For most people, exercising a dog consists of a trip to the park for a run around. In some cases this might suffice, but responsible owners should be aware of the quantity and quality of exercise that their dog needs to maintain optimum health. Ask yourself the following questions.
1) How often does your dog get exercised?
It does not take a genius to work out that you put on weight if you do not burn off the calories that you ingest. Exercise is extremely important to the health and well being of your dog. Fit dogs are happier, more active, more mobile and less susceptible to health problems such as arthritis, ligament ruptures and heart disease. With such huge individual variation between breeds and ages, we cannot recommend a set amount of exercise that each dog should have, but all dogs require at least one walk a day, with the more athletic ones requiring two.
2) What type of exercise does your dog do?
Whilst a walk or two a day may be perfectly adequate exercise for your dog, there is huge benefit to be had from mixing it up a bit and trying out new activities. Adding variety to a dogs exercise routine provides extra physical and mental challenges that can be both interesting and rewarding for both dog and owner. If your dog has any medical conditions (e.g. heart problem, arthritis) you must consult a veterinary professional before adding any unfamiliar exercises. Here we look at various types of exercise possible.
- Walking & Hiking
The most common form of exercise for dogs. Always have your dog on a lead unless you are in a park or rural area without traffic. Beware the potential existence of other dogs in public places that may be irresponsibly raised and show aggression to your pooch.
Getting your dog to run alongside you and adjust to fluctuations in your speed will require a little training, but if you are a keen jogger it is a great way of exercising your dog. Make sure you choose a pace that is comfortable for your dog, and only attempt jogging if you and your dog are able to walk briskly for 30 minutes without tiring.
This is fantastic if you have access to the countryside where your dog can run safely off the lead. Also great for athletic dogs that need to run greater distances than you do to achieve a proper workout. If you wish to cycle with your dog in urban areas, he or she must have impeccable lead manners and ideally respond to commands such as left and right. Cycling early in the morning when there is less traffic is wise, and avoid busy roads.
- Inline skating
Skating, like cycling, means athletic dogs often get the chance to run to their hearts content. However, since you cannot go on grass and are concrete bound, it is only really suitable with a dog in a park, where you do not have the worry of traffic. Your dog should be taught commands such as slow and stop, and only let off the lead if he or she is ultra obedient. Using a harness rather than a lead affords greater control in this exercise.
- Jump & fetch
Getting your dog to jump and fetch a ball can provide hours of entertainment and is excellent exercise. Make sure the ball is not small enough to be accidentally swallowed. Also synthetic toys such as balls are far safer than sticks, which can fragment in the dogs mouth and get stuck in their throat.
Playing frisbee is great fun for some dogs, but you need to have a large garden or a park nearby where your dog can run freely off the lead. This is great for the lazy person as you are pretty much stationary while your dog has a full workout. Clearly not all dogs are willing or able to catch the frisbee, so only those breeds that pick up the knack are suitable. Playing frisbee should be avoided in dogs with teeth or mouth problems, and also in dogs with joint problems and those susceptible to cruciate ligament damage.
- Circuit & agility
Those familiar with obedience competitions will be well aware of the fun and satisfaction to be had doing this activity. You and your dog run around a series of obstacles, aiming to pass through each without a problem. Courses often consist of bar jumps (hurdles of varying heights according to the breed), a tunnel (usually about 3 feet long), a ramp and a slalom (5 or more bars in a row). The key when starting out is to reward your dog enthusiastically for doing each obstacle with treats. You should lead him through the obstacle course, teaching him to respond to instructions such as Up!, and body language, for example the outstretched palm of your hand meaning Stop!
Swimming is one of the best exercises there is for both you and your dog, as you are using every muscle in the body. If you are lucky enough to have somewhere where you and your dog are both permitted to swim, and is also safe, then this is a highly beneficial activity. If you are swimming in the sea, make sure a lifeguard is around just in case, and be aware that cold water and current both increase the effort required as more calories are burned. Swimming is particularly beneficial for dogs with arthritis and other joint problems as it builds muscular strength without placing strain on the joints.
Start the game by kicking the ball slowly along the ground towards your dog, and encourage him to get it. Because the ball is too large to pick up in his or her mouth, it will take him or her some time to realize that it must be pushed with either the nose or the paws. Give praise and encouragement as he or she gets the hang of it. Small breeds can be offered a smaller rubber ball rather than a football. Make sure the ball is not small enough to be swallowed though.
Author Bio: Matthew Homfray is one of the online vets at free pet Q&A service Televets. Visit http://www.televets.com to ask your pet question today!