Exercise is Important for Your Dog’s Health
Give your dog physically stimulating exercises.
Dogs need exercise, just like people. Your dog’s daily exercise requirement will vary depending on your dog’s breed, age, health and overall activity level. How do you determine how much exercise your dog needs?
Dog breeds are grouped together by what they were originally bred to do. Some dogs were bred to hunt animals, some were bred to herd animals, some were bred to pull large sleds or wagons, and even some were bred to fight other animals. Many dogs, generally the smaller lap-type dogs were bred to primarily be companions to people. To determine what your dog’s exercise needs might be, start by looking at the purpose for which your dog’s breed was originally created. If you dog’s breed was originally created for tracking, herding, or transportation of people or goods, then your dog will need a daily amount of vigorous exercise like running, biking and retrieving tennis balls, or a daily romp to the local dog park. On the other hand, if you dog’s breed was to sit in people’s laps and keep their hands warm, then your dog’s daily exercise needs can be taken care by a walk up and down the street or around the block.
From birth to one year, your puppy’s exercise requirements will be unique. From eight weeks to about six months your puppy may appear to have boundless, non-stop energy. However, the length of time that they are engaged in full activity at any one time will be short; suddenly your puppy will flop over and take a rest. If you are available during those times of energy bursts to take them for a walk around the block, and also work on some basic obedience exercises and socialization, your puppy will wear out very fast. Their attention span is very short, but grows a little each day.
Your puppy’s body is growing quickly, so any physical exercise beyond a fast walk should be restricted to avoid any chance of possible injury. These restrictions mean no jogging, jumping, tennis ball or disc catching or jumping onto and off of high objects like playground equipment or walls.
This age range would be from six months for toy and small breeds up to two years for some of the larger breeds. Exercise should still be limited and controlled, but can be slowly expanded beyond moderate walks. Some puppies belonging to the smaller and lightly boned breeds of up to medium height, whose bodies should be almost fully formed by one year old, can begin light running and jumping and climbing. Regardless of size, it is best to hold off from more demanding exercise like tennis ball and disc dog throws.
For puppies belonging to the larger and giant breeds it is best to continue walking, light running, and light climbing until after they reach two years, when most of their growth should be complete. Some breeds that benefit from these restrictions include retrievers, draft pullers such as Rottweilers and Bernese Mountain Dogs, Mastiff-related breeds, and the larger herding breeds like German Shepherds. After two years of age, all breeds can handle more activity as it is needed.
Swimming is always a great form of exercise for any breed at almost any age, except for small puppies until they learn to swim. Swimming has universal benefits for all dogs since there is no pounding and grinding on the body like climbing, jumping and retrieving tennis balls. Yet there is still great aerobic exercise for the heart and movement for the limbs with no wear and tear on the joints and bones. Many pet stores or supply catalogs sell life jackets for dogs to wear. These are great for dogs that are not great swimmers or are just learning.
Middle age adult:
Middle age usually starts around two years for the smaller to medium size breeds and extends to about 10 years. For the larger and giant breeds, middle age starts around three years and goes to about seven or eight years. This stage of life will be the peak activity time for most dogs, and when their exercise needs will remain fairly constant, barring accident. This constant level of demand means that if you have a specific routine of daily walks and going to the dog park on the weekends, and your dog is satisfied and healthy, you could probably keep up this routine unless some unforeseen injury or health reason interferes. Or if you compete in dog sports regularly, and your dog is healthy and happy, you could probably expect to continue that routine for several more years, unless something unforeseen happens.
For smaller to medium breeds senior adulthood begins around ten years of age and reaches to at least fifteen or more. For larger or giant breeds, this age range is generally around seven or eight to fewer than fifteen. It is very rare to see a large or giant breed that lives past fifteen years. However, small or medium breed may live up to 20 years.
During this time a dog’s exercise needs will decrease as he or she slows down and the body ages. Most dogs will do fine with a daily walk to slow down arthritis. I would not recommend any kind of hard physical exercise like tennis ball throwing or disc catching. I would like to say, however, my dog Scout continues to catch discs up to the age of 12, but it is much less frequent than she used to. I am extremely aware of that, first, she does not need the exercise, even though she still loves it, and two, her body is much less able to bounce back and mend itself like it used to when she was younger. She also is totally warmed up prior to any jumping or catching of discs and she gets a thorough cool down afterwards.
Your dog’s individual health will determine the amount and type of exercise they will need. If you have any specific questions about your dog’s health and the type of exercise they need, it is best to consult with your dog’s veterinarian before starting exercise. What follows here are some general guidelines that could apply to a broad range of dogs.
Does your dog have any past injuries that could prevent or restrict your dog from doing strenuous exercise? Such limitations could also include current injuries that have not yet healed. For example, a broken bone that is no longer in a cast but is not back to full use by your dog might restrict his or her activity. Your dog may be going through physical therapy, or the injured area may have been out of use for so long that the muscles have atrophied, and they will need to be strengthened slowly to regain their full use. For many such injuries, start off with slow walks and very gradually increase the distance. Your dog will tell you if the amount of exercise is sufficient or too much because they will come back sore or in pain if you have done too much.
Sometimes an injury can be fully healed, yet your dog’s physical condition has been changed permanently. An example of this type of injury that could alter your dog’s physical condition permanently could be a torn cruciate ligament, which is very common type of injury in any dog that retrieves tennis balls or discs or does a lot of twists and turns on their back legs. The cruciate is the ligament that runs diagonal on the knee on both animals and humans. It is a common sports injury for athletes like football, baseball and basketball players. For a dog, surgery can be performed on the knee, but many times the full recuperation is difficult, leaving the dog with less strength and flexibility.
Your dog’s weight will determine their current activity level. If your dog is overweight, increased activity, along with a proper diet, will help to decrease your dog’s weight. However, seek the advice of your veterinarian prior to putting your overweight dog suddenly on a new diet and exercise regimen. Your dog’s excess weight could be due to many different health factors, not just lack of activity. Check with your dog’s doctor to determine exactly what is causing your dog’s weight gain and go from there.
Need for Social activity:
Exercise consists of more than just burning calories. Exercise can also be fun, especially if it involves games with you or other dogs. When two dogs play together they can exercise themselves if they are running around chasing each other or playing with a tug toy. My dogs Dino and Scout have a regular game of playing tug with their fabric leashes. When we are out on our walk, usually Dino will look at me with this wide eyed anticipation of “Is it time, yet?” and he jumps up and down trying to grab the leash from my hand. Scout joins in and grabs either her leash or Dino’s leash and the tug game begins. They will do this in all kinds of weather, even if it is raining or snowing. If I have enough time and space, I will let the leashes go from my hand, unhook Dino from his and let them chase each other around and around until one of them gives up. Everybody gets muddy and dirty and has a great time.
Mind Stimulating Exercises Are Good For Your Dog
All dogs love to play games and learn new things. You can wear out your dog just by exercising his or her mind. A simple way to do this is to teach your dog a variety of tricks that can be practiced and performed in the house with minimal space. Working on learning a new trick just for a few minutes at a time can wear a dog out for several hours.
There is a variety of books all about teaching dogs tricks, as well as those that teach other simple games that can be done inside or outside. These can be fun things to do with your dog when the weather outside is prohibitive. Since all dogs need to eat, every mealtime can be used to work on an exercise. Break down an exercise or trick to tiny parts, and then each mealtime work on each step. When your dog learns one step, go onto the next. I like to call this dog training for a person who never has enough time in the day. There is always two minutes before a mealtime.
Remember: A Tired Dog is A Good Dog.
The more you can exhaust your dog, the less time he will have to become bored and anxious which results in barking and destruction. If your dog is so tired when you leave them alone, they will sleep rather than becoming destructive.
For more information on preventing destructive behaviors:
Chapter Six “Preventing Undesirable or Stopping Certain Behaviors”