How to Exercise your Dog

Exercise your Dog

While it may seem like your dog loves to spend his/her days lazing around, taking naps or walking around the garden, the truth is that like humans, dogs require a regular exercise routine combined with a good, healthy balanced diet to stay fit and healthy.

Here we'll take a look at the benefits of exercising your dog, when to start an exercise program as well as finding the right routine for you and your pet.

Benefits of exercise

Regular exercise offers a variety of physical health benefits for your dog like maintaining a healthy weight and developing muscle tissue, which aid in preventing obesity related health risks.

A varied exercise routine also has mental health and behavioural benefits. While some breeds are prone to certain behavioural issues, if you find that your dog is continually destructive and engages in incessant barking, digging or chewing, it can be due to lack of exercise and stimulation which is resulting in frustration. Adding exercise to a dog's daily routine often eliminates these problems altogether.

In addition, exercise supports healthy aging in dogs and has been proven to ease chronic symptoms while also allowing them socialise and explore. In fact, one study has even proven that dogs with hip dysplasia exhibit less lameness if they are allowed to exercise for longer durations throughout the day.

When to start exercising your canine

Dogs of all ages can benefit from exercise but the length and type of routine to allow must take into account their stage of life and fitness level before commencing. Puppies under three months should have off-leash time on softer surfaces such as grass or carpeting and stair climbing should be kept to a minimum or avoided altogether as this may increase the risk of hip dysplasia in certain breeds. Runs should be avoided until the puppy is at least a year old in order to ensure that their growth plates have closed.

Finding the right routing for you and your dog

The right exercise routine will depend on your dog's age, breed, overall health and physical condition. If you are in doubt, consult a vet for advice on the safest routine for your dog, especially if he/she is a senior dog, has never exercised before or has health issues. Some dog breeds are prone to overheating in warm weather (these include English and French Bulldogs, Pugs, Pekinese, Shih Tzu's, Boxers etc.).

Taking a brisk walk is one form of exercise that the majority of dogs and their owners can benefit from without much concern - unless a vet has specifically instructed you otherwise.

Other activities may include games of fetch, swimming, basic obstacle runs as well as mental exercises such as obedience training and food puzzles.

Some breeds enjoy agility training and competitive events but it is important that you take the time to investigate what these activities entail. It is important to only participate in training for these with organisations that offer gradual training programs so that your dog can build up a specific fitness for these types of sports.

Adjusting your dog's diet

It is important to discuss with a veterinarian what constitutes a healthy, balanced diet that is tailored for the amount of exercise your dog undertakes. Be mindful of the fact that if your dog engages in rigorous activity with you he/she may need a higher caloric intake to ensure adequate energy levels. If weight loss is an objective you'll need to know how much to feed your dog to offset its intake against energy expenditure.