Our dog Loki is a Yorkshire terrier with tiny legs that measure about five inches. He weighs all of about six pounds, and stands about a foot off the ground. But those little legs can move, and these days, he’s been cranking out three miles with me most days in the morning.
According to dog experts, including Cesar Milan, walking is essential to your dog’s existence. For starters, it establishes your role as the pack leader, the alpha in your dog’s world. The way you walk him counts too. You should walk out the door first, enter first and always be a few steps ahead, or at least side by side. You should dictate when you stop and go, and never let the dog walk you.
Walking is also important for Loki’s mental stability. It helps him remain calm (or as calm as a little terrier can get) and eliminates unwanted behaviors like barking, biting and growling. On days when Loki doesn’t walk as much, he’s prone to more yapping and hyperactivity. Truth is, dogs are by instinct, walkers, not couch potatoes or pillow dwellers who spend their days lounging around in air conditioned rooms.
Equally important is the exercise component for both Loki and me. Regular exercise strengthens the heart and lungs, improves muscle tone and prevents weight gain — for both of us. A preliminary study recently presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual meeting found that dog owners who don’t walk their dogs are more likely to be overweight or underweight, and twice as likely to have high blood pressure.
I’ve grown to truly enjoy my morning walks with Loki. He never complains about where we’re going, asks to get ice cream at the local store or begs to visit the school playground. He simply keeps a steady pace and makes a great companion. And knowing that I have to walk him ensures that I get my 30 minutes a day, too.