Dogs Need Exercise for Happy, Healthy Lives
Love your dog? One of the best things you can do is to exercise him everyday. Exercise not only increasing the likelihood of a healthy dog, but a happy one as well.
In the wild, our domestic dog’s extended family leads a very active daily life. Chasing after food, defending territory, moving from one place to another, and playing are some of the activities that keep them fit and sharp. Survival for them requires strength of body and mind.
The life of our domestic pets? Not quite so demanding. But our pet’s survival also requires the same strength of body and mind. So we have to find ways to stimulate our pups on a daily basis in order for them to enjoy that same vitality, lead happy and healthy lives, and be with us for as long as possible.
Exercise Can Help Your Dog Physically, Mentally and Emotionally
Dogs are perpetual puppies. We bred them that way. They are like young children who never grow up! Like children, they need stimulation and activity or they may turn to destructive behaviors. A tired dog is more likely to behave the way we want and respond to us more readily than a dog that is overflowing with untapped energy.
Some of the trouble bored and energy-filled dogs get into may be familiar: destructive chewing, rough play or even biting, barking and whining, garbage rummaging, scratching furniture or doors, excitability, aggressiveness and insomnia.
Daily exercise gives your dog a way to blow off that excess steam and stay out of the troubles listed above. Other benefits include being fit and not overweight, sleeping with regularity (especially when you would like to be sleeping also!), aiding digestion and eliminating constipation, added confidence, enhanced social skills, decreased anxiety and a closer relationship to you.
How Much Exercise Should I Give My Dog?
How much you exercise your dog depends on several factors, including age, size, condition, breed, weather, etc. But a good rule of thumb is, providing your dog is in good shape physically, on average, a minimum of one hour per day.
For older dogs, small dogs or dogs who may have physical ailments, shave some time off of that hour. For young dogs, sporting breeds or any dog with lots of energy, you can do a bit more than an hour.
Some dogs may have breed specific characteristics, such as short or flat noses, that need to be considered when decided how and how much to exercise them.
Be sure not to overdo it in any case. For all dogs, there is a limit. Clearly you don’t want to run your dog until he collapses. Use common sense and always observe your dog throughout play for changes in behavior and/or stress.
Also consider the weather – is it hot outside? Dogs feel heat more than humans do, so on hot days, curtail outside play and exercise. What about the cold? While it can be argued that exercise is a great way to stay warm on cold days, keep in mind extremities – paws, tails, noses, etc. Too much exposure to cold is also not a good thing. On hot days, very cold days, and even rainy days, you can exercise your dog indoors.
Get your dog checked annually and definitely before starting any exercise regimen. Just like a person, a dog’s physical conditioning changes throughout their life cycle. A thorough once-over by your veterinarian can alert you to potential problems and help you decide how much to exercise your dog. Your vet can also suggest which exercises are appropriate for your specific dog.
A Few Suggested Ways to Exercise Your Dog – Outside
Walking. Dogs love walking. They get to sniff everything, learn about their surroundings, meet up with people and other dogs, practice their social and obedience skills, and of course, do their business. (Be sure to take bags on your walk so you can pick up after your dog – its the responsible pet-owner thing to do).
Running. Some dogs are natural runners and make great daily running partners. Some dogs prefer to mosey. Be sure you know which dog you have before setting out for a run. Also, be sure to watch your dog for stress from heat or exhaustion, carry water and don’t over do it.
Swimming. Swimming is great exercise for dogs just like it is for people. It works out the entire body in low impact style. Swimming is a great way to get older dogs or dogs with physical ailments moving.
Fetch. The old standby! A great game that many dogs enjoy. Fetch gives your dog an opportunity to run and also a chance to use their proclivity for chasing objects. Toss a ball or a frisbee and let the fun begin!
Agility. A great way to tire out your dog while teaching them obedience and working their mental acuity through combinations of exercises including jumping, climbing, crossing, running through tunnels, responding to commands and more. Agility is a great participation and spectator sport.
Ways to Exercise Your Dog – Inside
Hide & Seek. Sit your dog in one part of the house and tell him to “stay”. Walk away slowly and go hide. After a moment, call your dog and see if he can find you. Dog’s love the anticipation of this game, so it may be challenging to get them to stay until you call. Be prepared for your dog to cheat sometimes!
Find It. Similar to hide and seek, only you hide an object instead of yourself. Using a bit of food or snack as the hidden object is the best way to keep your dog interested in finding it.
Exercising Your Dog Benefits BOTH You and Your Dog
The behavioral benefits of exercise may be the most valuable and the most obvious by-product of keeping your dog active. The health and physical benefits are just as striking and as important.
Exercising your dog will also benefit you. It will get you up and moving! By fulfilling your responsibility to your dog to keep him healthy and happy, you’ll be doing the same for yourself.
- Veterinary Q&A: How much exercise does my dog need? Part I by Seattle Times
- Exercise for Dogs by ASPCA
Research and writing by Joyce Dierschke