From food and companionship, to regular checkups and exercise, dogs’ needs are similar to humans. Given the number of obese dogs we’ve encountered, many of our furry friends lack proper exercise. We’d like to give you some information to ensure your dog is getting the exercise they need.
We’ll take a look at various indoor and outdoor activities you can do with your dog, puppy or aging canine, so that you find the best option!
So let’s get started…
Why Exercise Is Important for Your Dog
Being a responsible pet owner entails going beyond the basics and taking time to ensure your dog is happy, healthy, and will live a long life. The right food, regular vaccinations, cuddle time, and exercise are important keys to a dog’s happiness.
Exercise is vital because it keeps your dog’s weight in check, and decreases the likelihood of suffering from a myriad of obesity-related health issues. Note: Spaying or neutering does not cause your dog to become obese – this is a myth. Again, proper diet and exercise are what keep your dog healthy and maintains proper weight. Exercise also keeps joints in good shape, ensures easy mobility, and helps with food digestion.
If you have a hyperactive dog or are combating behavioral problems, exercise can help get rid of excess energy and curb bad habits such as chewing, barking, and digging.
Types of Exercise
Exercising with your dog is most enjoyable when you find activities that fit your interests and lifestyle. You might also want to consider your dog’s temperament, the weather in your area, and your location.
Exercise in the great outdoors is perhaps one of the most beneficial activities for you and your dog. Whether you walk, jog, or run is based on both your dog’s and your own preference and activity levels. You need to find a happy medium and set a pace that works for both of you.
Experts agree daily walks of at least 15 minutes are best for your furry friend. If you can’t get out every day, try for at least 2-3 times a week and make the walks a bit longer. Vary your route so you and your canine companion don’t get bored. If your schedule limits your time, you could also hire a dog walker.
This activity is perfect for dogs of all ages and weights. The buoyancy allows joints to move freely without the pounding they get on pavement, which makes it particularly good for large breeds, arthritis or hip issues, obese dogs, and/or older dogs.
It is important to note: not every breed of dog takes to the water like a duck. You may have a dog that has no idea what they’re doing, or may even have an aversion to water. Do not force your dog if they appear distressed or uninterested. If they do enjoy swimming, make sure they know where the steps are so they can safely get in and out of the pool.
This age old game is enjoyed by most canines and doesn’t require a huge amount of energy on your part! You can use a stick, Frisbee, ball, or other toy, whatever piques your dog’s interest.
Playtime at a local dog park could be something your pooch enjoys. Close supervision is required, but if your dog plays well with others, a fenced-in dog park is the perfect place for socialization and getting out energy. There’s plenty of room to run and roam, chase, and play – and you might make a few friends, too!
Training Games/Obstacle Course
This can be daunting for new dog owners who are unfamiliar with training games and obstacle courses. These activities keep your dog agile, teach them commands, and obedience. We suggest you start by taking your dog to an agility class to learn the basics. They’re also great for socialization and give you basics for future exercise time.
Not all play needs to take place outdoors. There are activities that can be done in your home, particularly if the weather is too hot or cold.
Tug of War
Almost every dog likes to play tug of war! While most socialized dogs understand tug of war is just a game, it could potentially bring out their aggressiveness. Should your dog express aggressive behaviors while playing, drop the game immediately.
Do you live in a two-story house? Use the stairs as an exercise facility! You can challenge your dog to races, or have one person at the top and one at the bottom to entice your dog up and down. Make sure there is plenty of traction so they don’t slip and fall!
While you might have had a bad experience with this game as a child, your dog will surely love it. Take a favorite toy and toss between two people down a long hallway or in a large room, so that they chase it back and forth. Be sure to let them get the toy once in awhile!
Yes, you can train your dog to use that treadmill that sits unused in the corner of the family room — or you can get one specially designed just for pets. Much like with swimming, this activity will not come naturally. You will have to slowly introduce them to it in stages. Provide treats when they do a good job. Before long, they may be a regular user, happy to hop on!
Many large cities now have indoor facilities with obstacle courses, pools, and other fun play areas. While there are sometimes fees, your dog will get some socialization and you can often sit back and sip on a latte!
How Much Exercise?
The amount of exercise your dog needs will depend both on your time constraints, their physical ability and their breed. As a general rule, dogs need between 30 to 120 minutes of exercise activity each day. This can include running around the backyard, and any of the aforementioned activities.
However, hunting, working and herding breeds will typically need more. Breeds such as Retrievers, Shepherds, Collies, Huskies, and Hounds certainly require additional time to stay fit and keep their energy levels in check.
Be conscious of the following exercise-related issues:
Extreme heat and extreme cold can be hard on animals. When the weather gets above 85 or 90 degrees or below freezing, extra caution is necessary. During the hot summer months, make sure you keep your dog hydrated before, during, and after exercise. In the winter, you may need to dress your pets in sweaters, jackets, or shoes (depending on the breed, size, and coat). This will protect against the wet and cold elements like wind, rain, frost, and snow.
Breeds with shorter snouts have difficulty breathing if they overexert their energy (particularly in warmer weather). Don’t overdo playtime: use multiple shorter bursts of exercise rather than one long session. These dogs are better walked than taken on a jog or a rough uphill hike. The same can be said for dogs with shorter legs, like Dachshunds, Basset Hounds, Corgis and some terriers. Temper your pace so they aren’t over exerting themselves.
You’ll find you need to be more careful with dogs at either end of the age spectrum. Puppies; while full of energy, have developing bones and joints. You don’t want to over-exercise or you’ll pay for it in their later years. Older dogs will definitely become slower in their gait, as their joints become arthritic. Long, hard runs they once enjoyed will need to be kept shorter and less strenuous as they age.
If your dog has been ill and is underweight, they will still need to get some exercise. Until they are back to their normal weight, take it easy and go slow. The same can be said for dogs that are overweight. Carrying around those extra pounds can be hard on their hearts, so start slowly and build up your routine. As the pounds come off, they’ll be able to exercise for longer periods.
As we’ve said, it’s just as important to exercise your dog as it is yourself, and by keeping them active, you will keep them happy and healthy, leading to a longer life.