Why and How to Enjoy a Walk Outside with Your Dog

As cities around the country face the terrible challenges of COVID-19, people are staying home to help slow the spread of the disease. But where local guidelines allow it, people – and dogs! – are still savoring the chance get outside for walks. Here are some reasons why walks matter, and how to do them right.

Benefits of dog walking

Walking your dog is a great way to maintain a healthy weight. In fact, researchers have found that people who walk their dog get at least 30 minutes of physical activity on more days a week than non-dog walkers.

It’s good for your dog, too. When dogs get outside and exercise, it can help keep them healthy, reduce anxiety and boredom, and stimulate their minds. Normally a walk also gives a chance to socialize with other dogs, but for now it’s better to keep your distance.

Did you know that a third of dogs and cats in the U.S. are overweight? When you consider that obesity is linked to more than 20 health issues, daily exercise becomes that much more critical for your furry best friend.

Then there are the mental health benefits of being with your dog. It’s a stressful time right now – especially for those who may be living alone. But research suggests pets can help. In fact, 85% of respondents in a recent study said interacting with pets helps reduce loneliness.

And to the extent that you can chat with other walkers from a safe (6-foot) distance, dog walking helps build community bonds as well. Dog owners are five times more likely to know their neighbors, thanks to the daily activity of getting out and walking the dog.

So by all means, get outside and get some exercise with your pup. But first, check out the tips below to stay safe.

person walking a dog on a leash outside
Shutterstock/masary78

How to do it right

Practice social distancing. Avoid busy walking trails and parks to minimize close interaction with others. Be sure to maintain a distance of 6 feet from anyone you meet along the way.

Keep the leash on. By keeping your dog leashed, you can be sure you stay in control and don’t risk having to interact too closely with others if your dog should get away.

The rules still apply. Carry dog waste bags with you and always clean up after your pup. Even though there are fewer people out and about, cleaning up pet waste is important to keep your city clean and hygienic.

Keep washing your hands. Be sure to wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water before and after you go for a walk. If you have hand sanitizer, you can use it along the way too until you can get home to your sink.

Stay in the know. Guidance continues to change as new information is available. Make sure you’re up to date on the latest recommendations from the CDC, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and your local public health authorities.

Talk to your vet. Remember, you should always check in with your veterinarian if you have questions or concerns about your pet. Check this post from the WALTHAM Petcare Science Institute for further insights about keeping pets happy and healthy.

Be safe, stay well and have a great walk! Pets are an amazing comfort and stress reliever, and they’re so glad to enjoy the fresh air with you.

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