If you are a dog owner, you would have realized by now that dogs, like humans, need exercise to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Most people may feel that they don’t have the time to go all out to give their dogs the kind of exercise that they need but this is a necessity that can’t be overlooked. A bored dog is a nuisance to have around and you would discover that the time spent exercising your dog is time well spent.
No matter the age, size or breed of your dog, lack of exercise is detrimental to both its physical and mental health. A consistent lack of mental and physical exercise would lead to the development and exhibition of injurious behavior. It is not advisable for you to give your dog treats in lieu of taking out time to engage in stimulating activities with it. And even if you would give treats, edible tidbits are not the best treats (especially given on a consistent basis). Treats should be given as a reward for good behavior and not as a bribe for neglect.
Different exercise requirements for different dogs
Having said that, how much exercise is adequate for your dog? Once again this depends on the age, size, and breed of your dog. As a general rule, every dog needs a minimum of thirty minutes of exercise daily. Dogs used for herding, hunting or those referred to as working dogs such as hounds, Labrador retrievers, shepherds and collies need the highest amount of exercise. Except in cases where such a dog is in ill health, it should have a rigorous exercise for thirty minutes in addition to one or two hours of physical activity.
Even with dogs that have some physical conditions that make rigorous exercise impossible or those that are advanced in age, some mild form of exercise is needed. You may not work or exercise them for thirty minutes but ensure that they get some physical and mental stimulation on a daily basis. Swimming is also a good exercise for dogs that cannot handle strenuous exercise or for aged dogs.
Dogs with short noses like the Bulldog and those with short legs don’t need too much exercise; just take them for a walk for a short distance (around your neighborhood will do).
Your dog would always give you signals as to what it wants to do. When it wants to go for a long walk, it would most likely become restless and paw listlessly around its space. But when all that’s required is just a trot around the block, it wouldn’t be restless. Learn to pay attention to these signals so that you can respond adequately.
Deciding what’s adequate
If you feel that your dog needs regimented exercise and aren’t sure whether the plan is adequate or healthy for it, please consult your vet. Just like the human body does not like to be pressured into an instant lifestyle change, your dog wouldn’t appreciate such pressure. If you had hitherto not exercised your dog adequately, you would need to start gradually and watch its response to know how to proceed. Your dog shouldn’t be worn out or fatigued by the end of a session; it should just be a happily tired animal.
Important things to note
There are things to bear in mind before you start implementing an exercise plan for your dog. Of topmost importance is the need for a medical evaluation by a vet. They would also give you the right plan for the breed, age and size of your dog. Like we mentioned earlier, remember that you have to start small and increase the pace. Also, remember that there should be time to warm up and cool down before and after each exercise session. Warm up exercises include a slow trot around the neighborhood to enable your dog’s muscles to get ready for more rigorous exercise like a game of catch or jumping hoops.
How about puppies?
In dealing with puppies, remember that though they have so much energy. They are usually short bursts of energy and they would require lots of rest and naps. The recommended exercise for puppies is a maximum of 15 minutes’ walk on a daily basis with lots of play time. Just like with babies, puppies would give you signals when they are tired or when they are ready to play. Remember that your puppy’s joints and muscles are still delicate and growing so you shouldn’t put too much strain on them.
Being flexible and sensible with exercises
For those days when you can’t take your dog out for the daily run or exercise, there are some indoor pet toys and equipment that would help keep them active or physically stimulated. If the case is that you don’t have the time or energy to walk your dog yourself, there are professional dog walkers that you can hire to do so. Although most dogs can take a walk or exercise in most weather conditions (not extreme weather of course!), it is better for you to take them out in the morning and evening whenever the weather is hot. This is especially true for older dogs so that they don’t get overheated.
Exercise is not limited to exerting physical energy alone. Your dog needs mental stimulation as much as physical activities to stay healthy and happy. Ensure that your dog gets enough mental stimulation daily to stave off boredom and deter it from engaging in harmful or destructive habits.
Planning, safety, and variety
When you start an exercise plan for your dog, ensure that you adhere strictly to it. Don’t be haphazard with the plan; stay consistent so that your dog can reap the full benefits. In exercising your dog, please remember that throwing sticks and small balls in a game of catch may be harmful to it. It may get splinters in its mouth from the stick or swallow the ball if it’s small. So always look for safe objects for your game of catch.
In giving your dog the required amount of exercise needed daily, you can incorporate a lot of fun activities like puzzles or toys or games. In case you don’t want to buy toys, you can use some household items to fashion playthings and exercise items. However, you need to ensure that these items are safe and wouldn’t constitute any form of risk to your dog.