In addition to the basic needs of food and shelter, a dog needs social interaction, positive attention from its owner, exercise and mental stimulation. Many of these needs can be met by simply taking your dog for a walk. Walking your dog daily provides it with attention from you. Perhaps more than anything, our pets simply want our company. Even when you remain home during the day, much of your time is spent doing chores rather than interacting with the family pet. Take along a plastic bag or a container and be sure to pick up after your pet.
A walk allows you to practice obedience skills with your dog to increase the reliability of training. Reviewing the basic commands also increases the benefits of a walk because your dog is not simply ambling along, but is performing additional tasks. Taking your dog for a walk provides mental stimulation through territorial investigation. Nose to the ground and alert to the sights and sounds of the neighborhood, your dog gathers information about how its territory has changed since the last walk.
Along with the emotional benefits, there are physical benefits. Walking your dog is the best way to exercise a dog that may not move about much in your home or even in your yard. Aging pets must be kept as agile and fit as possible but may not be inclined to exercise without encouragement. Even if your pet is active in your yard, it is more active during a walk. The pleasure of your company is one of your dog's greatest motivations to exercise.
If you pass by another dog or person along the way, your dog has an opportunity to socialize. Dogs are social animals. It is in their nature to investigate unrecognized or recognized individuals. Puppies should be encouraged from a young age to appropriately greet and interact with other dogs and people while on walks. These positive experiences help the puppy behave appropriately when greeting visitors to your home, or when the dog is with you anywhere else. If a dog does not have the opportunity to socialize, it will not interact appropriately with people or other dogs.
Walking your dog is one of the best ways to prevent behavior problems. At least two walks daily help prevent elimination problems, destructiveness, separation anxiety and other common behavior disorders. Walk your dog soon after each meal, as this is the time it is most likely to urinate or defecate, and you can direct the dog to an appropriate location. Praise must be given immediately to be effective. If you simply let your dog out in the yard, you lose an opportunity to reinforce desirable behavior.
Allowing a dog to roam freely is dangerous both to the dog, other pets and people. It also gives the unsupervised dog freedom to regress to unacceptable wild behavior. Your dog's life could depend on its obedience to your warnings. Restricting some activity cannot be unkind in view of the possible consequences.