Just like humans, dogs need plenty of exercise in order to be happy and healthy. No dog should ever be a couch potato! Regardless of the size or age of your dog, they need a physical outlet to release all of the extra energy that builds up in their bodies.
Unfortunately, and it’s perhaps not surprising given the rising levels of obesity and inactivity in humans, many people fail to realize how important it is for their dog to get regular exercise on a daily basis. Others simply assume that their pup is getting plenty of exercise during their short play sessions in the backyard, when this is very often not the case.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the benefits of exercise for your dog ,and how you can ensure that your four-legged companion is getting enough physical activity.
Benefits of Exercise
There’s no getting past it- whether they’re old or young, big or small, dogs need physical activity every day of the week. Exercise provides them with a wide variety of benefits, both mental and physical.
- Regular exercise helps to keep your dog’s weight under control as it burns extra calories. Obesity is a problem that a growing number of dogs are suffering from, but frequent workout sessions can banish this issue and help to prevent them from gaining excess amounts of weight.
- It helps reduce the urge for problematic behaviours, such as excessive barking, digging, chewing on things they are not supposed to and hyperactivity.
- Your dog’s digestive system will also be drastically improved with exercise. It enhances their metabolism, which helps to encourage the healthy digestion of food and can reduce occurrences of constipation.
- Supervised exercise can help timid dogs to build both confidence and trust in their owners. Exercise is an incredible bonding activity!
- A dog with a healthy lifestyle is much more likely to live longer. In addition, they will be less susceptible to developing some cancers and various diseases of the bones.
- Dogs who get plenty of exercise each day will be able to rest and fall asleep much easier when night rolls around. If your are having trouble getting your dog to stay in his basket at night, consider tiring him out with more exercise!
The benefits of exercise for dogs are plain to see, and positively impact the lives of both dog and owner alike. An exercised dog is a happy dog, and it it is perhaps one of the most successful ways to quickly improve a number of problem behaviours. In addition, owners will be filled with joy to see how quickly exercise has a positive effect on their dog- not to mention relieved that they are much calmer and better behaved as a result!
Problems Caused By Lack of Exercise
On the other hand, dogs who do not exercise as much as they should are much more likely to develop behaviour problems, such as garbage raiding, jumping on people, destructive chewing and excessive predatory behaviour.
Similar in many ways to young children, dogs need an outlet to release their energy or they will target all of that energy onto things that they are not supposed to. Exercise is a constructive way for dogs to use up their energy and wear themselves out.
As we mentioned previously, the worst problems that arise from a lack of exercise affect the health of the dog. Inactivity can cause obesity, joint issues and even depression. Keeping your dog healthy requires regular exercise, and it is certainly not something to be taken lightly or pushed aside.
How Much Exercise Does Your Dog Need?
The amount of exercise that a dog requires depends on a variety of different factors such as age, weight and breed, with the best ‘rule of thumb’ way to determine how much exercise your dog needs being their breed. Whilst some breeds are naturally more sedentary than others, this does not mean that they do not need physical activity! Please also keep in mind that every dog, even within the same breed, is different- and if you are unsure about the amount of physical activity your dog needs, please consult with a qualified dog trainer or veterinarian.
Whether large Airedales or tiny little Cairns, terriers are well-known for being some of the most hyper and energetic little dogs around! Whilst these breeds are much smaller than most others, they still require a significant amount of exercise due to their bundles of energy and boisterous nature. Owners should make sure that their terrier gets in at least 60-minutes of exercise every day.
Herding and Sporting Dogs
Both of these specific groups of dogs need to exercise for at least 60-90 minutes per day. Keep in mind that this should be high intensity exercise, not just a few walks around the block. Herding and sporting dogs will benefit greatly from exercising twice per day, instead of just once. In addition, they have especially active minds, so take the time to engage them mentally as well as physically. Combine physical workouts with mental training sessions to keep them amused and in-shape – this will also help to keep things fresh and interesting for you!
Breeds that fit into this category include Chihuahuas, Shih-Tzus and Poodles. If you own a toy breed, you have probably noticed that despite their size, they have seemingly endless reserves of energy! Despite this, though, these dogs are are some of the most common victims of obesity due to infrequent exercise. You should ensure that your Toy Breed is getting a minimum of 60-minutes exercise daily to keep them in shape. Due to their size, however, they can achieve a significant amount of exercise by simply running around the yard playing fetch or attempting to chase the neighborhood squirrels.
This is a diverse group that includes both scent hounds and sight hounds. Contrary to popular belief, they require different amounts of daily exercise. Scent hounds require just as much exercise as herding and sporting dogs, at 60-90 minutes per day. On the other hand, sight hounds do not require such lengthy exercise sessions as they are excellent sprinters which means it is easy for them to release much of their excess energy through short, quick leaps.
These are the dogs with ‘squashed’ faces, such as Bulldogs and Pugs. These dogs are not made for high intensity workouts. Their wrinkly face and shortened muzzle may be absolutely adorable, but it significantly reduces the amount of oxygen they are able to intake. This puts them at risk of oxygen deprivation and overheating if they exercise too heavily. It is important to be aware of these possible dangers if you own a brachycephalic dog. They need 30-60 minutes of exercise per day to prevent weight gain, but the intensity should be kept light to moderate.
Whilst the breed of a dog can tell you a lot about how much exercise they need, there are other factors to take into consideration. For example, their age and health will affect how much physical activity they should get. In most cases, dogs with stiff joints or arthritis should not be given as much exercise because their ailments can make prolonged physical activity painful.
Always bear in mind that there is a fine line between overworking your older dog and keeping them fit. If you can see that they are no longer able to make it through an entire walk without struggling, break it up into short 15-minute sessions over the course of the day.
Dogs who are overweight are another special case. All of the extra weight on their body makes it all the more important that they fit in a daily workout so they can shed some of the pounds- but it can also make it more difficult for them to exercise as much as they should. You should never over-exercise a dog who is overweight with long walks or other high-energy activities because in the long run, this can cause more problems than it will actually solve. The key is to keep it simple, and ease your dog into exercise rather than jumping straight into intense sessions. Again, this is another case where you should try breaking up your dog’s walks into multiple walks, rather than a single long one.
Lastly, you should always reduce the amount of time that your dog spends exercising if they are suffering from an injury or illness. Forcing a dog to exercise while they are either sick or dealing with an injury can cause countless problems. When circumstances like this arise it is perfectly fine to give your dog a temporary break from physical activity.
What to Do Before Starting Your Dog’s Exercise Program
In order to ensure that your dog responds well to the exercise program that you set up for them, there are several things that you should do to make it as easy and as safe as possible. To start with, you should take your dog to their veterinarian for a health check. The vet will be able to recommend a specific exercise plan that works well for your dog’s breed, condition and age.
Once you know how much exercise your dog needs, you can begin planning a fitness routine. Making a plan is essential because it keeps things consistent for your dog and will make it much easier for you to keep track of your dog’s physical progress. You should plan to start off slow and work your way up to longer routines. Additionally, do not forget to incorporate cool-down time and warm-up periods into each session. A leisurely walk around the block is just enough to prepare your pooch for an intense game of tug-of-war or catch!
As discussed previously, mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise. As you plan your dog’s exercise program, do not be afraid to add new parks or running paths. You could even attempt to introduce new and exciting toys! This will help to keep their mind just as engaged as their body. Most importantly, plan to exercise on a daily basis, not just when you feel like it. If you need any further motivation other than your dogs health, the exercise from regular walks will benefit you just as much as it will benefit your dog!
Now it is time for the fun part, picking which activities you will use as a form of exercise for your dog!
There are an endless amount of ways that you can treat your dog to an amazing workout. For example, a good game of ‘fetch’ is a great way to exhaust your dog without having to tire yourself out too much- perfect if you have a long day ahead. You can even use a tennis racket or ball-thrower to toss the ball further, making your dog run more and get even more exercise!
If your dog is not afraid of water, swimming is another good option. This is highly recommended by some veterinarians because your dog gets all of the benefits of exercise without risking the many issues that can be caused by repetitive impact. Always be careful when allowing your dog to swim, and make sure that the water is not too fast flowing and there are easy exit and entrance points. You may also want to consider investing in a dog lifejacket when he is learning to swim.
Walking, running or jogging are the most popular physical activities for dogs because they allow the owner to workout at the same time. That said, you’re a lot bigger than your dog and you should be careful not to overestimate his abilities. Bring along plenty of water to keep him hydrated and take plenty of breaks, especially when he appears to be worn out.
Bad weather doesn’t have to keep your dog from exercising because there are plenty of activities to do inside, as well! You can send your dog bounding around the house with a game of fetch, or play a small game of catch whilst you lounge on the couch. If your home has stairs, you can guide them up and down a few times to give your pet a solid workout. As another idea, you could hide special treats around your home. Your pooch will get their fair share of physical activity whilst they run around searching every room for their favorite snack. This is always a great form of mental exercise, too!
No matter how busy your schedule may be, it is essential that you make sure your dog gets as much exercise as they need on a daily basis. This is, without a doubt, one of the best ways to maintain your pet’s health and mental stability, as it reduces their risk of developing many different illnesses including heart disease.
Take the time to plan out your dog’s routines and the type of exercises they will be performing. You will be truly amazed by the improvements that you see in your dog’s overall health and mood after just a single workout session. Stick with it, exercise them consistently, and they will live a long, healthy and happy life.