The Importance of Exercise

By Cinda Bishop, Mucho Poocho Doggy Day School

Is your dog getting enough exercise? How much is enough? How can you tell? These are all questions that every dog owner has asked at one time or another. 

First, how much exercise does your dog need? It varies from dog to dog, and there are several factors you’ll need to take into consideration to determine how much exercise he really needs. A Border Collie, for example, was originally bred to herd sheep over miles of rough terrain and run for hours a day. They will require much more exercise than a dog such as a Pug, who was originally bred as a companion dog for royalty. While different dog breeds require different amounts of daily activity and exercise, there is one rule that applies to every breed, size, and age. That is, that some amount of daily activity and exercise is essential to your dog’s physical and emotional health.

Lack of exercise may lead to obesity, poor muscle tone, or heart problems. It can also result in emotional problems, such as boredom barking, destructive behaviors and anxiety. A dog who gets enough exercise will probably sleep better, suffer from less anxiety when left alone, and will generally be a happier and more content companion.

Exercising should be fun for both you and your dog. Depending on the type of dog that you have, you may be able to include your dog into your existing routine. Many dogs enjoy running, swimming, or playing Frisbee. Start slowly and gradually increase over time. Just like people, pets can get sore muscles and strained joints or ligaments if they over-exert themselves. If you have any concerns at all about beginning an exercise program with your dog, consult with your veterinarian first. 

During the warmer months, it’s a good idea to exercise your dog early in the morning, or in the evening, when it’s not so hot. If you exercise after dark, be sure to wear light colored or reflective clothing and get a reflective collar and leash for your dog. Remember, your dog is barefoot, and that hot sidewalk is just as hot on the pads of his feet as it would be on the bottom of yours! Some dogs are so eager to keep up that they will literally run until their pads are raw – or until they collapse from heat exhaustion. Keep an eye out for signs of fatigue or trouble breathing or excessive panting. Be sure to keep plenty of water on hand. By all means, if your dog wants to stop, let him. That’s a sure sign that he’s had enough.

A well supervised play group of similar size and temperament dogs can also be a great way for your dog to get his exercise. You may be able to set up a play group with friends who have similar sized dogs, or make arrangements for your dog to go to a dog park or doggy day care a few times a week.

There are also many different “dog sports” that you might be interested in. You can enroll in an agility class, where you and your dog will learn to run a course made up of jumps, tunnels, and other various obstacles. You may also like to try flyball, which is a team of dogs competing in a relay race. There is also canine freestyle dancing, herding, rally obedience, tracking and a number of other dog sports where you and your dog can learn new skills, meet other people who enjoy doing things with their dogs, and get some exercise too! 

No matter how you choose to exercise your dog, have fun, and remember… a tired dog is a good dog!

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