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.