Does Your Dog Need More Exercise?

Dogs bring so much joy into our lives, it’s hard to think we may be failing them in some way. But, like humans, dogs need exercise to stay healthy, and many of us are not making sure they get an adequate amount of physical activity. How much do they really need?

Dogs are active by nature, just as their wolf ancestors. Many dogs are bred precisely to fulfill certain physical activities like hunting, herding, or patrolling. If you are unknowingly preventing your dog from doing what’s in his DNA, he will have to release this energy elsewhere. If you have a dog that’s constantly barking, digging, and generally tearing up your home, your dog could not be giving you a bigger sign that he needs exercise.

Lack of exercise can also lead to obesity, a growing epidemic in domestic animals. Veterinarians see overweight dogs in their offices all the time, with owners who either don’t know how to manage it, or are not phased by it at all. Unfortunately, obesity can severely impact your dog’s quality of life, and even cut it short if the problem isn’t dealt with.

An obese dog can’t enjoy many of the physical activities that dogs of a healthy weight enjoy. Simple tasks become harder for an obese dog, like breathing or being outside on a warm day, due to heat intolerance and decreased stamina. The extra weight can burden the joints, increasing the risk of torn ligaments. Back problems, cardiac problems, and other serious health issues are sure to be in your dog’s future if he becomes obese.

As your dog’s leader, you must set an example. Couch potato dogs typically have couch potato owners, so take this opportunity to become more active yourself. Take longer walks, go to the park or beach to play, and find other ways to be more active with your pet. For cardiovascular health, the general recommendation is to keep your dog’s heart elevated for at least 20 minutes each day. This also regulates hormones, builds muscle, and keeps your dog’s weight down.

Talk to your vet about developing an exercise program for your pet. A veterinarian will tailor a program that meets your pet’s individual needs, and takes into account his age, breed, and current health issues. This way, he has a program that pushes him to do his best, but doesn’t go beyond his limits.

Mental exercise is also something that cannot be neglected. Keep his mind sharp with puzzle toys, play games with him like “hide the treat,” and consider obedience training. Mental exercise will keep your dog from becoming bored and will generally improve his mood.

The joy of having a constant companion that loves you unconditionally is a beautiful gift pets bring to our lives. But we can’t let them down, and that may mean we must adjust our own lifestyles to accommodate our furry friends. Daily exercise is good for both you and your dog, and will keep him well-behaved and healthy for years to come.