Turn on any TV or radio, and it won’t be long before a pitch for the latest fad diet, exercise gadget, or weight loss book surges through the speakers. But missing from the over-hyped offers is the most critical ingredient for success-the motivation to stick to the plan. Enter our furry canine friends and the desire to walk with your senior dog.
America has a love affair with its pets. And canine companions are the “top dog” with more than 34 percent of American households owning one or more dogs. That’s more than 70 million pooches in the United States! While dog lovers nationwide know the strong emotional bond that can develop between humans and dogs, a study at the University of Missouri-Columbia has found that this relationship can result in more exercise and more weight loss than most nationally known diet plans. The study showed that participants who walked their dogs daily lost 14 pounds on average in less than a year-far more than the average “fad” dieter. A key reason for the better results: the dog walkers stayed with the program because of the emotional connection between dog and dog owner.
Dogs are pack animals. As such, they relish companionship. While we humans are not described as “pack” animals, we are social creatures who also need companionship. Therefore, dogs are perfect pets for humans since the relationship is based on the same need for love and interaction. This mutual need was a key driver for the study participants, who reportedly “stuck to the program” because the emotional bond was a motivator.
How to Enjoy Your Walk By Taking the Lead
Despite a solid emotional bond, many dog lovers have difficulty controlling their senior dogs on leash while walking, which can dramatically reduce the frequency of walks and the enjoyment of them. We’ve all seen the scenario: the hapless human stumbling down the sidewalk, dragged by the dominating dog. It’s a classic image-but it need not be that way. As pack animals, dogs need clear and consistent leadership to feel safe and happy, whether within their packs or their human families. This need is instinctual. If in a dog’s mind a human companion is not up to the task, the dog will constantly challenge for leadership.
Tips for Helping Your Senior Dog Walk
- Give your senior dog some time to sniff around as this provides mental stimulation and tons of information to a dog.
- You should always walk slightly in front of your dog to establish yourself as the pack leader.
- The key is to keep your dog focused. The best way to keep a dog focused is to have him on a leash or harness where you have better control of the dog’s direction and attention.
- Keep your dog’s interest by changing pace frequently-intermittently walk fast, slow, stop, etc. Do this regularly and your dog will see this as a game-and find the activity fun and stimulating
- Never use a retractable leash as they can get tangled and cause accidents.
- Ideally, a dog should get a walk or some form of exercise every day. An unexercised dog is more likely to get in trouble as a result of being bored.
- Be wary of other dogs who are walking with their owner if you’re not familiar with them. You know how your dog may behave, but not the other dog.
Making It Easier on Your Senior Dog
Your senior dog may not be able to walk as far as he could at one time. He may also need a little help. That’s why we designed the Help ‘Em Up® Harness with our new Help ‘Em Up Walking Loop Handles. The harness gives your dog full body support to help with mobility. By placing a handle over the hips and shoulders, the Help ‘Em Up dog mobility harness safely lifts from under the torso to help your dog overcome the daily obstacles of getting up and around: from up off the floor, in and out of cars or beds, up and down stairs, and walking around.
We’ve recently added the new walking loop handles in two sizes — XS/S/M or L/XL – or you can use our other walking accessories including the Help ‘Em Up Walking Handle (one size) or the Help ‘Em Up Walking Leash/Shoulder Strap (2 sizes: M/L or XL), depending on your dog’s needs. Although you can use your own leash with the harness, our walking accessories can provide extra leverage and stability for owners and dogs using the Help ‘Em Up Harness.
To see more information about our walking accessories, click here.
The most important thing is to keep you and your dog walking as long as possible. It has great psychological and physical benefits!