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How walking my dog changed my life

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?

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Rumi

Monday 24th of March 2014

I love your post. I used to walk our dog and never thought of it as a burden or chore. I still miss her now. What I regret is I didn't walk her as much as I should have. I hope I had spent more time with her.

Renchan Li

Thursday 20th of March 2014

This topic catches my eyes and interest; but I need to keep my focus on the topic "Walking Dog ..." while reading Lindsay's and all readers' comments, so I won't leave my comment toward other topic like "Having a dog changes my life." Actually adopting (1-year-1-month ago) my first dog, now 2-year-8-month old female Rottweiler hasn't changed my life, so to speak, because I am an old "dog" and I can't play new tricks; but the process of caring her does expand my life spectrum: opening me up to the dog, and then other animals, world. I learn what are proper, not proper and case-by-case ways of caring for a dog; I also sense that some people like, and some don't like, my way of letting my 78 lb. Rottweiler carrying the 10 lb. of weights (13% of her weight) in her backpack during our 1.5 hours walk a few times a week on the slowly graded streets.

I play tennis, swim and hike regularly; thus walking my about 2.5 years old healthy Rottweiler daily is an extra exercise. I have at least three purposes in walking my dog during the weekdays. First, she deserves at least 1 to 2 hours during the weekdays of outdoor activities; Second, daily walking exercise of carrying proper weight (weight training) or running without extra weight is good for her health, and for preparing for our periodical backpacking trips; Third, at the curve before crossing to the other side of the street, I train her to sit and watch the traffic for safe crossing.

Though my life is not really changed through walking my dog, I do learn how she reacts to the traffic noises, other pedestrians and other walking dogs. With her daily exposure to the street, I learn how to communicate with her and train her to adapt to this humans' world, that is filled with different opinions.

Thanks for sharing your experiences, that have broaden my view.

Carl Williams

Monday 17th of March 2014

I felt the same way when I first got my dog. Mine was a present from my aunt. I used to play with him every night and go jogging with him every morning. It really was fun. We watch the sunrise together on a small mountain top in the neighborhood. We really did had fun memories but when I got a job I was so busy we don't get to do those things anymore. I felt less connected with him, I feel lifeless actually. I bet he feels the same. I was his only best friend and I still am. Things are just different now. All I can do for my buddy is at least try, right?

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 17th of March 2014

I'm sure he appreciates any time he does get to spend with you. The best we can do is spend at least a few minutes with them whenever we can.

nancyspoint

Thursday 13th of March 2014

Saying Ace changed who you are, gosh, that's pretty powerful stuff! Ace is a real treasure of a dog that's for sure. I am one of those people who doesn't walk my dogs every day for a variety of reasons and I certainly don't think I'm a bad dog owner, but I do feel guilty about not walking them as often as I should or would like to. They love it so much. Now that spring is nearly here, I cannot wait to get out and walk them on a more regular basis. You're right about how it's such a special and freeing time. I've missed that. Thanks for the motivation!

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 13th of March 2014

Yes, they sure love it!

weliveinaflat

Thursday 13th of March 2014

I walk Donna everyday, even if sometimes I don't really feel like it. Now that we have the haze, you kind of miss the fresh air from these walks. Over here it is normal for folks not to walk their dogs, but to leave it to their home domestic help to walk them. Work gets hectic and stressful, everyone puts in overtime, etc. But you kind of miss that opportunity to spend time in the neighbourhood, see the changes and talk to the other neighbours who have dogs. So I still like walking the dog myself, although I guess I would be tempted to leave it to the domestic help more often if I had one. :P

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 13th of March 2014

I think if I had a more active dog I would be more likely to have someone help out with his walks, especially if I didn't have such a flexible work schedule. But I love walking my dog, and I think I would still try to get a walk in with him every day. I'm lucky that he's lazy and doesn't need much.