Walking with the dog makes us happy -That walking is a fundamental activity for the dog is well known. There is undoubtedly the need to dirty outside and the advantage of being able to download some physical energy.
But walking on the street is much more, it is, we could say, the very essence of being a dog.
Scholars agree in defining animal welfare as a general state of physical and mental balance, in which the individual finds himself in harmony with the surrounding environment.
Walking is a benefit for both, a continuous discovery of environments for the animal and a better quality of life for us. A way to put thoughts, problems and stress aside and to enjoy the human-animal relationship.
Here is the winning recipe, also thanks to research from the University of Liverpool.
1. The five fundamental freedoms of the dog
The physical and mental well-being of the dog cannot be split and, therefore, when we think about his health we must consider the dog in his integrity of body and mind.
In order for these conditions to be guaranteed, the five fundamental freedoms must be respected:
1. FREEDOM FROM THIRST, FROM HUNGER AND BAD NUTRITION
To comply with this first point, the needs relating to the quality, quantity and frequency of meals administered to animals must be assessed, respecting the physiology, age, climatic conditions, etc.
2. FREEDOM TO HAVE AN ADEQUATE PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT
It refers to the right to live in a welcoming, safe and appropriate environment.
3. FREEDOM FROM PAIN, WOUNDS AND DISEASES
The state of illness determines an uncomfortable condition, the alleged suffering must never be ignored and requires immediate medical attention.
4. FREEDOM FROM FEAR AND DISCOMFORT
Animals have the right to feel protected and, indeed, the need for safety is considered primary in the dog.
Those who live with the latter must be able to understand what the stressful events or stimuli are for him, as a condition of continuous and chronic stress can have deleterious effects on the physical and psychological health of the animal.
5. FREEDOM TO MANIFY THE NORMAL SPECIES-SPECIFIC BEHAVIORAL CHARACTERISTICS
The previous four freedoms are not sufficient to guarantee full well-being. The owner can be very careful to provide his dog with the best brand of treats on the market, buy him the bib that best suits the color of the coat, the most comfortable dog bed in the world, can go to the vet for continuous medical visits, but if he does not allow his pet of “behaving like a dog”, of exploring, smelling, marking, knowing and socializing, is not really guaranteeing him an optimal life condition.
For the dog, walking is the expression of all this, a deep and rooted motivation to explore the world around him and, thanks to this, to express and relax.
2. Adequate space? Nothing more wrong
One of the questions that dog owners ask themselves most often before choosing to adopt is “Do I have enough space?”.
The absence of a garden or, at least, of a terrace is perceived by many people as a real limitation in adopting a dog.
What really matters for a dog is the expression of the exploratory motivation, together with the collaborative one: explore the world and do it in the company of your human.
Those who have a garden often feel authorized to limit the number of walks with their dog or to avoid them entirely, considering the walk necessary only to empty the bladder.
Our dog needs to know the world! From a social and psychic point of view, however, in the external environment the dog can, thanks to his sense of smell and, to a lesser extent, to his sight, know the world.
By sniffing the olfactory traces, the dog has the opportunity not only to vent unexpressed energies, but also to achieve greater well-being and serenity. In fact, the use of the sense of smell really has a relaxing effect on him.
Yes, therefore, to various and fun walks, to always different and dog-friendly environments to explore, in the green, away from the chaos of shops and cars.
Boredom predisposes to the onset of many behavioral problems and determines a progressive stiffening of behavior, making the subject less and less able to respond with enthusiasm and tranquility to the novelties of life.
3. Changing the lap and zone often is both physical and mental stimulation!
On the contrary, if you often change the lap and the environment, you will make the dog more and more competent, enriching his baggage of experiences.
Just go out with the dog, leaving home commitments and cell phone, let him sniff, play, stay with him in these activities, talk to him, interact together and you will see that, as if by magic, the walks will become more and more pleasant and Fido will always pull less.
Sharing activities with your favorite is what most strengthens the relationship with him. Often changing lap and zone is both physical and mental stimulation!
Dogs therefore need physical and mental stimulation to be happy, but according to a study conducted at the University of Liverpool, they are not alone in enjoying these benefits. The researchers turned to local families asking for news about their lives and pets.
They focused on a single community, so that everyone involved shared approximately the same environment and had similar access to sidewalks, parks or other services capable of influencing their routine.
When we walk with our dogs and see them serene, as research shows, we are happier too and the more we see them happy, the more motivated we are to take them out. We do it for them, of course, but, obviously, also for us.
So why are there still so many owners who leave the dog at home or, worse still, alone in the garden all day?
A series of research provides us with truly worrying data, indicating how, in countries where houses are generally equipped with gardens, up to 70% of owners (with an average of 40%) do not take their dog for a walk.
4. Sometimes the walk jumps …
The probability that a dog is regularly taken for a walk depends on a number of factors including, for example: the size of the dog (the large ones are most frequently led outside); the level of attachment to the dog (the most attached people are more likely to walk with their favorite).
Even among owners who walk with dogs there are times when the walk is skipped for a day.
In fact, 57% of them admit to skipping walks at least once a week. The most common reasons are unsatisfactory time, pressures at work, difficulties in dealing with the dog or family responsibilities.
However, 32% admit to having canceled a walk simply out of laziness or fatigue on a given day, and this seems to happen especially on Mondays.
There are also other factors that reduce the overall probability of a dog being taken out:
• Having children at home, especially when they are teenagers in charge of the family to take the dog outside, greatly increases the risk that the four-legged dog will not be taken outside regularly.
• Small dogs generally come out much less than larger dogs.
• Older and overweight dogs are rarely taken for walks.
Many owners feel “obliged” to bring the dog out to meet his needs, but the perception of what a dog owner “should do” varies widely depending on his social conditions and historical and personal contexts.
Furthermore, it seems that owners must always experience a conflict between their dog’s perceived needs and those of other family members, friends and work needs.
Yet, despite the owners claiming to bring the dog out especially for him, in reality, the main effect seems to be precisely an increase in the psychic well-being of the owner himself through a pleasant and relaxing experience.
We walk and enjoy a special relationship, therefore, dogs are also this!
5. The benefits of 6-legged walking
As previous studies show, walking with a dog has many benefits:
• MORE PHYSICAL MOVEMENT
Increase your motivation to do some exercise. In fact, dog owners walk much more than people who don’t own them, 300 minutes versus 100 minutes a week.
In addition, dog owners also spend a little more time jogging, cycling and gym, which indicates that walking the dog does not take away time from other activities in life.
• MORE INTERACTION OF CHILDREN
Even children, whose families own dogs, walk for about 100 minutes every week and play with their pets for another 200 minutes, being substantially more active than children in homes without dogs.
Obviously, this type of observational study cannot tell us if it is owning a dog that causes people to move more, or if more active people choose to live with dogs.
Walking the dog helps manage stress. Life with him can lower the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. If we add physical exercise to this, the mix is perfect.
• IS GOOD FOR THE HEART
Having a dog reduces heart pressure and lowers the risk of heart attack.
• INCREASES SELF-ESTIMATE
The companionship of our non-judgmental and loving dog friends has several mental health benefits, including our sense of self-esteem.
• IMPROVES SELF-DISCIPLINE
The dogs, according to the owners, help self-discipline, respect for healthy and routine living rules. Dog owners get up early, even go out in the dark or in bad weather and are not easily discouraged from walking.
• WELLNESS AND NATURE
Going out with the dog connects us to nature. If we put the phone away and pay attention to what surrounds us, it can help us increase concentration and a sense of optimism.
Solving problems is easier, and science says so, after spending time with our dogs.
• MORE SOCIALIZATION
The dog is a social catalyst, walking with him we can also make new friends and talk to many people.
The dog himself is a constant and cheerful companion, a social support. His company not only makes walking more pleasant, it can also reduce loneliness when human relationships are not going so well.
• MORE PARTICIPATION
Walking with the dog is often described as a pleasant activity that helps you relax. The desire to relax becomes a motivation for walking.
Although walking in general relieves stress, walking for most dog owners is improved by the presence of dogs and the desire for them to have fun. In practice, it relieves boredom for both.