Who said walking the dog is a chore? With a toothy grin and wagging tail, dogs are great fitness motivators. Research shows dog walkers are more active overall than people who don’t have dogs.

Heather, a South Philadelphian originally from Northeast Philly, found her dream job (and exercise regimen) in boarding and walking dogs.

“I enjoy the freedom. I’m outside. I’m working out. I’m burning calories and getting paid to do so.”

Before dog walking, she tried different things, including yoga, dance classes, and gym stuff, but never found her exercise niche. Team sports was something she never got to explore as a kid because her large family couldn’t afford it. So, she had to find something that worked just for her on all levels.

Heather DeWar

At 30, Heather also realized from years of gym memberships that a StairMaster, elliptical, or any other indoor equipment just doesn’t do it for her. What she needed was a ‘real-life’ environment. “With dog walking, you’re outside meeting new people and controlling the level of workout you have in a pressure-free zone. It’s perfect.”

For her, like a lot of us who feel that there are so many—maybe too many—different ways to get fit, it was about finding the perfect fit.

“I was so motivated for about one week, like LET’S DO THIS. I’d make the smoothies. I’d do this new weird exercise. Then seven days later, I could care less. I was back on the couch, finding any reason not to exercise. Motivation is so fleeting. Finding something that’s perfect for me was the biggest obstacle.”

And now she’s also found the perfect motto for herself: “Progress, not perfection.” She explains, “Perfection would be running that 5K. I don’t think that’s ever gonna be in my world. But I aim to walk five miles a day. That’s progress.”

But why dog walking? Heather explains:

“Everyone has crummy days where they don’t want to do anything. Dog walking is the perfect catalyst to get over that hump. Dog walking helps me clear my head, which allows me to put things into perspective.”

Dog walking

It also doesn’t hurt that, for motivation, you have “no-excuse” exercise partners. “You don’t get to look at a dog and say, ‘Sorry, we’re not going for a walk today. Go ahead and pee on my floor.’”

The best part is the results—both short-term and long-term and psychologically and physically.

And the payoffs of that persistence are becoming clear: “I was unhappy with the state of my body, but now I see small changes. I’ve noticed that my legs are a little leaner. My jeans fit differently. Just watching my body change is pretty fantastic.” And these payoffs solidify her commitment to keep going.

Heather DeWar

“I’m now walking significantly more. Dog walking gave me the catalyst to break down an uncomfortable barrier about getting into shape.”

But as Heather’s motto goes, it’s about progress and not perfection. “There are still those days when you’re just like ‘I think we’ll only go around the block today and come right back home.’” But even just going around the block rather than hitting the five miles, Heather says, “Still makes you feel better you did something. Stay motivated, then go for another longer walk the next time.”

Dog walking