Dogs need exercise. People need exercise. Dogs should exercise with people.
I don’t need an entire blog article talking about why exercising with your dog is good for everyone involved, but I thought I would highlight some of the best benefits on the canine side of things and talk a little about what to watch for.
Dogs need lots of physical activity. Many of them were bred for long periods of work and direct, focused intellectual stimulation. Border collies herd cattle, huskies pull sleds, terriers hunt small mammals, and dalmations really did run beside fire trucks. These days our dogs sleep on the couch while we are at work, then go on a one to two mile walk with us when we get home (I’m generalizing of course, but I think that is a good estimate). This may be fine for small dogs, but almost every size and shape of dog needs 30-40 minutes of heavy exercise at least three times a week. This physical activity, especially if it involves any stimulation of the senses – and it will if you are outside – will give a dog his “fix”. Dogs who aren’t bored are less likely to misbehave or display anxiety or obsessive-compulsive behavior.
Fortunately, people also are made for exercise and intellectual stimulation, so exercising with your dog will likely provide some stress relief and good vibes on your part too 🙂
The only cons regarding exercise are overuse or overdo-type injuries. Dogs can get sore joints, worn footpads, strains or sprains if you suddenly bring your chunky husky on a four mile run. Building up with regular, incremental exercise will help prevent these injuries, as well as heat stroke. The problem with most dogs is they aren’t good at knowing when to stop. So if you are exercising in the middle of the day, make sure you take frequent breaks for water and have already acclimated your pet keeping the heat and activity level in mind.
What to do
Running with your pet is great, but you don’t have to be in great shape or even like running to give your dog some exercise. It can also be hard to take an unruly dog and teach them to run or bike at your pace without pulling or zigzagging. Hiking with your pet on a longer leash will provide great exercise and stimulation. You can even go off leash if you have an appropriate area with a dog who listens well to “stop” and “come” commands. Fetch in the backyard takes very little effort on your part after appropriate training is established. If you don’t have a backyard, attaching your dog to a very long (20 to 40 feet) leash allows them to play and frolic and burn off some energy.
I think that’s about all I can say for a quick rundown of exercise. If you have any more ideas for good exercise, leave a comment!
– Doc Cleland