Walking shelter dogs is my favorite volunteer activity.
I also take their photos and promote them on Facebook.
Over two years, this has contributed to 150+ pet adoptions.
Helping a shelter dog find a loving home is totally the best part.
But there are less obvious perks I will now bring to your attention.
Keep reading to discover six surprising benefits of walking rescue dogs.
1. Walking dogs boosts mental health.
Shelter dogs have a calming presence that soothes your mind.
Dogs aren't burdened by as much stress and emotional turmoil as us.
As a result, they're able to face life with a happier outlook than humans.
Their positive energy and unrelenting optimism are admirable. Contagious, too.
We are a product of our environment. Spend time with dogs and you'll learn to see the world differently.
I speak from experience. The first time I walked a shelter dog, I was in a dark place. "Depressed" was my default mood.
Yes, I received counseling. Yes, I got medicated. Therapy and medicine helped. But not nearly as much as walking rescue dogs.
2. You probably don't get enough sun.
We are all like Superman. The sun makes us stronger and healthier.
More than half of Americans don't even spend five hours outside on a weekly basis.
That's less than an hour per day, which is unfortunate since nature is scientifically proven to boost mental health.
Nature and dogs are a powerful combination that will make a bigger impact on your mood than any chemical concoction.
Too cold? Unless it's 30 or less, the dog won't care. Layers are your friend. Wear a hat, gloves, sweater, and a coat. You'll be fine.
Too hot? Call your animal shelter. Ask if it's okay to pick up a shelter dog and take them for a walk before their opening hours (I often do).
They might not technically open until noon, but staff arrives much earlier to begin the process of cleaning and feeding. So it doesn't hurt to ask!
You can also take the dog to a shaded place. Many parks are covered in trees. Many downtown areas have tall buildings that provide shade. Be creative.
3. I bet you don't get enough exercise either.
Exercise isn't just about a hot bod. It also clears our head and gives us energy.
Working out doesn't cause exhaustion (unless you hate yourself enough to do CrossFit).
Instead, exercise is the cure for exhaustion. When done correctly, physical activity gives you more energy.
Why not help a shelter dog and improve your energy levels at the exact same time? Sounds like a win/win to me!
Shelter dogs spend most of their time in a kennel. While they receive great care, it can also lead to anxiety and loneliness.
Dogs understand the importance of exercise. This is why they play fetch, chase squirrels, and get hyped about going for walks.
The next time you walk a dog -- be it your own fur baby or a shelter dog -- watch how content they become immediately afterwards.
If you become self-aware enough to observe your mood and mindset in the present moment, you'll soon discover exactly how the dog feels.
4. You will make a true and tangible impact.
I focus on issues where I can make a difference. It makes for a happier life.
I don't invest much effort on areas where I can't "move the needle" to a significant degree.
Life is more rewarding when you select a cause where your everyday efforts translate into positive outcomes.
Walking rescue dogs has an immediate payoff. You get to see how happy the dog becomes when they go outside.
If you choose to promote the dogs you walk, you'll see an even bigger payoff later: they will get adopted by a loving family!
No matter how often this happens, I'll never stop feeling deep satisfaction and a rush of positive emotions every time a dog gets adopted.
5. It's an effective way to make new friends.
Walking shelter dogs is a fast and efficient way to connect with your community.
Ever feel lonely? I'll be the first to admit it... I do!
It's hard to make friends as an adult (and COVID-19 just made it a lot harder).
If you get in the habit of walking rescue dogs, you'll see the same people regularly.
In the process, you will learn their names and life stories. You might even become friends.
I'm aware of several people at the animal shelter in Kingsport, TN who are practically "besties."
Don't forget the shelter dogs and cats will become your friends, too. Animals are smarter than you think.
When I walk into the room, dogs who have been there for a while recognize me and their facial expressions brighten.
There's no way to walk them all, but I can make sure they all receive love and attention, which builds a deep bond between us.
6. Walking shelter dogs can transform you.
I'm a better person than I was two years ago. Dogs deserve most of the credit.
I used to be selfish, greedy, and difficult to please.
These are three essential human flaws everybody is familiar with.
Often, these feelings are temporary, but they sneak up every now and then.
Ever since I started walking dogs, the frequency of these incidents diminished in a big way.
Why? Dogs are better people than us. There might be exceptions like Gandhi and Mother Teresa. But they're rare.
The biggest influence on who we become is the people we spend the most time with. Their qualities (and vices) rub off on us.
In fact, this reasoning applies to creatures of any kind. And dogs are the greatest creatures of all. Their love and loyalty is unparalleled.
Dogs are also fierce protectors who put the safety of their pack above all else. A dog will risk his or her life to save you without batting an eye.
If you're unhappy with any of your worldviews or characteristics, don't judge yourself. But do spend more time with dogs. They are the best hecking role models alive.
Did this list make you want to walk a rescue dog?
If so, share this article with your friends and family so they know how easy it is to help their local animal shelter.
First time reader? Click here for a fun and friendly introduction from the author, Daniel "Dogfather" Wallen.
Interested in adopting a dog? Read the dog adoption guide (available for download in PDF).