I grew up in a European country where walking your dog every day was compulsory. It was a rule of society, sort of like “Wash your hands during flu season”.
While I never had a childhood dog, the friends who did had a meticulous walking schedule crafted out, that, often employing several family members, guaranteed that the dog had 4-5 walks, totaling 2-3 hours of walking every day. They were punctual and consistent, more than once a friend left a get-together early because it was her turn to go home and walk the dog.
Interestingly, many of the issues we commonly see did just not occur back then. I rarely saw a dog out that was barking at somebody or something, house training was easy and quick and there was very little to no destruction when dogs were left home alone. Most importantly, crates were absolutely unknown back then. Puppies had the run of the house at all times and still did not destroy or soil.
In my opinion, at least part of the reason for this was the fact that they were walked so much. They had a lot of exposure to all kinds of social situations from day one, they had plenty of opportunities to potty under supervision and with praise, and when they were home alone, they were just really tired!
Since I moved to the US several years ago, I have adopted many habits of living here. Two German ones still remain though: no crating in daily life, and daily walks.
We currently live in a house with no fenced-in yard. This means that if I want my dogs to walk farther than from the bedroom to the couch, I have to put on my shoes and head out.
This is no problem whatsoever as the major reason I have dogs is that I just love walking them. I could give up trick training, agility, even playing with them but the last thing I ever want to miss is going for walks.
1.) It is healthy.
There is no denying that most owners and dogs experience very little physical activity in their daily life. With desk jobs and long commutes people spend a lot more time sitting than moving. And the days of working herding and hunting jobs are long gone for most dogs. Walks give you a reason to get out and moving with your best friends.
2.) It is bonding.
Walks are adventure time. Every one will be different, and you will experience these adventures together with your dogs! In my eyes, activities that are spent with no hierarchy (training always has a hierarchy) are the most important and maybe only way to develop a true bond (but this is material for another post altogether).
3.) It will make training extra easy.
If your dog can stay with you while rabbits and squirrels are running around, while a moving truck is being loaded and other dogs bark at him, staying with you on the agility field will be a no brainer 😉
4.) It will greatly increase your dog’s body awareness.
My dogs are very fast with learning tricks. On the one hand, this might be due to the way I set up my training and the fact that of course to me they are the smartest dogs in the world. On the other hand, they learn body awareness for hours every day!
If your dog mostly spends his outside time in the backyard, he will not get a lot of feedback about his feet there. Most backyards are reasonably flat and well maintained. Pretty few people have tree trunks laying around, sand hills in the corners and maybe a puddle or two. That looks nice but will not teach the dog much about how to move and feel his legs and body.
If you go out into some wilderness, your dog will need to consider his legs with every single step. He will learn how to step exactly between two cactus, how to lift his legs enough to not hit roots, how to move most efficiently on sand, grass, snow…
When I decided to teach my first dog running contacts with no instruction, through mostly my own made-up method it was super easy – he had already ran downhill thousands of times and adjusted his stride!
5.) It is fun.
Personally, I do not do it for any of the first 4 reasons. I just do it because it is plain fun. Enough said.
On average, it takes 66 days to form a new habit (the 30 days saying is the minimum number, you are safer with 2 months). Start daily walks, and make them a habit by the summer!