About 56% of the world’s population lives in cities and these numbers are expected to rise1.
Many of these people have dogs and have to walk them through busy streets every day.
Dogs are closely related to wolves, wild animals that roam the forests traveling up to 30 miles a day.2.
As city dwellers, the question quickly arises as to whether it’s okay for dogs to just walk in the city or if they need nature to be satisfied.
While the concrete jungle may not seem like the best place for dogs, they can be happy there, and luckily, most cities offer plenty of opportunities to enjoy a piece of nature with your dog.
Providing your dog with enough exercise (especially when he has tons of energy) can be trickier in an urban environment.
With a few tweaks, city walks can be fun, so read on to find out how.
Do dogs like to walk in the city?
No one can tell you 100 percent if dogs like to walk in the city, however, there is evidence that dogs prefer nature walks to city walks because of the sights, smells, and sounds.
Most dogs love to walk and it is the best time of the day for them and the only time they can leave the house.
Whether you’re out on a busy street or a quiet woods, regular walks are essential for all dogs, no matter where you live.
Since dogs can’t talk, they can’t tell us whether or not they enjoy a particular activity.
Also, every dog is different. Depending on your dog’s personality, he may or may not like walks around town.
This brings me to the first and most obvious point.
Cities tend to be hectic, noisy, and crowded, which can cause anxiety for many dogs.
A 2020 study3, showed that city dogs are much more fearful and anxious than country dogs.
The large behavioral survey was based on data from more than 6,000 dogs and found that the influence of the environment on fear is staggeringly high.
We found a novel association between the dog’s living environment and social fear, with dogs living in a more urban environment being more afraid of dogs (70%) and strangers (45%).
2020 study published on Nature.com
This aligns with the evidence regarding humans living in large cities.
If your dog is especially skittish, it will be more difficult for him to enjoy walks through the city.
When it comes to physical health, dogs that live in the city are more likely to suffer from allergies and eye and ear infections.
another study4 found that exposure to urban smog can lead to cognitive deficits and brain abnormalities in dogs.
Exposed dogs had frontal lesions with subcortical vascular pathology associated with neuroinflammation, enlarged Virchow-Robin spaces, gliosis, and ultrafine particle deposition.
2018 study conducted in Mexico City published in Science Direct
These findings also align with a previous study5 90’s
The findings support the hypothesis that long-term exposure to air pollutants at ambient levels could cause bronchitic lesions (sulfur oxide), emphysematous lesions (nitrogen dioxide), or fibrotic lesions (ozone).
1996 study published in the European Respiratory Journal
Due to proximity, city dogs are more likely to be bitten by other canines and have a much higher incidence of parvovirus.
One of the biggest health risks of city life is obesity in dogs.
About 90 percent of the city patients I see struggle with obesity, but you will rarely see overweight country dogs because their lifestyle is more similar to what you would see in the wild.
If you can manage a dog’s weight, his anxiety goes down, his behavior problems go down, as well as his risk of cardiovascular problems. It takes a real commitment from city dog owners to carve out time for pets to run and move so they can be healthy and happy.
Dr. Duffy Jones, DVM, founder of Peachtree Hills Animal Hospital in Atlanta.
These are definitely all factors that contribute to your dog’s potential happiness, however there are some advantages to walks around town as well.
Since there are so many people, your dog will have the opportunity to smell the scents of hundreds of people and other dogs.
Hard sidewalks also help keep your dog’s nails short, which translates to fewer trimming sessions.
Cities often offer more opportunities for your dog to meet other canines and socialize regularly.
How do you walk your dog in the city?
Walking your dog in the city is very doable and there are a few things you can do to make these walks as fun as possible.
Most people view walking as physical exercise, which is definitely true for humans.
For dogs, walks are mostly about mental stimulation through all those exciting smells and experiences.
However, walking the same route every day can quickly become boring for both dog and owner.
If your dog is bored with a specific route, he won’t engage with his surroundings as much, which means less sniffing and exploring.
This doesn’t mean you have to ditch your route entirely, but rather that you should change things up from time to time.
There may be local trails you haven’t tried in your area and places you haven’t been with your dog.
If you have the possibility, try to venture out of your city from time to time or plan a day trip on the weekends.
However, walking routes are not your only tool.
Simply bringing your friend or taking another dog with you can greatly benefit the walk.
You can also bring some toys that you haven’t used outside or you can incorporate some training.
If you can, choose routes or locations where you can legally and safely let your dog off leash for more fun exploration.
When you’re back home, try to de-stress your dog as much as possible.
A quiet apartment environment can help avoid the buildup of triggers that can occur quickly with the overwhelming amount of impressions in cities.
Safety tips for walking your dog in the city
Cities can be dangerous places, especially for dogs that have to wade between roads, people, and bicycles.
Fortunately, you can prevent 99% of injuries by keeping your dog on a leash and watching him at all times.
I see owners walking the streets without blinking their dogs unleashed all the time.
In addition to stepping on the road, dogs also risk ingesting harmful substances (garbage, pigeon droppings, rat poison) on the sidewalks and getting lost in the crowd.
Here are some safety tips for walking your dog around town:
- Be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to your dog
- Always use a leash (fixed length)
- Keep your dog on the side away from traffic
- Let your dog walk in front of you or beside you
- Do not let your dog eat anything from the street
- Wear gear with reflective stripes
- Defend your dog and manage interactions.
- Teach your dog all the basic commands
- Do not leave your dog unattended (for example, on a leash outside a store)
- Urban development overview – World Bank
- Gray Wolf Biology Questions and Answers – US Fish and Wildlife Service
- Inadequate socialization, inactivity, and the urban living environment are associated with social fearfulness in domestic dogs.
- Air pollution, cognitive deficits, and brain abnormalities: a pilot study with children and dogs.
- Long-term canine exposure studies with ambient air pollutants
Disclaimer: This blog post is not a substitute for veterinary care and is not intended to be. I am not a veterinarian or a pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any signs of illness, call your vet.
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