The first part of the year is a great time to reflect on goals, recommit to the ones you made last year, or make new ones. If you’re not already doing it, something that should be on everyone’s list is walking regularly with your dog. Walking doesn’t take any special equipment, can be done anywhere, and is THE most important thing you can do to keep your dog, and yourself, happy and healthy.

Hiking is really great exercise for your dog’s brain

Committing to walk 30-60 minutes every day is ideal. But let’s be realistic. For most people, walking an hour every day with their dog just isn’t going to work with their schedule. That’s OK. The goal doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

If you currently don’t walk your dog, start small by pledging to walk 2 more times a week for at least 30 minutes at a time. If you already walk your dog several times most weeks, aim to be more consistent, extend your walks by 15 minutes, or add another walk or two into your routine. Ideally, you would walk your dog at least 5 times a week. I say only 5 because, while trying to walk every day is great, life gets in the way and you may need two days of the week to let yourself off the hook.

If you want to up your game, consider going for a hike on at least one of those walk days. If you are short on time, you could hike around a local park. You could also set aside a whole day and head to the mountains for an adventure.

Hiking raises your heart rate and has the potential to improve your fitness more than walking can. Sometimes, too, walking can feel like a chore. However, people who are hooked on hiking look forward to it, and are always scheming to figure out the next time they can go. While it usually takes more physical exertion, it can feel like less work because of the fresh air and beautiful surroundings. You don’t have to stop hiking in winter either. There are many trails in the Seattle area that stay snow-free all year long, or you can explore snowshoeing!

Hiking is really great exercise for your dog’s brain, too. Dogs can get bored with the same routes, and same smells, around the neighborhood. In the woods, there are so many new scents and they vary depending on the terrain, dirt, weather, and what kind of critters have scampered by lately. In the winter, the snow acts like a blank canvas for smells. There are likely fewer smells, but the intensity is much greater.

If you’ve never hiked before, some great beginner’s trails likely to give you the hiking bug are Twin Falls, Wallace Falls, and Rattlesnake Ledge. If you’re a seasoned hiker, and are looking for a real fitness challenge, try Mailbox Peak or Rampart Ridge. Great beginner snowshoe routes are Gold Creek Pond or the Iron Horse Trail.

Hiking raises your heart rate and has the potential to improve your fitness more than walking can

Many people make huge commitments in January, but drop off by March because the habit is too hard to maintain. The key to sticking with a New Year’s Resolution, and making improved health and happiness a lifestyle, is to start small and choose something that is almost hard to fail at. You can take on another challenge once it has become part of your normal routine. Making one simple, healthy change will have an impact on your dog’s, and your, health and help ensure you have many more Happy New Years to come.

Jessica Rhae Williams is the author of an award winning blog – You Did What With Your Wiener? – about hiking and being active with Dachshunds and other small dogs. She also owns a social media consulting business – PetTalk Media – and works with local pet-focused companies like PetHub and Metro Dog Pet First Aid, as well as other pet-related companies across the U.S. Email her at, visit her website here, and visit her blog here.