And they are very good for me. They probably improve my physical health, reducing my blood pressure and my risk of heart disease. They certainly are part of my wellbeing recipe.
Way back in the seventeenth century, Robert Burton wrote thousands of pages about melancholy and how to cure it. But he was able to boil all his research and his thinking down to two very simple ideas:
As thou tenderest thine own welfare ..., thy good health of body and minde, observe this short precept, give not way to solitariness and idleness. Be not solitary, be not idle.
Dog walking sorts out both of these things for me, very nicely. It’s not solitary, it’s sociable - and it definitely stops me being idle.
Much more recently, instead of two cures for melancholy, the New Economic Foundation have come up with 5 Ways to Wellbeing. You may have heard of them, but just in case you haven’t, here they are: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning, and Give. For me, all five of them are covered by walking with the dogs.
Be active: of course walking is good aerobic exercise, releasing those endorphins. The other day (don’t ask me how!) we all ended up on a boat in the middle of a Welsh lake.
Take Notice – all sorts of good things to notice while we’re out: wonderful sunsets over the sand dunes at Formby, the changing seasons on our usual walk along the nearby cycle path, blackberries ripening and ready for eating as we go along.
Keep Learning – hmmm, this is the challenging one! Dog training is a skill I have not yet fully mastered. I can get them both to sit, and (usually) to return to heel, but I’m not so good at stopping them leaping up when they meet new people. So I need to keep learning on that one.