Simple Ways To Exercise Your Dog

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As a society, we are obsessed with the allure of the healthy culture. We always strive to eat right, keep healthy habits, and exercise as much as possible. As important as this movement is, it raises the question if we hold these same values for our pets as well? With the amount of time a dog spends with us around the house, they deserve some fresh air. In fact, exercising your pooch is an overlooked task that has incredible benefits.

Why the Walk?

When considering improving your dog’s exercise routine, it is important to ask yourself what the right amount of activeness your dog requires to stay healthy. Every dog should exercise daily as a universal standard. However, it turns out that the answer to this question does depend somewhat on the breed of dog you own. This becomes apparent when considering that a toy poodle does not have the endurance of a Labrador, for instance. Therefore, larger and more active breeds will require more time outdoors than smaller breeds.

In addition to breed, age can become a factor as well. As an example, younger puppies have a tendency to have random fits of activeness, also known as the ‘zoomies’. Scheduled exercise with younger dogs can moderate these types of fits easier. On the other hand, older and slower dogs require walks just as much as any other pet, if not more. Despite their physical conditions, older dogs can find relief from arthritis with a brief walk or enjoy mellow water sports. Overall, the exercise dogs gain daily can help them keep their muscles toned, their mind sharp, and keep their body engaged.

Alternatives to the Everyday Walk

The words “go take the dog for a walk” can become a tiring chore day after day. While we understand that exercising does not mean solely walking, we often come to associate it with such when it comes to our pets. If you and your dog are bored of walking the same old trail, maybe it is time to try some other exciting options that accomplish more than just walking.

For instance, many agility groups and classes are available to allow your dog to be more active. A typical course often involves high-energy activities such as running and jumping in a competitive climate. Dogs involved will often gain tons of exercise as well as a boost in confidence and new athletic skills.

Tracking is another unique activity that can keep your dogs busy. Not every dog is a bloodhound, but that does not mean they are exempt from participating in this type of sport. This competitive event involves a person laying out a scent trail a few hours beforehand and allowing it to age. Once it is barely noticeable, dogs and their owners will come together and compete to find the object waiting at the end of the trail first. This activity allows a dog to run around freely as it searches for the scent, as well as training their nose to find new scents.

If you are in search of more cost-effective alternatives or want something that is more convenient, consider taking your dog to a park with their puppy friends. After all, the best exercise for any animal involves what they would naturally do. In lieu of people’s attention, groups of dogs can create their own fun. Allowing a dog to roam with their friends will improve their social skills as well as allow them to expend their excess energy in any way they please.

Fun Indoors

Being outside in the fresh air is the best thing a dog could ask for. Unfortunately, weather, schedules, and other circumstances can often inhibit an exercise session outdoors. Does this mean your dog is forced to be a couch potato until then? Even when stuck indoors, there is still so much a dog can do to release his restless energy in the meantime.

If you have stairs in your house, they can be a major source of entertainment for your pooch. Having them run up and down the stairs can expend a massive amount of energy while adding a new challenge of elevation and agility. To accomplish this, stand at the top of the stairs with their favorite toy and toss it down to them. When your dog picks it up, call them to bring it up to you and repeat the process. After a couple of rounds, they will most likely be tired out.

Another way to help your dog be active is with a homemade obstacle course. While some courses can be bought online, no purchase is really required for it to be fun for your dog. Objects such as hula hoops, couch cushions, and pieces of furniture can be repurposed into challenging obstacles for your pooch to conquer. Make sure to map out your plan and help guide your dog through the completed course as he grows accustomed to it. After a while, you can incorporate hidden treats within the course to both guide and challenge them to do their very best. In all, a proper course will challenge your dog both mentally and physically.

Simply playing with your dog indoors can also give them enough exercise in a pinch. An old-fashioned game of fetch can keep dogs entertained for hours as well as engaged and active. Most people find that tug of war can accomplish the same results, but the game does come with a hidden risk. Prolonged playtime with these types of toys can unleash pent-up aggression within a dog as well as create a power struggle between pet and owner. Games such as these become dangerous as a new owner with limited control over a dog and unestablished trust, especially if they are a larger breed. In these situations, simply understand the relationship between you and your dog when it comes to what they will enjoy.

When entering a healthy lifestyle, there are rules to remember such as healthy eating and frequent activeness. Yet, we must remember that there is not just one way to exercise and enjoy yourself in the process. Whether your dog joins competitions, walks often, or just joins in a casual game of fetch, they are improving their health one step at a time.

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Dr. Chris Vanderhoof, DVM, MPH

Chris is a seasoned veterinarian with over 15 years of animal health experience in small animal, large/farm animal, equine, and public health fields.

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