Daily walks with your pooch can provide many wonderful health benefits. According to a research paper published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, these benefits extend beyond physical and social advantages. In fact, the study found that dog owners are motivated to walk their pups because it simply makes them happy!
Researchers analyzed “interviews and personal written reflections” from 26 people describing why they walk their dogs. As expected, many owners listed their pups’ wellbeing, but the researchers say the importance of the owners’ happiness was also apparent.
The owners’ sense of enjoyment was found to be significantly impacted by their dogs’ level of happiness. For example, they noted less motivation to walk when their dogs misbehaved, or were perceived to be “too old” to walk regularly.
The study authors suggest that health advocates use their findings when promoting dog walking in order to appeal to more people. Lead author Carri Westgarth, PhD, a research fellow at the University of Liverpool, says:
“Dog walking can be really important for our mental health, and there is no joy like seeing your dog having a good time. In this age of information and work overload, let’s thank our dogs for—in the main—being such a positive influence on our well-being.”
In order to reap the full benefits of their walks, Westgarth suggests dog owners “leave the mobile and worries at home and try to focus on observing our dog and appreciating our surroundings.” (Or, you can bring your phone but keep it in your pocket, only for emergencies!) She also recommends mixing up walking routes during times of stress or trying new activities with your dog, like fetch and hide-and-seek.
Westgarth understands that dog ownership is a big responsibility that not everyone is up for. Animal lovers who do not have dogs of their own can volunteer to walk shelter dogs.
“In particular, older people can really benefit from the company of a dog and motivation to go for a short walk,” Westgarth says.
For those trying to establish a dog walking routine and finding it difficult to stick to, Westgarth recommends checking the excuses at the door!
“Ask yourself: Does your dog really ‘look tired’ that day or are you making excuses for yourself? Just because your dog is small, would it really not be able to cope with an hour’s walk?”
“If you are struggling, set up a daily time for dog walking,” Westgarth says. “Your dog will thank you for it and you might actually enjoy it more than you think.”
H/T to Health.com