Tips for Exercising Your Dog
Dogs were designed to be on the move! Breeds were developed for specific purposes, like hunting, herding, and protecting. These days, many dogs are simply companions and it's up to us to remember to keep them active. A physically fit dog has fewer health problems, better behavior, and a longer lifespan.
Benefits of Regular Exercise
Studies show that over 50% of dogs are overweight or obese. This is usually due to a combination of being overfed and under-exercised. The health risks that obesity creates are numerous, including diabetes, joint and mobility problems, heart disease, respiratory disease, and liver problems. The solution to obesity is to pay attention to nutrition (avoid high-calorie foods and treats) along with regular exercise.
Regular exercise can also eliminate many unwanted dog behaviors, such as chewing, digging, destruction, excessive barking, and hyperactivity. Exercise not only provides mental stimulation but also allows for an outlet for all that pent-up energy. Specific breeds are more energetic than others, however, all dogs require regular activity and also enjoy the social interaction with their person.
How much exercise do dogs need?
Daily walking should be the foundation for regular exercise. Most experts suggest dogs need 30 minutes of walking daily, combined with some sort of additional aerobic exercise – which is anything that gets your dog panting. Keep in mind that this varies widely between individuals due to age, breed, personality, and health status. An adult Jack Russell terrier, for example, may need 2 hours of aerobic activity and want more, while a senior Shih Tzu may be happy with two 15-minute walks and some low-impact games of hide and seek. Any time you are starting a new exercise routine, start slowly and build gradually.
Ideas for Exercise Your Dog
Exercise should be fun for your dog! Don't make it a chore; it's your time to interact with your pet so make sure you both enjoy it. On nice days, getting outside feels great. When the weather is bad, do some indoor games together.
- Walking – Part of every routine. Change it up and keep it interesting. Go a different way on some days. Let your dog stop and smell things. Speed up or slow down for some interval training. Walk on a beach, at a park, or find a new trail.
- Hiking – Start with short, easy hikes when first introduced. Avoid rough terrain until your dog has gotten used to moderate hikes. Avoid high temperatures, take breaks when needed, and bring water.
- Running – Not for every dog, but great for many breeds. Keep your dog on a leash, avoid hot temperatures, monitor your dog for signs of exhaustion, and take breaks when needed.
- Swimming – Not all dogs like water, or can even swim. You likely know if you have a dog that loves water, and swimming can be great for also incorporating games like fetch.
- Dog sports – Yes, sports for dogs! Research what might be best for your breed, and look for local classes. Sports to consider include agility, canine freestyle, dock diving, disc dog, doga, tracking, herding, and more.
- Games – Playing and having fun can include exercise. Try tug of war, fetch, setting up an obstacle course, playing hide and seek with a treat or a hiding family member, dancing, or obedience sessions. Great for rainy day play and mental stimulation as well.
Always Play it Safe
Before starting a new exercise regiment, check with your vet for guidance and recommendations for your specific dog. Be especially careful to avoid hot temperatures for brachycephalic (short nose) breeds, senior dogs, puppies, and dogs with health conditions. Always let your dog set his pace and watch for signs of exhaustion: heavy panting, wheezing, limping, slowing, or stopping to lie down. If you see any of these signs, it is time to stop. Don't forget to take breaks as needed for water and rest.
Remember, above all, the point of regular exercise is to keep your pup healthy and have fun. Your dog will also have better behavior and be happier.
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