Walking is one of the most pleasurable and healthy activities we share with our pets.
Dogs are pack animals and to them sharing a daily dose of fresh air satisfies their instinct to explore new territory, meet and socialise with other dogs and display some of the hunting behaviour they evolved as wolves. For their owners, the health benefits are lower cholesterol and blood pressure, better recovery prospects after a heart attack, lower stress levels and a stronger immune system.
It is interesting how many other animals choose to share a walk – many cat owners relate how they are often accompanied on walks with their feline friends. Once again cats are territorial and still effective hunters however; the look of distain they can carry is probably frustration at our lack of stealth and skill once prey is spied.
I am surprised by the number of leads and harnesses we sell for rabbits and guinea pigs. I have no problems whatsoever in these animals receiving physical and mental stimulation on a walk or hop down the lane. Again, these are social animals with a natural inquisitiveness and a behavioural need to forage, explore and interact with their environment. Certainly any environmental enrichment meaning they do not spend too long in a poorly ventilated hutch is fine by me and if it means a pink diamanté harness so be it.
A favourite fact I read last year was that the average owner travels just under 24,000miles with their dog over the average lifespan of a pet dog. That means we walk a distance equivalent to once around the world with them. Maybe, this is why they mean the World to many of us.
Ben Hynes is a veterinary surgeon at Abbey Vets, Abergavenny