You have decided to start a fitness routine that involves both you and your dog. That’s great! And it’s great for both you and your dog as you will both benefit from the walk, the fresh air, the exercise, and the opportunity to poop in the neighbor’s yard. Well, okay, maybe that last one should be limited to the dog, but it does bring up an important point when you are walking with your dog. That is, your dog has a different agenda on the walk than you do.

You want to walk to lose weight, lower your cholesterol, improve your circulation or any number of other reasons that all have to do with your health. These are all good reasons for getting off the couch and walking. Your dog will share your enthusiasm for the walk. When you go through your routine of getting ready for the walk, your dog will become more excited and animated in anticipation of a walk with you. But for entirely different reasons.

As you leave your home for your walk your dog will be pulling on his leash, anxious to get into the neighborhood. His tail will be held high, which means something to the dog, and it is very possible that his nose will be scanning the ground as you walk. The dog’s nose is a very sensitive organ, and we humans have learned to put the dog’s nose to work for us. Humans have yet to build a machine that is half as sensitive as a dog’s nose. Your dog is just a family pet, not trained to hunt for criminals or lost skiers. Nevertheless, he still has that nose, and he wants to put it to good use. Your walk is his opportunity to do that.

You may notice that some dogs take their duties, as dogs, more seriously than others. A dog from a working breed may give some passing attention to the various scents that fill the air near the ground level. For a dog like this, it is more in the nature of reading the morning paper. A dog from a hunting breed, on the other hand, will study a scent in great detail. For this kind of dog, it is more in the nature of a technical journal that must be scrupulously examined and analyzed. There is far more information in the scent that your dog is sniffing at that we, as humans, will ever know.

What this means to you is that a walk with your dog will not be undertaken at a consistent speed or pace and may involve numerous stops, especially in those areas where other dogs are known to pass. This is where your agenda will be different from your dog’s. Using an extending leash can help to reduce the disparity between your pace and your dog’s.

But this is not a bad thing. Walking your dog is still good exercise. In fact, studies indicate that even moderate exercise, like you might get by walking with your dog, can significantly reduce a man’s risk of heart attack and the benefit is even greater for a woman. In addition, your dog will prove to be a great motivator. Dog’s are creatures of habit and when your dog starts walking with you, he will quickly develop that habit. On those days when you just don’t feel like walking, your dog will, and he will let you know that, no matter how you feel, he still wants to go for that walk.

So, before you start a new exercise routine go talk to your doctor. Then talk to your dog. Everyone will agree that a daily walk will be a good thing to pursue.

One last thing. Another habit to build, besides the walk itself, is to take one of those plastic grocery bags with you on your walk. Your dog will not have any inhibitions about defecating in your neighbor’s lawn. When ya gotta go, ya gotta go. Should your dog do something indiscreet clean it up using the plastic grocery bag and maybe a garden trowel? That is what a good neighbor does as well as a responsible dog owner.

Enjoy your walk! Your heart and your dog, will thank you.