If I were to ask dog owners why they walk their dog, most often, the answer is: “For exercise.” A ten minute stroll around the block is really not much exercise for either you or Fido, but it does not mean that you should not do it at all. Here are some tips on how to get the most benefit out of your walk with your pooch.

Set aside 20-30 minutes daily; Just like it is important for us humans to do 20 minutes of cardio each day, it is also important for your dog.

Another amazing benefit to a leash walk, and one that most owners don’t take advantage of, is the mental exercise for your dog. All dogs need to be stimulated both physically and mentally on a daily basis and practicing your “heal” will do just that. You should spend a minimum of 15 minutes of your walk moving forward at a quick steady pace without stopping. Your dog will be better behaved and more tired after a structured walk.

What is a structured walk? Think of your walk as a training workout with your dog. Your walk starts inside your home, when you go to put on that leash. Make your dog sit and stay when you put on the leash. Then, make sure when you open the door to go out, you are the first one out the door. Start your walk with letting your pup sniff around and have a quick pee as soon as you leave the house (in an old, familiar place). I call this “free time.” You want your dog to relieve themselves if they have to go, so they are not uncomfortable for their exercise session. Next, clearly indicate to your dog that you are about to start a task. A good way to do this is to come to a stop, bring your dog closer to your body by shortening the leash, so your dog is no more than a foot or two away from you. Give them a clear one word command (for example: heal) and off you go. Time yourself and keep moving forward. Do not focus on your dog, focus on moving forward. A fast paced walk will help you and your pup avoid getting side tracked. The faster the pace, the harder it will be for your pooch to pay attention to other things. Once your exercise time is up, praise your dog and reward them with free time. During free time, they can sniff around, check out that “pee mail”, do their business and just have fun.

What are the benefits of a structured walk? Your dog will be both physically and mentally stimulated and they will learn to follow you, as their leader or parent (whichever way you would like them to view you). This will build trust between you and your pooch for an overall healthy relationship.