In October of 2015 I read an article about National Walk your Dog week that stated that about a third of dog owners admit to rarely walking their dog. I was shocked by this and wanted to get a sense if this was true of the people I know so where else better to find out but a Facebook post. Many of my friends were very active with their dogs by participating in dog sports, going to classes and playing games in the yard but I found that most didn’t take their dogs on walks. My dog Lizzie is going to be 7 years old this month. Lizzie was a VERY active puppy and we don’t have a fenced in yard so daily walks became part of our normal routine early on. My favorite part of most days is the quiet time I spend walking my dog and exploring new areas. I knew my friends, and their dogs, were missing out on something special.
As a result I came up with an idea to challenge people to commit to walking their dog for a minimum of 30 minutes a day for 30 days and called it the “30 for 30 dog walking challenge.” I figured that a handful of my friends would join the private Facebook group but as people continued to invite their friends we had almost 300 people participate.
About a month or so after the challenge wrapped up a few people reached out to me about when the next challenge would be. To be honest, I hadn’t planned on doing another challenge but we had developed a community of dog walkers from literally around the world and so I decided to challenge the group to walk 100 miles with their dog between the first day of spring and the first day of summer. This time almost 700 people committed to the challenge. Most recently, this past fall we added a scavenger hunt so not only were people accumulating 100 miles between fall and winter but this time they took pictures of 100 different items from our scavenger hunt list.
While I have really enjoyed all of the pictures of dogs walking in so many varied places around the world as well as hearing the success stories of improved health through pounds lost and relieved stress (for both dog and human), the thing I have enjoyed most about the challenges is the people. People connected with others who lived near to them to create small groups that got together to walk. One person created T-shirts that could be ordered when you completed the 100 miles. And these dog walkers always keep the group fun and positive….seriously, we survived an election season without one comment about either party in our group and THAT is a miracle on social media these days. This diverse community with a wide range of ages and physical abilities cheers for you every mile you walk whether exceed the 100 miles or don’t come close to meeting the goal. For me, who already was walking my dog every day I challenged myself to get back into running (at age 40) and participated in several 5K events after learning and training cani-cross with Lizzie.
What started as a little idea I had one day while walking my dog has turned into something I never could have imagined. This Monday March 20 the 2nd Annual 100 by summer dog walking challenge kicks off and I would like to invite you and your dog to be a part of it. To learn more visit my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/amyportonutrition
About the author: Amy Porto, PhD, RD is a registered dietitian, former fitness instructor and associate professor of nutrition and dietetics whose mission is to push others to live inspired through good nutrition and fitness.
Lizzie Porto competes in canine nose work, enjoys swimming in the lake, playing with her dad, going to camp with the Dog Scouts of America each summer and taking in the sights and sniffs on her daily walks.