Walking: As vital to your dog as it is to you
By Don Kirkland
Rain or shine, young or old, Bowser needs
exercise. And even though he doesn’t speak
our language, he has no trouble letting us
know when it’s time for his daily walk.
After all, there are only three priorities in
“Unlike people, a dog doesn’t look forward to
sitting down and reading a good book; he lives to eat,
to interact with his owner and to exercise.”
It’s an understanding that’s been gained through
years of experience with man’s best friend, an ability
in which Dr. Thomas Gus is definitely not lacking.
The popular Tempe veterinarian and a longtime
owner of University Animal Hospital knows that lack
of exercise is as bad for dogs as it is for their masters.
“Our dogs can get just as out of shape as we
can,” noted Gus. “We see diabetes, heart disease and
solid evidence of increased weight.”
And then there are the behavioral issues.
“If you take away walking, you take away a
major part of the dog’s everyday expectations. Some
dogs will chew up the furniture, others will bark.
They can get just as out of sorts as we do without
exercise, and this can be their way of showing it.”
So the lesson to be learned is that walking your
dog is valuable for both participants, and should
become an integral part of every day’s routine,
whether man or beast.
One significant caveat, though, as summer
In the Valley, heat is our issue, said Gus. Our
animals can function nicely here with the type of
cold weather we have; it’s when temperatures creep
upward that pets typically run into problems.
“Even after the sun goes down, the pavement
still holds heat. Whether a bright summer day or a
dark summer night, dogs can very easily suffer from
heat exhaustion or burns,” he said.
While their masters may be able to withstand
the summer temperatures, dogs are more poorly
equipped to do so.
“We’re much more able as an organism because
evaporation occurs over our entire bodies,” Gus said.
With dogs that’s limited to the mouth, the nose and a
little bit via their foot pads.
Every year, said Gus, his clinic gets about a call a
week from owners who have taken their dog out for a
walk and returned home with an emergency situation
requiring professional care.
“We have cases of dogs hiking up South
Mountain with their owners. The dog wants to keep
up so he overextends himself. He can’t stop to say,
hey, give me a breather.”
While pet-walking in its traditional form is best
for all involved, Gus says an inventive
brother-in-law has developed a summer
alternative: training his dog to run on an indoor
“He does about 30 minutes every day; the
teaching takes approximately a month, but at least it
minimizes any concerns over excessive heat.”
As to the problems some pet owners face
with dogs that don’t want to behave during a walk,
potentially resulting in the owner’s diminished
interest in getting out regularly, Gus offers a
“To keep your dog from taking charge of the
walk or fighting the leash, some basic training is
critical,” he says.
“The importance of teaching such commands as
stay, sit and heal allows the owner to be in control,
not to mention the added element of safety,” he said.
Leashes designed to minimize pulling are
available at area pet-supply stores, offering a way to
develop a routine that’s more desirable by both dog
and master, according to Gus.
As to the value of adopting a regular exercise
routine, Gus says the benefits go both ways.
“There are few things that feel as good as your
dog greeting you when you come home with his tail
wagging and a leash in his mouth.”
It’s good for you both—and it’s hard to say no.
University Animal Hospital is at 2500 S. Hardy
Drive, Tempe. Information: 480-968-9275 or www.