Exercise is one of the most important activities for our health and longevity. It is equally important for our pets. Many owners think a walk around the block, or a game of fetch in the backyard is sufficient for their dogs, or a little bit of catnip gets their cat moving enough, but it isn’t. Most dogs, large and small need more exercise than they are actually getting for both physical and mental acuity. Surprisingly to many, cats need exercise too.
Because this is such an important topic, we will be writing several posts so that we can cover different size dogs and cats uniquely. We will kick it off with some of the basic considerations when considering an exercise program for a dog.
Many owners ask us how much exercise their dogs need. The amount and intensity of your dog’s daily exercise depends on your dog. There are several factors to consider including:
Breed: some dogs are natural couch potatoes, and some are natural runners or agility champs. When you choose a dog, be sure and do your research regarding their level of activity and exercise requirements. If you own a mixed breed dog, base their needs on their most predominant breed and on their behavior. You shouldn’t leave a Border Collie in the house all day and you shouldn’t expect a Bulldog to be a running companion.
Age: a puppy needs more exercise than a senior dog, that’s just logical. Exercise levels increase as your pup grows and then decrease as they age. Be careful not to overdue any exercise with a puppy since they’re still growing they may be more prone to injuries.
Weight: an overweight dog is going to find a new exercise regime challenging just as overweight humans do. Starting with low impact, short duration exercise will minimize the strain on their internal organs and joints. Adjusting their feedings to reduce their weight to a more reasonable level will also help reduce the strain on their bodies.
Health: a dog that has recently been sick or is dealing with any type of illness should be watched closely during any exercise. It’s still good for them to get out and move, but you don’t want to put any unnecessary stress on their body or immune system.
Humans are advised to check with their doctor before starting a new exercise program, and pet owners should do the same and ask their veterinarian what an appropriate exercise routine would be for your pet. You don’t want to take Buddy out for a run and have him tear an ACL joint or overheat. You must build up their stamina slowly and consistently just as you would do for yourself.
Most all dogs would benefit from a minimum 30-60 minutes of focused aerobic exercise per day. Dogs in the Sporting Breed like Labradors or Weimaraners or Working Breed dogs like the German Shepherd would need considerably more. Focused aerobic activity would be exercises like walking, running, biking, agility, hunting, swimming – anything that raises their heart rate.
In addition to the overall health benefits from a regular exercise program, a well-exercised dog is likely to be better behaved. Dogs have lots of energy that they need to burn off and if it’s not expended through exercise, it’s likely they will turn that energy into unruly behaviors we don’t want such as chewing, digging, barking or garbage raiding. Common sense tells you, a well-exercised dog is a well-behaved dog.
Owners often wonder what type of exercise their dog would like. Luckily, because dogs are so agreeable and up for most anything, you have lots of options. Next up in our series on Exercise Tips, we’ll look at appropriate exercises for small-medium sized dogs. Stay Tuned.