Most dogs today are confined to their homes for up to 10 hours a day while their owners are at work. This makes it extremely important for your pet to get plenty of physical and mental stimulation.
Daily exercise can have very positive benefits for your dog, such as reducing hyperactivity, boredom, or other behavioral issues. Some behaviors that may result due to lack of physical and mental exercise and stimulation include:
- Excessive barking
Before engaging in an exercise program, check in with your healthcare professional to make sure your dog is in good health. When evaluating the appropriate type and level of exercise, be sure to consider your dog’s overall health, weight, physical condition, age and breed. And remember: Letting your dog out in the yard doesn’t necessarily count as exercise!
Take your dog for one or two daily walks, lasting 15-20 minutes each, at least three to four times a week. This provides mental stimulation for your dog as well as helping to reduce and/or maintain her weight. (You will get similar benefits from her walk, too!)
Tossing a ball, Frisbee, or other fetch toy is great physical and mental stimulation for your dog, provided she is in good physical condition.
Joining you on the jogging path is a wonderful option for your dog, provided his age, breed and physical condition allow him to participate. Always bear in mind the impact that this intense exercise may have on your pet, and be sure get medical clearance ahead of time.
Do not expect your dog to automatically be a long distance runner. Take it easy at first and pay close attention to how he reacts in the hours after he is exercised. If he appears sore or has a hard time getting up, slow it down a bit in terms of distance and time during his next planned jog.
Be mindful of extremely hot days and the impact on your dog’s pads. If the dog is lagging behind, do not continually pull on his leash to force him to keep pace with you. This could strain his neck.
Swimming is a wonderful non-weight bearing exercise for any dog, and it is especially ideal for pets with physical issues that limit other forms of exercise.
Some dogs are more naturally inclined to swim than others, and the best way to acclimate your dog is by introducing him to the water while he is a puppy. Allow him to enter at the lowest level possible to build a sense of confidence, and keep him on a leash so that you are still in control. Do not allow your dog to plunge into water above his head, as he might get nervous, panic and possibly drown.
Doggie playgrounds offer another exercise option for dog owners. Dog parks allow for socialization, group play and off-leash play time. This environment, when properly regulated, can provide safe and enjoyable fun. However, this is no substitute for a brisk 15-20 minute walk with your dog.