Nothing makes a pup grin more than a long walk full of investigative sniffs, a session of fetch in a grassy open area, or a romp in the park with other doggie friends. With busy work schedules and constant commitments, exercising your pup can seem nearly impossible. We are all guilty of cutting a walk short from time to time for one reason or another. However, some of us with canine companions in the family are a little more guilty than others.
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 52.7 percent of dogs in the US are overweight or obese. By not exercising your dog, you’re setting them up for a host of medical and behavioral issues.
Overweight dogs are at risk of developing more medical complications than dogs who receive proper amounts of exercise. Since excess weight increases stress on joints, overweight dogs can develop osteoarthritis (or degenerative joint disease), the progressive and permanent deterioration of the cartilage around joints. They can also develop Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Generally, overweight or obese dogs have a decreased life expectancy of up to 2.5 years.
Many behavioral issues exhibited by dogs can be traced to a lack of exercise. Consider a young child who has energy to burn, but no chances to run around and play. He will often act out in less than favorable ways to redirect this pent-up energy. This is quite similar to your bored dog, who chooses to chew on rugs or furniture legs around the house.
Destructive chewing, going through the garbage, general unruliness, and excessive barking and whining can be the result of lack of exercise. With the proper amount of physical activity, many of these traits may disappear. Exercise can also reduce digestive problems, build confidence and trust in shy dogs, and of course, keep them agile and their weight under control.
Not all exercise is created equal, and your particular dog may require more or less exercise than others. Greyhounds, whippets, and other sighthounds are built for short-distance running, so if you are in search of a long-distance running partner, they may not be the right match for you. Long-distance running in general is not always recommended for large dogs; it can be too hard on their joints and bones. Though puppies tend to have excess energy, it is not recommended you run long distances with them because their bones have not finished growing. If you have small or short-legged dogs, they likely do not need as much walking as bigger dogs. Also, brachycephalic breeds like Pugs, English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, to name a few, have trouble breathing during vigorous exercise due to their short or flat noses. If you have a German Shepherd, Great Dane, or another deep-chested breed prone to bloat, remember not to exercise them directly after they eat.
Some people have mobility or health issues preventing them from giving their dog the proper amount of exercise. One time, I met a guy who couldn’t walk very well, so he would take his Dalmatian to an empty parking lot and slowly drive his van around because she liked to chase it. I’m not necessarily recommending this approach (though the owner’s sincere dedication to his dog’s needs are commendable), but there are other things you can do. If your dog loves to chase balls, this could be a great option and can sometimes be better exercise than walks. Also, working in mentally stimulating games like food puzzle toys is a great way to tire out your pups and keep them sharp.
Next time you and your dog are sitting on the couch with no plans, why not work in an extra fetch session or stroll around the block? It not only helps your pup’s health, but it helps yours as well.
What’s your dog’s exercise regime? Do you have a fun, creative way to add in physical activity to your dog’s daily routine?