When it comes to maintaining a daily exercise routine, dog walkers are some of the most devoted. You know already that moving keeps people both healthy and happy. You know walking is good for your dog, too. But did you know research shows dogs experience the same feel-good hormones that we do when they exercise? They do.
Of course, most people don’t walk their dogs for health reasons — there’s more to it than that. I asked my friends who have dogs what gets them out the door every day and heard what any trainer would agree are fundamental elements of motivating people to keep moving.
“I do not like to walk,” says Wendy Doniger. “If I didn’t have to walk my dog every morning, I would probably stay in bed and read.” She wakes to Raja, however, gazing at her eagerly with his big brown eyes. So, come sun, rain, or snow — and Wendy knows from snow: she winters in Chicago — she gets dressed and goes out. One side benefit, she says, is that the dawn hour is beautiful whether the sun is rising over Lake Michigan or Ballston Beach. She adds that she can’t help but be happy when she sees her dog racing around joyously.
For some folks, the dog walk offers quality family time. Denice Lapierre and her partner, Chris Merl, love to explore new trails together with their dogs. Often their grown children join them. Another friend, Bridget Kennedy Badams, tells me she loves walking with her two sons and their dog, Daisy. On a walk, she says, “there are no screens — just us connecting with each other.”
Feeling connected to nature is a motivator, too. “Walking the dogs is a great way to clear the mind and embrace the sights and smells of nature,” Bobby Enos tells me. It is, he says, “good food for the soul.” Gemma Fabris agrees. Walking her dog, Sash, helps her appreciate these gorgeous days, she says. “And see things that I might otherwise overlook.”
Dogs can be pretty athletic. Talking to people about walking their dogs led to stories about dogs rucking (if you’ve hiked with a rucksack or walked to school with a backpack full of books, you’ve been rucking), running agility courses, cross-country skiing, and even dancing.
Accountability, companionship, and a connection to nature — dogs provide these fundamental motivations for their people. They’re not going to correct you on your form, but I’m convinced: for some folks, the best trainers are the ones with four legs.