Every dog is different. Before beginning an exercise program be sure your dog is in good health – get your veterinarian’s approval before drastically changing your dog’s routine.
Factors to consider are: breed, age, weight, physical characteristics (such as short “pushed-in” muzzles), and weather conditions.
Daily walks might be enough for some dogs; others need more intense workouts. Your dog should get aerobic exercise at least three times a week – this means enough exercise to make him pant. Just because your dog is outside in the yard does not mean he is getting enough exercise.
Benefits of regular exercising for you and your dog?
- Health As with humans, daily exercise provides your dog’s body with a variety of health benefits, including improved metabolism and digestion, enhanced immunity to ward off illness, increased bone and muscle density and overall strength, and maximized cardiovascular function.
- Energy Daily walks or play sessions are a great way to energize a lethargic and/or overweight dog, and it will give them a much-needed spring in their step.
- Temperament Regular exercise reduces anxiety. High-strung, hyperactive or even aggressive dogs are often quite calm and relaxed after a good day’s workout.
- Sleep Want a good night’s sleep? So does your pet. Daily exercise can greatly improve the quality of overnight slumber for both of you.
- Socialization Your new puppy, adopted pet, and/or timid dog will especially benefit from daily playful interaction with other humans and pets.
- Happiness If exercised daily, your dog will often thrive on—and return—the love and attention they receive from you and their furry buddies.
- Longevity Daily exercise is one way to increase your dog’s life span. Its health benefits can help your dog live a longer, healthier and happier life.
Some methods of exercise for your dog
- Walking Whether you walk with a short leash or a flexible leash, just use common sense…do not allow your dog to invade the space of another dog, or to run into the street. (If you walk your dog in a congested area, please use a regular leash for safety instead of a flexible one.) Allow your dog some sniffing time then move out at a brisk pace.
- Running If you can find a safe fenced in field to let your dog run off leash, that is ideal, since the dog can set his own pace and stop when he is tired, plus he has the mental stimulation of sniffing to his heart’s content. If you jog with your dog on leash pay attention not to go too far until he is in condition.
- Swimming Swimming is very good exercise for dogs with joint problems since it is non-weight bearing.
- Fetching Throwing a tennis ball or other toy for the dog to fetch is fun. You can use a tennis racquet to increase the distance the ball and your dog travels. If the dog is in good condition throw the ball uphill. In the house you can throw the ball up the stairs.
- Jumping Most dogs love to jump. You can make your own jumps from materials you have around the house. Try using cardboard boxes for small dogs– you can do this in the house. Try luring the dog with treats, and start with very low jumps of just a few inches. As a general rule, it is best to keep the jump heights at the level of the dog’s elbow so as not to cause stress. All jumping must be done off leash, and never force the dog. If the dog refuses to jump it might reflect a physical problem.
- Frisbee Many dogs love to play Frisbee, and it can be good exercise. But be careful to keep your throws low to the ground. Dogs have been injured from leaping in the air to catch a frisbee. You do not want to stress a puppy by playing this game at too young an age- check with your veterinarian on this. Buy a soft Frisbee specially made for dogs, to avoid accidentally chipping teeth.
- Canine exercise balls Also called “Boomer Balls”, these resemble bowling balls. They come in different sizes, and are made of virtually indestructable hard plastic. Big dogs such as Labs and Rottweilers love to play with these, using their feet to play “soccer”, with you of course!
- Canine sports Any breed can do agility, flyball, obedience, or tracking. Some organizations are open to mixed breeds too. Breed specific activities are herding, lure coursing, hunt tests, and go-to-ground trials.
- After a session of strenuous exercise You can wind down by gently massaging your dog.
Your dog needs mental stimulation as well as physical exercise. Many dogs get into trouble when they are bored and have no suitable outlets.
- Hide a toy or dog biscuit, or even a person, and let the dog hunt until he finds it.
- Let your dog use his smelling instincts to “forage” in the yard for bits of food. At first make it easy by dropping a piece or two right under his nose. After he catches on, throw bits into different parts of the yard. If your dog is high energy, let him forage for his meal instead of eating out of a bowl. Let your dog ‘work’ for his food and burn off some of that energy.
Try this test to see if your dog has gotten enough exercise: Sit down to watch a TV show or read. Is your dog snoozing beside you or chewing on a bone? If so, they probably got enough exercise that day. If they are getting into mischief or bugging you to play, they have not had enough exercise!
Remember – a tired dog is a good dog! And a tired dog has a happy owner!
See Top 5 places to exercise the dog: Reno loves Rover! by Reno.com.