Whether around the block or at a preserve, walking your dog is a win-win
If you consider taking your dog for a walk a chore, it's time to change your way of thinking. Instead, view it as a win-win activity, a way to keep both you and your dog healthy and active.
Walking your dog regularly benefits them in many of the same ways it benefits you. It's good for your muscles and joints and helps with weight control. It does all those same things for your dog, too, according to the American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
As an added bonus for your dog, regular walks provide mental stimulation, which makes it less likely your dog will get into trouble at home, the ASPCA reports. Bored dogs tend to be troublemakers, causing mischief at home. Regular walks provide good mental stimulation, which means they are less likely to try to get into the garbage, steal items they aren't supposed to have or cause other trouble.
And for a dog, a walk is better than a romp in the yard, according to VCA Hospitals. In addition to the mental stimulation a walk provides, it's also good for their emotional health because it gives them a chance to bond with their humans.
Taking regular walks with your dog also has an added bonus for you: All that fresh air and time in the great outdoors is good for your mental health as well as your physical health. All it takes is two hours a week spent outdoors for people to feel a significant boost in both their mental and physical health, according to a study published in 2019 in Scientific Reports. That means taking Fido for a 15- to 20-minute walk a day gets you all the time spent outdoors you need to reap the health benefits.
A walk around the neighborhood is easy and convenient, but if you — and your dog — need a change of scenery to keep you motivated to get out for a daily walk, consider the many miles of trails and paths in Will County's forest preserves.
New scenery also means new smells for your dog. Nothing slows down a walk with your dog more than constant sniffing and smelling, but it's a good idea to sometimes resist the urge to hurry your dog along and instead let them sniff those new odors, according to PetMD.
Dogs have an excellent sense of smell, and sniffing is part of how they experience the world, PetMD reports. Being given time to sniff and smell on a walk is an enriching experience because it helps them better understand and connect with their environment.
Not every walk with your dog has to be a "scent walk," but allowing them from time to time will be beneficial to your dog. On a scent walk, change your focus from distance and speed to opportunities for sniffing, PetMD encourages. A scent walk should be more meandering and less focused on route and pacing.
You can take a scent walk around your own neighborhood or in more unfamiliar territory. More than 125 miles of multiuse trails criss cross Will County preserves, and dogs are welcome in all preserves except designated nature preserves, which include sensitive habitats. While in the preserves, dogs must remain on a leash, and you are required by ordinance to clean up after them.
The ASPCA also offers a few common-sense tips for walking your dog:
- Always keep your dog on a leash where required. (Dogs must be leashed on all Forest Preserve District property except the district's six dog parks.)
- Make sure your pet is wearing proper identification.
- Do not walk your dog in extreme weather conditions.
- Always bring bags to clean up after your dog.
- Make sure to bring water — for you and your dog — if you are planning a long walk or walking on a warm or hot day.
The Forest Preserve District offers hiking programs for dog owners and their canines throughout the year. Check out the district's event calendar for upcoming dog hiking programs as well as programs at the district's dog parks.