You can look far and wide, but you won't find a more enthusiastic walking buddy than man's best friend: your dog. In our house, it's not even smart to say the word walk before you've laced up your shoes.

A handful of studies have tried to measure what dog lovers have known all along -- dogs like to walk, and people who have dogs like to make their dogs happy:

  1. A 2006 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that dog owners walk almost twice as much as people without canine companions.
  2. Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia discovered that dog owners walk farther and more frequently, but not for their own health mind you, for their dog's.
  3. Finally, a 2006 study published in Obesity reported that people and dogs can lose weight together. Essentially, the person-pet bond becomes a sort of support system that encourages exercise and weight loss.

My lab mix, JoJo, found me on my birthday nine years ago. She wandered up to me at work one day, and after a week unclaimed in the shelter, we brought her home. Afraid of doorways, stairs, and basically anything that moved, the only thing that seemed to calm her down was walking. And so walk we did.

Now elderly and arthritic, two miles is her limit, and then only if it's not a hot day. But, we enjoyed a three-mile route for years. We even tried running together once (I am not a runner), and when she stopped by some interesting smell I hollered at her, not wanting my own stride to be interrupted and said, Get up, Josie! This is not a pleasure run! Two garbage men across the street guffawed - one look at my sweaty, wheezing, lurching self and anyone could see that was an understatement.

But, my dog has never cared if I looked pretty, had perfect form, or if I kept up my end of the conversation. All she cares about is that I'm consistent in picking up that leash every day and taking her out for her walk. And when it comes to exercise, isn't consistency one of the most important things?

Have you found your dog helps to maintain a consistent exercise routine?

(If you'd like to try exercising with your pet, keep these tips this mind, especially in the hot summer weather.)