Love on a Leash: Mutual Benefits of Walking the DogJan 31, 2024 ● By Dr. Ruth Roberts, DVM, CVA, CVH, CVFT, NAN
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The emotional bond between dogs and humans is a powerful force that extends beyond mere companionship. Known for their unwavering loyalty and intuitive understanding, dogs offer a source of comfort and emotional support. In return, the companionship and care provided by humans create a sense of security and happiness for their canine friends. The seemingly ordinary act of dog walking can bring vitality and other benefits to those on both ends of the leash.
Emotional Health Benefits
Strengthening Bonds: In a study conducted at Manchester Metropolitan University, in England, researchers aimed to understand how humans and their animal companions actively share spaces, specifically through the lens of walking experiences. The study called into question a common perception that humans always dominate, showing that during walks, power is negotiated through mutual interaction, disproving the idea that authority goes only one way. This understanding reveals the complex bond formed during walks, emphasizing that power is shared, adding to the special and mutually helpful connection between humans and their dogs.
Spending Time Together: Walking creates shared moments. Whether exploring familiar places or trying new routes, these shared experiences become lasting memories that make the connection between dogs and owners even stronger.
Communicating Nonverbally: While walking, owners and dogs interact without words. The leash becomes a kind of language, where owners express feelings and intentions through body language and energy, helping them understand each other better.
Fostering Trust: Walking builds trust and reliance. Dogs trust their owners to guide and protect them during walks, creating a sense of safety and mutual dependence, which deepens their bond.
Enjoying Quality Time and Affection: Walking is a time for closeness and affection. A simple pat, a gentle scratch or just being near each other during walks creates moments of connection that strengthen the emotional tie between dogs and their owners.
Physical Health Benefits
Physical Well-Being: The relationship between dogs and humans contributes significantly to the physical health of both parties. For Melissa Sherman, an animal communicator, energy healer and holistic pet health coach, a walk is more than just a routine. It is a holistic strategy to improve her pets’ well-being. Leading her pack of seven dogs through daily forest walks becomes a channel for physical vitality, mental engagement and emotional catharsis. Sherman’s insight reinforces the idea that regular nature walks contribute not only to the physical health but also to the overall happiness of both dogs and their human companions.
Exercise Opportunity: Regular activities like dog walks also provide valuable exercise for their human counterparts. Research published in The Gerontologist indicates that older adults that regularly walk their dogs are more likely to meet physical activity recommendations and exhibit greater functional ability compared to non-dog owners.
Cardiovascular Health: An assessment of studies and data by the American Heart Association concluded that dog ownership is likely linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. This positive association is primarily attributed to the active practice of dog walking.
Stress Reduction: Studies have shown that the presence of a dog can have a calming effect on humans, reducing stress levels and promoting overall mental well-being. The simple act of petting a dog releases feel-good hormones, creating a harmonious cycle of emotional support.
Increased Happiness: Dogs bring joy and a sense of purpose to human lives, particularly for those living alone or facing health challenges. The responsibilities of caring for a pet instill a routine and structure that contribute to an enhanced quality of life.
Unconditional Love and Companionship: Perhaps the most profound aspect of this bond is the unconditional love and companionship exchanged between dogs and humans. Dogs are non-judgmental, offering a constant source of emotional support and companionship. In return, humans provide the care, attention and love that form the bedrock of this unique relationship
Ruth Roberts is an integrative veterinarian and holistic health coach for pets, as well as the creator of The Original CrockPet Diet. Learn more at DrRuthRoberts.com.