bigger impact than allowing them to figure things out on their own. This kind of interaction makes use of their brains to learn, troubleshoot, and grow. The change of scenery, activities and routine keeps things interesting and fresh, and decreases the chance of the dog falling back on destructive entertainment.
What’s too cold to go walking outside?Besides considering these engagement levels, cold weather can also pose a hazard to your dog’s health. Puppies, senior dogs and sick dogs especially are not able to regulate body temperature appropriately. This puts them at higher risk of hypothermia or other medical concerns. When temperatures drop and dogs are exposed to temperatures below 0℃, blood vessels constrict in their extremities (tail, ears, toes especially) in order to protect their vital organs. This leaves them susceptible to frostbite due to the combination of reduced bloodflow and cold temperature. A dog’s feet are also susceptible to cracking in the winter. The combination of walking on cold surfaces, salt and other substances, and our dry air can lead to painful skin irritations which may take time to heal. Breathing cold air can cause a myriad of ailments, including throat and lung irritation, coughing, wheezing, and even pneumonia. A dog who may not have shown signs of illness may struggle even more. Brachycephalic dogs are at even higher risk than most.
This infographic is a good starting point to watch for signs of trouble. Dogs don’t know that the cold weather can be bad for them, and they may still be excited to go for a walk even though their eyeballs are frozen shut and they have ice lining their nostrils. To them, however, it may be worth it in order to spend time with you!
Of course, there are some dogs that are conditioned and bred for cold weather and enjoy these temperatures more than most. These are dogs that are used to this kind of outdoor lifestyle and are hardened to it. These dogs don’t follow the same guidelines. You can also lower risk with proper winter gear – coats, booties, snoods, eye protection for windy days, etc. For the average household pet that stays in a warm house most of the time, however, the guideline shown is a good starting point.
How much exercise does my dog need?
This isn’t even touching on the stress walks can have on the joints of young pups or senior dogs. The guideline to the right can help determine the exercise needs of your dog. As always, this varies depending on your own dog’s needs. Some breeds will need more exercise. Some dogs have been conditioned for more activity in their day, as well, and their exercise tolerance will be higher. There are absolutely exceptions, but the average household pet would likely benefit from starting with these guidelines to create a balanced routine for their dog.
Sleeping the day away on the couch with a walk to break things up sounds simple and cozy, but it’s not the life most dogs dream of. They want to do so much more, and there are so many ways to help them live their best lives without destruction and chaos. Why take risks when there are healthier and more comfortable options?
But I HAVE to walk my dogs an hour at minimum, twice a day! I have no choice!
If you have a dog that you “have” to walk minimum two hours a day everyday, I challenge you to make a list of things your dog does in a day, and compare it to the list of things you do in a day. How does it compare? Does your dog have the same amount of energy-expending activities as you do? Does your dog have mental stimulation? (hint: walking isn’t considered very mentally stimulating!)
Perhaps it’s time to shake things up! Give you and your dog some new activities to try and see how they respond! You don’t have to stop walking your dog. It IS great exercise and being outside is also wonderful. It may be an idea to switch things up and give them (and YOU!) something new to try, though!
So what DO you do with your dog instead of walking?
If you’re looking for ideas, we’re hosting a FREE December advent calendar of games from December 1st to 24th to give you some activities to try. These games can be rotated, altered and changed to meet your dog’s needs and can help you build a stronger relationship with your dog. These are the kinds of things I partake in with Tzila over the winter to keep both of us busy, entertained and safe. They’ll be available on our social media platforms, which are linked below.
Be safe, be warm, and HAVE FUN!!
Click on the link below to follow it to our pages. Videos will be posted daily starting on December 1st!
Krystal believes pants are over rated, coffee is the juice of life and dogs should live forever. To find out more about this marshmallow, head over to her “Meet the team” page – click here!