Don’t let your pooch become a couch potato

Raphael Gawan and three of the dogs he usually walks

Raphael Gawan, of Imizamo Yethu, became a dog walker six years ago to earn a living after his employers emigrated.

“I walk about nine dogs, three times a week for about three hours. Sometimes these dogs want to do their own thing, but they do listen to me,” he says, confiding that Taison, a black German shepherd is his favourite.

Most of the dogs he walks are quite friendly and don’t give him any bother, he says.”

“We walk to the park and spend some time there and all the way to the beach.”

Walking your dog is important, and, just like humans, dogs need stimulation too, says Faustina Gardner, the managing director of the Domestic Animal Rescue Group, a pro-life, non-profit organisation that rescues, cares for, sterilises and re-homes previously abused, neglected and abandoned cats and dogs in the Hout Bay area

“Just like we humans enjoy a good movie or book, etc., dogs enjoy exploring and sniffing. Walking prevents boredom, which can lead to digging, chewing, and ‘boredom barking’, along with other undesirable behaviours. It also prevents health issues such as hypertension and diabetes… and it keeps your dog’s joints and muscles healthy.

“Certain breeds such as your collie, Jack Russell and husky need a great deal of exercise, and a 20-minute walk is often not enough.”

Ms Gardner says dogs thrive on routine and a daily walk helps to strengthen the bond with their owner.

“A walk is the perfect time to reinforce the bond you have with your pooch, and, of course, if you have a sociable dog, he/she needs to meet other dogs.”

Not all dogs are sociable, however, and if yours isn’t, you should pick a walking route with fewer dogs, she advises.

While walking has its benefits, you should never force your dog to go for one, says Ms Gardner. “Instead get advice from a certified behaviourist, as some dogs are terrified of leaving their property, and if this is the case, the behaviourist will work with your dog to set him/her up for success.

“For most dogs, walks are probably their favourite activity of the day, so grab that leash as a happy dog equals a happy owner.”