Join us in our 6 week dog walk challenge for more mindful dog walking and for happier, healthier dogs and owners!
The great dog walk challenge
In our busy lives, it’s easy for dog walks to be rushed or put off until tomorrow, and many of us are not getting out and about with our dogs as much as we should. Now is the time to think a little differently about the daily dog walk…
We want to help you re-discover the joy of walking, providing practical advice on how to reap the benefits of longer, more frequent, and more mindful dog walks. Over six weeks we will help gradually establish a new daily routine.
Week 1 - Get motivated
Write a list of why you want to walk your dog more
This is the week to get motivated: How will your dog benefit from better walks? What will be the benefits to you? Make a list to remind yourself of why you’re doing this and what you want to achieve, and put it up in a place where you will see it each day as a reminder such as your fridge or kitchen pin board.
Start a dog walking diary to help you keep track
Each day during week one, write down how often and how long you walked your dog, how you felt when you did it, what else you had on that day, and why you did, or didn’t, walk. Where do you spend time in your day that could be spent walking instead?
Week 2 - Set your goals
Set an overall goal for how often, and how long you’d like to walk with your dog over the next six weeks. Then write down smaller daily targets – you’re far more likely to achieve your overall goal if you break it down into smaller, achievable chunks.
Schedule your dog walks
Schedule your walks as appointments in your calendar. Don’t forget to be realistic - if you’re not a morning person; don’t plan your walks for 6am! And think about potential pitfalls; if you know that nothing gets done when your kids get home from school, don’t tell yourself it's going to be your walk time.
Don’t let not feeling well one day or a surprise meeting another mean you lose one of your walks for the week. Try splitting your walking time to better fit your routine. If you only have time for a 10-minute walk, that’s okay. It’s better than nothing.
Walking is the most gentle form of exercise available. Almost everyone can do it and will benefit from it. If you aren’t used to exercise, start small and build up slowly. If in doubt, speak to your doctor for advice.D Carri Westgarth
Week 3 - Make it a new habit
Set a routine
Successful regular dog walkers usually have a consistent routine where they walk at the same time each day, and therefore have to think less about doing it. Check and adapt your schedule.
Get up and go
Try laying out your walking clothes the night before, so it’s easy to get up and go. Your dog is ready to walk when you are (unlike friends and family), and will let you know when it’s time to get going! You can even train your dog to pester you to take them for a walk by rewarding their agitation and excitement with action.
Don’t forget your diary!
Continue to use your daily dog walking diary to monitor your progress towards your goals.
Week 4 - Be committed
Make a commitment to others
Science shows that we are less likely to back down on our promises if others know we’ve made them. Find a friend or family member to walk with you when you can for an ‘accountability buddy.
Join a dog walking group or sign up for a charity walk
You’re far more likely to achieve your overall walking goal if you have a commitment to work towards such as a walk to raise money for charity, or if you are part of a local dog walking group. Check out The Great Dog Walk Together for setting up local walks with groups across the UK.
Actually even the smallest breeds are recommended at least 30 minutes of walking every day, and over two hours for larger breeds. You can look up your dog breed’s recommended walk time on the Kennel Club websiteDr Carri Westgarth
Week 5 - Be inspired
Find new places to walk
We are creatures of habit but walking in the same places can get boring. Explore your local area and try new places, even walking your usual route the opposite direction can shake things up a bit!
Week 6 - Be mindful
Don’t just stick your headphones on or spend your dog walks checking your phone. Use your walking time to appreciate your surroundings and your dog. Look at the leaves, listen to the birdsong, take some deep breaths, create time to think, appreciate the world around you and enjoy the time with your loyal companion.
Review your goals
Remember that goal you made for yourself a few weeks ago? What kind of progress are you making towards it? What improvements have you made in just 6 weeks? If you are hitting barriers to reaching that goal, how can you overcome them?
Read more helpful tips and tricks from our experts
Steve LeonardLearn more
TV vet with over 20 years experience, and a patron of Painted Dog Conservation
Adam HensonLearn more
Perhaps the best-known farmer in the UK, TV presenter & lifelong dog owner
Dr Carri Westgarth
Dog walking expert and Lecturer in Human Animal Interaction at the University of Liverpool