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Exercise: say yes to good health

Regular exercise is essential to your dog. Giving your dog a good walk or run regularly provides him with an opportunity for experiencing new stimuli and meeting other dogs – which will help him develop into a contented and well-adjusted dog. Exercise will also keep his weight down, which is important because obesity is a major health problem in dogs. And besides that, dogs usually love their exercise!

The basics of a good exercise

  • Your dog needs to exercise every day, all year round.
  • To exercise your dog outdoors, use a static collar, rather than a so-called “choke” collar, and always supervise his exercise. Don’t simply put him outside for the day while you’re out.
  • Like most dogs, your dog’s idea of heaven is to run free. But if you’re near a road or if he’s likely to run away, you should keep him on a leash and under control.
  • Both you and your dog will enjoy your exercise time together more if he’s well trained. At a minimum, he should understand and respond to the ‘heel’, ‘down’ and ‘come’ commands.
  • To let your dog run free, find an area that is safe, such as a park with a specially designated area, and make sure he comes when you call him.
  • Wherever you go, always be sure to clean up after your dog.
  • Part of your walk should be over hard ground because this helps keep his nails short.

Safety first If you are planning to start a more vigorous exercise programme with your dog, or if he is overweight and you want him to get more exercise, be careful not to overdo it at first. Take him to see the vet for a check-up and ask for advice. The key here is to start slowly. Look for signs of fatigue and stop when you see them.

While you are running or walking in well-padded shoes, remember that your dog is essentially barefoot, so you should regularly check his paws. Run him on grass or dirt as much as possible and, in cold weather, wash and dry his paws after you’ve been out if there’s salt on the sidewalks or road.

Exercise as per breed and age

Your dog’s breed, size and age all factor into his exercise requirements. It doesn’t necessarily follow that larger dogs need more exercise. Dogs who were bred to work generally need more exercise than lap dogs. Ask your breeder or vet about how much exercise your dog should be getting.

Puppies don’t need to be encouraged to exercise. However, you have to be careful not to over-exercise them because their bones aren’t very strong. The rule is to exercise them a little, and often. Middle-aged dogs may need more encouragement. It’s up to you to make sure he gets regular exercise through his middle years, which will help keep him to his proper weight.

Older dogs need exercise, too. If you have an older dog, take him for shorter and more frequent walks. It will help keep his joints and circulation moving and give him the opportunity to relieve himself – which he may need to do more often as he ages. Never force him to exercise beyond his capabilities and don’t take him out in extreme weather conditions. Be aware that an older dog may tire more easily than he used to, and that his eyesight and sense of smell may be deteriorating. Your older dog can easily become disoriented if separated from you, so make sure you watch him closely.

Running together for health and fun

Running with your dog is a fun and healthy thing for you to do together. If you’re just starting to run with your dog, however, don’t overdo it. Start slowly and build up your endurance together. For your sake, make sure your dog knows the “heel” command, which will keep him running steadily behind your left leg. This will prevent any confusion about who’s in charge of the route.

Routine in holidays

During holidays, people often let both their own routine and their dog’s routine slip. As you indulge in holiday foods, resist the temptation to feed your dog table scraps. Eating table scraps can contribute to digestive and weight problems. Stick to a normal feeding routine, and make sure you take your dog out regularly – if not as often as usual. Remember, regular exercise is one of the best ways to keep your dog healthy and happy.

Off leash exercise for your pooch

Freedom to roam and sniff around is every dog’s birthright and dream. Very often, we as owners, ignore the importance of freedom of our canine friends. Pooja Sathe shows how to teach your dog the off leash control. Off leash exercise should be an important part of the dog’s daily routine from an early age. This will help the puppy to enjoy his freedom. Also, off leash game of ‘fetching a ball’ and a good run helps to mentally and physically stimulate the pup, which is a must for every dog.

Some people are apprehensive about keeping their pets off leash. Some of their common excuses are:

Dog will run away: People often complain that since their dogs get attracted to other dogs, people walking by, or cats, besides moving objects such as vehicles or balls, they are likely to run after them and get into problems. This mainly happens because the dog is never given a chance to explore his surroundings off leash and is not trained not to chase things or moving objects. Chase behaviour: Most people complain that once off leash, their dogs chase cats, kids and other moving objects. Chasing instinct is an inborn trait in most of the dogs and is high in some. You should identify the objects your dog likes to chase and then train him not to chase them accordingly.

Dog will jump on other people: If the dog is generally friendly, he might want to go towards people and due to excitement, he might even jump over them. This happens due to lack of socialisation during his puppyhood.

Dog will never return when called: Some people are not confident that their dog will return to them, when called once off leash. This happens because initially when the dog does come back, most of us try to catch him by his neck/collar and put him back on the leash. This teaches the dog that if he goes back, he will be put on the leash and taken back home, and so he keeps staying away. But, off leash control can be taught to your dog. Here are the steps to teach the dog off leash control:

  • Start training the dog for off leash control at an early age. You can start this game in your building compound, or terrace or any other safe place, before letting your dog off leash in a big ground or on the beach.
  • In the beginning, attach a long leash (approx 10/12 feet) to the dog, and let him drag it with him.
  • Do not hold on to the leash all the time but keep a timely check on the dog. You can always get hold of the leash in case of emergency.
  • Always carry some tasty treats or the dog’s favourite toys to praise him when he comes back. In beginning, you should praise your dog for every successful recall.
  • Your body language and tone of voice should always be happy and encouraging, when calling the dog back.
  • Never try to grab your dog’s collar when he comes back, just because you feel that he will run away again.
  • Always leave your dog off leash in a safe place and not on the roads or while crossing the roads etc. Always keep an eye on the dog, when he is off leash.
  • In case the dog does not come back, do not run behind him or scold him when you catch him. This will only make the dog run away again. On such occasion, you can run in the opposite direction showing him the treats and toys in your hand so as to get his attention.
  • You have to make yourself the most interesting thing for your dog, only this will make the dog come back to you.
  • Train your dog in different possible places before trusting him completely to go off leash. In a new place, you can always keep him on long leash initially.
  • Last but very important, always walk your dog on leash in a particular area, and allow him to sniff around to his satisfaction, before you let him off leash.

(Pooja Sathe is trained under Northern Centre for Canine Behaviour and Training, UK. She can be contacted at poojasathe11@hotmail.com, Ph: +91-9820596903, 022-24165358 – Mumbai.)