When it comes to holidays that your pooch looks forward to the most, National Walk Your Dog Day may take the (doggy) cake!

With spring just around the corner and warmer walking days ahead, the 22nd of February was appropriately scheduled as an annual awareness day to remind pet parents of the importance of keeping their dog(s) active for their physical and mental health—not to mention the quality bonding time between paw-rent and furry companion it provides.

Let’s go on a Sniffari!

You must be barking if you think we’re just talking about taking your dog out for quick ‘walks’ outside to relieve themselves. It is important to schedule multiple walks with your four-legged companion throughout the week—aiming for at least 30 minutes each walk—where they can indulge in all the sights, smells and sounds and interact with fellow walking dogs around them.

Ensuring that your pooch gets a healthy dose of social interaction a few times a week is crucial for their mental stimulation and for them to create positive relationships with others. Studies, such as this one from BMC Veterinary Research, point to dogs taken at least once a day on a walk to be more friendly and willing to interact with others. Dogs who are not taken on walks are missing out on a positive opportunity for behaviour training and are often left feeling uncomfortable, anxious and possibly frisky when they finally do go out and come into contact with other pups.

Keep those paws moving!

Whether your four-legged friend is a puppy, adult or senior, it is important to keep them moving—whether that means allowing them to release those zoomies after a walk to the local dog park or taking them on an easy-going stroll. An active pup, no matter what level of intensity their walks are, is more likely to maintain a healthy weight—something that is crucial for their longevity.

Studies, such as this one from the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, have shown that obesity in dogs can shorten their lives by an average of two-and-a-half years. This is especially troubling, as it is estimated that in the UK, nearly 50% of dogs are either overweight or obese. Keeping those pounds down also means your pup is experiencing less pressure on their joints, making for longer walks with a more comfortable and pain-free pooch.

Paw-rents benefit too!

The wag-nificent thing about walking your pooch is that you—the paw-rent—benefits too! Not only is it heart-warming to see your pooch’s tail wag as their senses are being stimulated, but you are also exercising with them and likely to be having your own social interactions with fellow dog parents.

A study in Scientific Reports found that dog owners are four-times more likely to meet current UK physical activity guidelines than non-dog owners. Also, a study from Wood et al. (2015) reveals that pet ownership positively correlates to humans getting to know more people, forming more friendships and cultivating social support networks.

‘Given growing evidence for social isolation as a risk factor for mental health, and, conversely, friendships and social support as protective factors for individual and community well-being, pets may be an important factor in developing healthy neighborhoods.’ (Wood et al., 2015)

Walking our pups is truly a win-win!

Paw-fect ways to celebrate National Walk Your Dog Day

🐶 Bundle up! Grab your pooch’s lead and both of your warmest gear as you two head out to one of these great walks available throughout the UK (when the warmer weather comes around, check out the walks mentioned here, as well as this blog on precautions to take on different walks with your pooch in tow).

🐶 Don’t be in a rush! Give your dog the treat of a full-on sniffari, where they let you know where they want to go next (as long as it isn’t to check out the contents of a skip!)

🐶 Meet up! Schedule to walk your pooch with some neighbours—whose paths you usually cross when walking your dog—or some friends you’ve made thanks to your dog!

🐶 Join our group! IAPWA has recently created a Facebook group, ‘I Love Hiking and Dogs UK’. Here, you can see where fellow group members have taken their pooch for their latest adventure, which can inspire your next dog walk. Joining this group is the paw-fect way to connect with like-minded dog parents who love their pooch, and enjoy venturing to exciting trails and sharing their adventures.

‘We are a group of “crazy dog ladies” who met while working for the animal welfare charity IAPWA and discovered that not only do we have a love of dogs, but we also share a love of hiking and the great outdoors! We were empowered to put together this lovely community, meaning that whoever you are, wherever you are, you can connect with other dog loving hikers to share our favourite memories and photos, and celebrate our passion together!’

Whether it’s for a leisurely stroll round the corner or an exciting hike, we at IAPWA are looking forward to seeing where you’ll be taking your pooch this National Walk Your Dog Day in our group.

See you there!

Written by: Vivian Sandler
Partnerships Coordinator