Dog trainers, owners and veterinarians all agree that it is good to take a dog on daily walks. The rationale behind this fact is not often explained, though. It is a fact that walking a dog is healthy – it provides exercise for both the dog owner as well as the dog – but the benefits of dog walking extend beyond cardiovascular.
Many people today do not walk their dog correctly. A common sight is a person hanging onto the end of a leash with a dog at the other end, pulling and wandering whichever direction he decides to go. Some dog owners proclaim that their dog simply enjoys having a training collar pulled tight throughout the entire walk. These dog owners are not walking their dog – the dog is walking them.
The proper way to walk a dog is for the dog to be by the owner’s side, walking on a slack leash. This is one of many requirements for a dog wishing to earn the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen Award, and yet many dog owners do not know how to get their dog to walk this way. It takes practice and consistency to get a dog to walk on a slack leash, but the benefits are great.
According to Cesar Millan in his book Cesar’s Way, dogs have a migratory instinct within them that the daily walk helps to satisfy. At the same time, the exercise of having the dog walk on a slack leash will reinforce the owner as the pack leader. The importance of being a pack leader is not to dominate the dog, but rather to ensure that the dog listens to the owner and behaves appropriately in all circumstances. This daily walk needs to be adjusted for the needs of the dog. A high energy dog, such as a Border Collie, should be walked for a longer period of time than a toy breed dog, such as the Yorkshire Terrier. Walking the Border Collie for an hour will help burn excess energy, while a half-hour walk may suffice for the Yorkie.