Walking your dog is great exercise.

Studies show that 40 percent of dog owners take the time to walk their dogs. Some do it because their pets need exercise, others use walks with their dog as a reason to get their own steps in each day. Dog walking may keep the dogs and their owners happier and healthier.

How many miles does the average dog owner log each year?
Would you believe 1,000 miles?

If a dog owner walks 2 miles a day, they meet the Department of Health and Human Services’ exercise recommendations of 30 minutes a day or 150 minutes a week. Getting regular exercise helps you sleep better, lose weight, and boosts your overall mental and physical health—it also helps you keep your bones and muscles strong.

But we do have a word of caution.
Recent medical articles report people 65 years and older are at an increased risk of fracture when walking their dogs.

Hip fractures, especially in women, increased 1 percent. That doesn’t seem like much, but a hip fracture later in life can have devastating effects and lead to disability. In extreme cases, breaking a hip causes a steady decline in health resulting in death within a year.

Five tips to help your dog — and your joints —  enjoy your walk

  1. Wear the right shoes. Whether you walk or run your dog, choose high-quality supportive shoes or boots made for your type of activity. Make sure they offer great support for the 26 bones and 33 joints of your foot.

    Don’t forget your pet’s paws. Miles of running or walking on asphalt, snow, or salted surfaces, can take a toll on them, too. Many pet-supply stores sell specialized boots to keep your pet’s feet happy and healthy.

  2. Stay hydrated. If you are taking a long walk, pack water for you and your pet. A lightweight backpack or a pouch is just the right size to hold a bottle of water or collapsible bowl.
  3. Dress Appropriately. Cold winter wind can cause frostbite. The hot summer sun can cause a painful sunburn. Before you head out to the trail, the park, or the roadside, check the weather. Remember to wear sunscreen on exposed skin.

    If ice, snow, or slush are an issue, invest in Yaktracks® or similar traction devices for your shoes to help prevent a nasty fall. You will enjoy your walk more if you are comfortable.

    Dress your dog for success. According to the American Kennel Club, harnesses offer more control than collars. Many pet-supply stores and trainers recommend a harness rather than a collar. A well-made harness that wraps around your dog’s chest will give you and your dog a better sense of security. Whether you are walking a well-trained dog or a puppy in training is bouncing around on the end of your leash, the right gear will make the walk more enjoyable.

  4. Reward good behavior. Each walk with your pet is a training opportunity. Bring along some treats, to make the most of the event. Walking a well-behaved dog minimizes your risk of injury.
  5. Be a responsible pet owner. Bring a bag to clean up after your pet. Your fellow walkers will thank you. There’s nothing worse than trying to remove dog feces from the tread of walking or running shoes.

Following these dog-walking tips can make your walks something you and your dog look forward to each day.