Exercise is a huge part of a dog’s life, especially if you have a high-energy or high-drive dog. Regardless of your dog’s breed or age, all dogs need physical exercise in order to stay healthy, happy, and well-balanced.
Physical activity encourages the heart and lungs to work harder and requires the use of muscles that allow for greater flexibility and coordination. Exercising or playing together promotes communication and relationship building, which gives the dog more positive experiences.
Exercise not only benefits a dog physically, it provides a different environment that challenges and stimulates the senses. Among other benefits exercise increases serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for regulating emotions. This increase promotes a feeling of calm and lowers stress both in people and in dogs.
If you have a dog that barks excessively or is destructive in your home, chances are that the prescription is more exercise. Exercise helps reduce boredom and anxiety-based behaviors in your dog such as barking and chewing, so you will be amazed by the changes you see in your dog when you implement a regular exercise routine.
Top 10 Tips for Exercising Your Dog
- Take into account your dog’s age, weight, size and the temperature outside so that once exercise is underway it is not uncomfortable. Large breed dogs might find vigorous exercise puts undue pressure on their joints while brachycephalic (short nosed dogs) such as pugs and bulldogs will have difficulty breathing if the exercise is too long or vigorous.
- Dogs, like people, should build up stamina first before embarking on a five mile run, and need a warm up and cool down period before vigorous exercise, so if you are considering increasing your dog’s daily exercise, do so slowly to ensure your dog is fit enough for more active exercise.
- Be aware of the temperature. A dog is closer to the ground than you are and can heat up or get cold a lot faster than you.
- If you exercise at night, make sure you and your dog are clearly visible to oncoming traffic. Reflective collars, leashes and dog coats are vital for safety.
- A dog’s primary sense is smell, which can be a problem if you want to run and your dog wants to stop and smell everything. Start with a fifteen minute walk for your dog so that he or she can toilet, smell and explore before you begin more vigorous exercise. It will make a run a lot more enjoyable for both of you.
- Do not run with a young puppy as this can damage growing joints and muscles and similarly avoid vigorous exercise with a senior dog. If your dog drags behind you when you run, it is probably best to leave him at home. Also do not run with your dog if she is a ‘brachycephalic’ or short-nosed breed such as an English bulldog, Pug or Pekingese. Their nasal structure makes breathing difficult and as a result puts undue pressure on their internal organs.
- There are great sports you can do with your dog including agility, canine freestyle, field training and more.
- Take plenty of water for both of you to prevent dehydration. Allow your dog frequent small drinks throughout the exercise period rather than one long drink at the end.
- Be observant for signs of fatigue and give your dog plenty of rest or cool down breaks in between.
- Doing a variety of different exercise (such as running followed by a period of swimming) allows the dog to use different muscles and prevents wear and tear from sustained use.
Exercise With Your Dog
A wonderful thing about dogs is that they make fantastic exercise partners. If you are looking to get into shape, what better motivation is there than a dog waiting at the door for his walk? Many dog owners choose to run, walk, or cycle with their dogs, all of which are great ways to keep you and your dog in tip-top shape.
If you prefer to stay on the sidelines and let your dog do the exercising, swimming is a great option. Swimming is especially beneficial for dogs who need to lose weight or who have issues with their joints or muscles.
Dogs, like people, also need times when they can relax and slow down, as too much exercise can cause unwanted stress, so periods of quiet time to chew on a favorite bone or space just to sleep is important throughout the day.
The key to a happy, healthy dog is exercise. A slow walk around the block is not going to provide your dog with the mental and physical stimulation he needs. Even the laziest of dogs can get bored and destructive without proper stimulation and exercise.
Remember, a tired dog is a happy dog!
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