Get Up and Move Your Wiggle Butt – Good for the Dog; Good for You

Honey the Golden Retriever is the Light at the End of the Tunnel

If you think walking through a tunnel is mental stimulation, will we be crawling through sewers next?

No, I’m not going to tell you how exercise will keep you and your dog slim.

I will tell you that getting off your butt is good for your brain. And your dog’s brain too.

Find Your Creativity Outdoors

How many times have you found yourself staring at your computer screen trying to think of something to write? After a while, you go looking for inspiration—on Facebook, Pinterest, and old emails.

Before you know it, an hour has slipped by. And you’re no closer to writing something amazing than you were before.

But your dog holds the answer to your problem. All you have to do is take her for a walk.

Scientific studies show that getting outdoors improves productivity and hiking can increase creativity. Sounds like you have a perfect excuse to take your dog out.

But does it help your dog as much as it helps you?

What Walking Does For Your Dog

Until someone invents a portable MRI, we don’t know exactly what walking does for dogs.

Although I didn’t find a single scientific study on the benefits of walking for dogs, most people assume it’s true. A tired dog is a good dog, after all. And some people think walking is so important for dogs they advocate for using treadmills if a person can’t walk her dog for an hour or more at a time.

But people who advocate a forced march or a treadmill are missing the point of a walk.

Yes, we need to exercise our dogs’ bodies like we need to exercise our own. But we also need to exercise their minds. And marching around the blocks or trotting on a treadmill do little for the human or canine brain.

Eventually, science will back me up.

How to Walk a Dog

I’ve never equalled the physical energy of a young, healthy, mid-sized dog. If a good walk means physically tiring Honey out, we’ve never had a good walk.

But how about using a walk to reboot the brain and its creativity—like humans do?

A good dog walk includes

  • variety – change your route to see and smell different things each time
  • surprises – no rule says a walk means continual walking. Break up your walk with a game of “fetch the pine cone” or play tug with a branch.
  • a change in pace – sometimes we stop every two seconds to sniff, other times we run
  • different terrain – sidewalks get dull so we climb steps, crawl through tunnels, and scramble over rocks or playground equipment
  • togetherness – leave the stupid cell phone home. Or, if you keep it for safety, turn off the ringer.

Do I follow my own advice all the time? Truthfully? No.

But we do for most walks. Because I have a good teacher.

Honey the Golden Retriever poses at Ithaca Falls for Something Wagging This Way Comes.

Climbing the waterfalls would be stimulating too. But don’t think you’re going to talk me into that one.

Letting Honey Lead

I haven’t walked Honey yet. It’s grey, cold, and windy outside. I’m not feeling inspired to head outside, and certainly not for an hour at a time.

But now I’m accountable. To you, yes. But also to Honey.

She’s a smart girl who needs to exercise her brain.

Luckily, I have faith. I know that as soon as we get outside we’ll both have fun. Honey will sniff out all kinds of interesting things. I’ll keep my eyes open for a fun object to play with.

Sometimes I’ll pick the route. Sometimes Honey will.

And when we return home, Honey’s brain will be tired. And mine will be primed to creative work. After all, what’s good for the dog is good for me too.

Thanks for the Challenge

During the recent Blog the Change for Animals, I announced that my theme for the year’s posts would be showing how working for animal welfare benefits humans as much as it does other animals. And I asked you to challenge me to show the human benefits of your favorite causes.

Your comments were wonderful and I’m so thankful for the range of issues you feel passionate about.

I’m having trouble limiting myself to three posts so I’ll be using some of your ideas in my weekly Good for the Dog; Good for you features. Thank you.

Do you get outside when you need creative inspiration? Does your dog help?

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  1. A good walk does us all good. I love my walks and my hunting. Have a marvelous Monday.
    Best wishes Molly

  2. Being outside is is incredibly therapeutic for me and the dogs. I can’t imagine not getting out everyday and walking with them.

  3. Humans seem to spend so much of our lives in overdrive. We drive past life without experiencing so much of it. Dogs can teach us what is there and engage our brains. I love when my four dogs will find a scent and agree that this is the most fascinating thing that the universe has to offer.

  4. I love taking my humans for walkies:-)

  5. Walking Litchi always does the world of good for my brain, in all aspects. I can feel it right now, having been sick for the last week and not gone walking, I’m feeling far more down than normal (well, I don’t normally feel down, so any version thereof is a “lot more down” 😀 )

  6. I do, and mainly because I know Brooks and Kelly love it. If it weren’t for them, I’d probably never leave my desk! When we’re out on a walk, they seem so happy and engaged, tails wagging, sniffing, eager. There is no doubt that it’s good for their body and mind. One thing you mention is something I’m kind of bad at–variety. I usually take the same route. We don’t have many good places to walk so it isn’t easy to mix it up, but you have challenged me to make an effort.

  7. I’m so glad I have two dogs. We don’t go for walks. I spend a couple of hours a day in the backyard with chickens and ducks. The dogs fight with the ducks, then tussle with each other. So it’s not walks, but they get outside several times a day and get plenty of exercise.

  8. I often find myself posting less because I’m more engaged in physical/mental activities beyond the computer. In my quest to daily walk Justus, I need inline skate ala Cesar Milan – he then can run his heart out w/o me tripping behind him.
    Excellent post and I’m sure there’s some data backing you up somewhere!

  9. Great blog. My wife wants a dog, but I am still unsure. I have had dogs most of my life, but being on the move makes having one kind of challenging. That and affording pet sitting while away. However, I will say that having a dog is a lot of fun and your blog brings back some of the memories of having a dog. Thanks for sharing.

  10. You hit one of my major hot buttons here…cell phone! Saturday Giz and I were on a lovely trail at one of the highest points in the state, enjoying the unusual, a panoramic view, when from down the trail I hear someone chatting away about nothing important (an d i say this because i could hear every word she was saying quite clearly)…talk about spoiling the mood…why on earth go out in nature only to blather on a cell phone?

    and yes, after checking email and a cup of coffee we go walking … when we get home i’m awake, alert and ready to start writing…it’s an energizing way to begin the day

  11. I sometimes find it hard to get myself up and out the door, but you are right it is so good for both you and the dog!

    Many ideas for posts begin on one of our walks, also story plot lines, characters, you name it. My problem is remembering them all when we get back. :-)

    I installed a voice recording app for my phone, which reminds me I have to go in and write them down.

    It’s definitely odd when you are listening to music to have a recording of yourself come on.

  12. Mike Webster says:

    From the Husband:
    Get Up and Move Your Wiggle Butt – Good for the Dog; Good for the Blogger.
    Sleep In a Really Long Long Long Time – Good for the Husband.

  13. Awesome post! I so agree with exercise helping both you and your dog via your bodies and minds. I have found that walking with my dogs also clears my head and relieves stress and frustration. I think that’s why I have been so antsy lately. Between being sick with the flu and the sub-zero temperatures, neither me or my dogs have had the chance to be outside. Today’s high? -6 with a windchill between -20 to -30. Ugh! It was like this last weekend too.
    Pray for heat Pamela! I am going crazy!

    On another note, I am very much looking forward to your posts related to your Blog the Change challenge. Great idea. Wish I had thought of it. :)

  14. I recently started switching up Leroy’s walks and I found that even though we walked the same amount of time he was more tired. We sometimes do a walk/jog thing to and he gets into that because he never knows when I’m going to pick up the pace!

  15. Our Newfs need to get out and walk. Since I have been sick and we have not had our weekend woods walks they have been tearing up toys and playing in family room next to me on couch. Two Newfs bouncing off couch, each other, almost knocking printer off desk and barely missing TV is NOT a good thing. Finally they are back to evening walks with Dad but never really tired or less bored. Hopefully we will have a weekend woods walk. Good for all of us 😉