Today’s post is by guest contributor Amber Kingsley. This information is not intended to refute, replace or serve as a substitute for information gained from a licensed professional. Photo credit: Alice G Patterson Photography.
This statement isn’t exactly breaking new ground: Every dog is different. Anyone who has owned more than one dog in his or her life understands that each dog has its personality, likes and dislikes, and tolerance for activities. Even dogs within the same breed have their individual quirks.
You’ll notice these differences in a variety of situations. But one of the first places such differences manifest themselves is when you’re walking the dog. Whereas one of your dogs may walk for 30 minutes in all kinds of weather and can’t wait for more, another dog may refuse to put a foot outside if the pavement is wet from the rain. And another one may be willing to walk for a long time in spring, autumn, and winter, but the dog cannot tolerate exercising in the heat of summer for more than a few minutes.
Best Distances for Walking a Dog
The following tips are general ideas for understanding the optimal distance to walk your dog. Because no two dogs are the same, though, you’ll have to experiment a bit to learn the best way to walk each of your dogs in a variety of weather conditions and circumstances.
- Short and fast. If walking at a brisk pace for 15-30 minutes fits well with your schedule, look for a dog that does well with short bursts of energy. Retrievers and Greyhounds are great dogs for short, fast walks. If you’re starting a walking program to help the dog’s health, start with a slower pace for your short walk and gradually build the pace.
Slow and steady. If you like to walk for an hour or more at a time, you’ll need a dog bred for distance work. Dogs with wiry builds which are at a healthy weight can handle the longer distances well, such as Jack Russell terriers and Dalmatians. If the dog is a bit overweight, start with short distances.
Weighing Other Walking Conditions
Distance isn’t the only consideration you need to have when walking your dog. Some dogs will walk better in particular weather and environmental conditions.
Cold weather. If your dog has a thick coat and has a stocky build, it should tolerate walking long distances in the cold. Huskies and German Shepherds are great cold-weather walkers.
Hot weather. Heat can cause even the fittest dog to wear down quickly during a walk. But some dogs are built better to deal with the heat, such as terriers. Dogs with long noses and light coats will be able to cool themselves better in hot weather. Overweight dogs especially need to be watched closely when walking in heat to protect their health. Go slower than usual and shorter than usual when walking the dog in excessive heat.
- Most agile. If you walk in areas where you may need to dodge potholes or tree branches, such as on a wilderness trail, agile dogs will have the most success, such as herding dogs like border collies.
- Most obedient. A dog that will walk in areas where there will be other people, dogs, and vehicles nearby needs to be obedient to your commands, keeping the dog safe during the walk. Border collies and retrievers will obey commands quickly, and they’re typically not aggressive.
Building Up the Dog’s Stamina
Before tackling a long walk with your dog, it’s important to start slowly. Just as you would when starting an exercise program for yourself, don’t overdo the dog’s walk on the first day. Try limiting yourself to 10 or 15 minutes for a few days before increasing the time of the walk. Gradually build up the distance of each daily walk with your dog, keeping the environmental and weather conditions in mind, and you’ll be able to provide the desired health benefits for the dog. Also, be mindful of their paws, as they don’t have the same protections we do.
Amber Kingsley is a freelance journalist and member of a pet enthusiast/animal lover group in her city of Santa Monica who has donated countless hours supporting her local shelter within operations and outreach. She has spent most of her research writing about animals — food, health, and training.
Alice G Patterson Photography specializes in dog photography, senior portraits (and their pets) and offers both product photography and portraits for small businesses.