Proper Pet Care Series #2: Exercise
Like nutrition, exercise is a cornerstone of canine and health happiness. Last week, Barkworthies discussed the importance of proper nutrition — this week we’re discussing proper pet exercise for the second installment of our three part series on canine health. If you haven't already we would recommend taking a peek at our previous entry in the Proper Pet Care Series on Nutrition to ensure you get the most from this article. After all, exercise goes hand-in-hand with nutrition!
Just like people, dogs need exercise — and lots of it! Of course, how much exercise your dog needs depends on a few factors. But big or small, old or young, exercise is undoubtedly important to maintaining the long-term health and short term well-being of all dogs. Ultimately, your dog’s exercise needs are as unique as their personalities — so it’s important to provide just the right amount.
How Much Is Enough?
On average, larger breeds need more exercise — around 40 minutes of sustained moderate to intense cardio per day. Smaller dogs don’t need quite as much — requiring 20-30 minutes of moderate to intense cardio per day. It isn’t quite that simple, though! These averages don’t apply to every dog as there are three key factors to consider when deciding how much exercise your furry friend needs — breed, age and current fitness level. With so many possible combinations at hand, finding the right regimen can be daunting. Let’s take a closer look at these factors individually to help you determine your dog’s current exercise needs.
Breeds: There are specific concerns with many breeds when it comes to exercise. For example, bulldogs and other short snouted breeds have significant trouble breathing during intense activities and shouldn’t be over exercised. German Shepherds and other slender-bodied breeds are prone to bloat and digestive cramps if exercised too soon after eating. Heavier breeds shouldn’t over do it as their weight can put tremendous stress on joints and bones.
Age: Young and old dogs should not be over exercised. Puppies whose bones have not yet finished growing may be stunted by excessive high-impact exercises. Elderly dogs — who often have stiff joints and decreased energy levels — still require frequent exercise, however it shouldn’t as intense of a workout.
Current Fitness Levels: If your pup is a bit on the heavy side, don’t push them too hard! Over exercising an out of shape dogs is a great way to cause injury and exhaustion.
Given the range of health issues for specific breeds, Barkworthies recommends first consulting your veterinarian before beginning a new exercise routine.
Now that spring is here, there’s no shortage of fun ways to enjoy play time with your dog. Walking, running and swimming are all fantastic ways to exercise together. Just be sure to leash your dog! And if you’re swimming, avoid any bodies of water with a strong current and make sure there’s an easy way for your dog to get out on it’s own. Life jackets are also an option for your less confident swimmers!
Keep away and fetch are time tested classics all dogs love. Not only do these games keep your dog physically active, they also help to release stress and pent up energy. Many owners also like to combine training with exercise. Agility and obstacle courses are perfect fit for active breeds requiring intense daily workouts. These types of courses are also great for stimulating your dog mentally as they learn to navigate a course.
The only thing better than playing with a person is playing with other dogs. Take the time to properly socialize your dog — especially at a young age — and they’ll be making friends at the dog park in no time!
Always remember to have fresh drinking water on hand. With all that running and exercise, your pooch is sure to get thirsty. And be sure to watch out for signs of exhaustion and heat stroke — especially as we move into the warmer months ahead.
Benefits of Exercise
Dogs who get little to no exercise stand to become overweight due to inactivity and increases the chances of destructive behavior. Without distractions or anybody to play with, dogs will find their own fun through behaviors like chewing, digging, garbage raiding and general unruliness. Behavioral problems like these can be remedied by engagement and exercise.
There are also severe health issues associated with sedentary canine lifestyles. The most obvious issue being obesity which greatly increases the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Orthopedic issues like hip dysplasia and arthritis are far worse for overweight dogs further contributing to lameness, especially in older dogs.
Routine exercise rounded out by proper nutrition can help curb all of these potential health issues. But exercise isn’t just for avoiding health complications, it’s also an immeasurable source of happiness! The psychological effects of exercise on dogs are huge. Depression and anxiety issues can even be lessened through exercise. Timid or anxious dogs will uncover a newfound self-confidence making them more social.
A lazy dog begets health problems and poor behavior so make sure you’re keeping your dog physically and mentally stimulated with exercise and caring attention. Not only will they love you for it now, but also in the years to come.
Since we’ve now discussed the importance of proper nutrition and demonstrated the benefits of exercise, next week we’ll round out our three part series on Proper Pet Care and talk about the benefits of grooming!