It is often said that dogs need a one hour walk every day. What I don’t like about this piece of advice is that it couldn’t possibly suit every dog and there is certainly no evidence to even suggest that it is true. Somebody just made it up and it sounded right so it got passed on and on and on and on.
Many dogs, mine included, love the great outdoors. They love the stimulation of going outside and they love to meet up with other dogs and generally have a good time. However, for some dogs it’s not such a great thrill. They might, for various reasons, hate the great outdoors and be afraid or anxious. Should these dogs be walked for an hour every day?
What is a one hour walk? Is it walking roadside for 60 minutes, not stopping, not interacting, not letting the dog sniff or take in his environment, yanking him back into a steady pace each time he stops? Or, is it 60 minutes off lead, running, playing, fetching and training? Or, would a slow walk around the block, allowing the dog to stop and sniff at whatever takes his fancy be more appropriate?
Maybe it depends on the individual dog, what he enjoys, what he needs or what he likes. What is for sure is that dogs, like us, need to feel safe. They also need mental stimulation and something to live for. Are those needs always being met by a one hour daily walk?
How about when it’s really hot? How about when it’s too cold or stormy? How about if the human isn’t up to a one hour walk each day? Doesn’t it make sense to incorporate other forms of mental and physical enrichment into their lives? Doesn’t it make sense to provide other outlets rather than depend on the one hour walk which in most cases isn’t going to happen every day and might not even be the most appropriate thing for the individual dog.
Play with your dogs, interact with them, feed them from food enrichment toys, hide food around the house and garden for a treasure hunt, do a little training whilst the kettle boils, teach them to fetch a favourite toy, then start hiding it for them to go and find. There are many ways of keeping dogs happy and healthy other than, or in addition to, their daily walk in the park. Make dogs part of your everyday life. They are not dogs for only an hour per day, they are dogs 24/7. Dogs can benefit greatly from daily outings, but these should be adding to the dog’s quality of life rather than reducing it due to anxiety or being yanked around like a yo-yo. Enjoy your dogs and let them enjoy life.
Shay Kelly is the author of Dog training and behavor: a guide for everyone and Canine Enrichment: the book your dog needs you to read