I adopted my dog Ace seven years ago.

Before I committed to adopting a dog, I knew I would walk that dog every single day no matter what.

It was part of an unofficial contract.

And of course, I’m not referring to “potty break” walks outside and back. I mean a walk! Like, at least 20 minutes of exercise, often much more.

Ace was 12 months old when I adopted him. Deep down, he was a calm dog, but on the surface he had a lot of crazy, pent-up energy. My mom and I picked him up from his original owner’s home and took him for a walk before we even got to my apartment. And then I took him for another walk later that afternoon.

Walking was a way to reach my new dog – to show him “I am the leader, I am consistent, you can trust me.”

But I realize some of you may not be in that same boat.

You don’t walk your dog every day, or even at all.

That’s OK.

Not walking your dog every day is normal. It doesn’t make you a bad dog owner. But it means you may want to consider change.

[quote_center]”Not walking your dog every day is normal. It doesn’t make you a bad dog owner.”[/quote_center]

Today I walk (or run) with my dog every day because it’s something I enjoy. We might miss a day or two if he’s feeling tired, but for the most part we walk at least 20 minutes every day.

Ace has changed who I am.

I didn’t have to change who I was in order to adopt a dog or to start walking a dog.

But owning and walking a dog changed me.

Here’s how walking my dog changed me:

1. It improved my mental mindset.

I used to feel bad about myself often. I would feel depressed and tired. I didn’t even realize it until years later, but walking my dog changed that instantly.

2. It gave me time to reflect.

When I walk my dog I don’t wear headphones. I don’t check email or texts. It’s my time to think. It helps me be more organized, more creative, more relaxed. I’m alone in nature (or suburbia) with my thoughts and my dog. It’s very freeing.

3. I’m stronger.

Before I adopted Ace I would run or walk most days, but I tended to overtrain. I would run too far before my body was ready, and then I’d get hurt.

With a dog, I had to be more consistent. Ace was capable of running long distance at the time, but not every day. What worked better were shorter runs of 5 or 6 miles. Without overtraining, I gradually became stronger.

4. I realized I needed a career change.

Walking my dog every morning helped give me a stronger sense of who I was, and what my priorities were. I was unhappy working at a newspaper and knew there was a greater purpose for me.

Because of my dog, I became more involved in animal rescue. I began fostering and running with rescue dogs. I began writing about dogs through my new dog blog. My boyfriend at the time (who is now my husband) encouraged me to quit my job and focus on starting a dog walking business. I haven’t looked back.

I did not have to change much in my life to begin walking my dog every day.

But as you can see, walking my dog every day began to change me.

If I can give dog owners any advice, it would be to commit to a daily walk. It doesn’t have to be long. Just 10 minutes a day at first will do.

You don’t have to change much in your life to make this commitment, but doing so just might change you.

How has walking your dog improved your life?