How often should I be exercising my dog?
I was once chatting to someone who had just bought a dog and they asked me – ‘How often should I be exercising my dog? Once a week…twice?’ The question astounded me somewhat as I thought it was obvious… but apparently not.
And, since then, the amount of people I’ve come across who own a dog and who don’t walk them for days on end, is too numerous to think about. It appears to me, more often than not, that it’s those with a garden and/or those who own small dogs.
Those with gardens think that’s enough, and those with small dogs don’t think they need the exercise because they have the house to run around in – small dogs may have small legs, but they are still robust and need to walk and play and run, and while getting out into your garden is great, a walk is also about mental stimulation from the sights and smells out and about.
So, Just How Often Should I Be Exercising My Dog?
Every day come rain or shine!
Health permitting, you should be walking your dog at least twice a day for at least 20 minutes each time, and given the chance to run around off-lead, or at the very least on a long extendable bungee lead if needs be. The chance to mix with other dogs is also essential for healthy social development. If you have a problematic dog who has difficulty mixing with other dogs, then it’s advisable to get qualified advice from a trainer to work through any issues.
Remember, dogs sniffing and foraging around is equal to humans reading a daily newspaper, having a catch-up chat or watching a favourite tv programme.
Every dog is different, fitness-wise, of course, and if you have any concerns about their fitness you should always visit your veterinarian and get them checked out and seek their advice.
I Have A Puppy…
Walks that are short and often are best. It’s good to be aware that for around the first 6 months of a dogs life, their bones are still growing and are fairly ‘soft’. So avoid encouraging them to leap and jump up and down excessively, as you could cause damage to their joints that might not show up until later on in their life – like arthritis or dysplasia.
Try not to let them go up and down stairs by themselves either, especially going down, as it’s a constant jarring motion – carry them down if you can, or walk before them so they can’t run.
My dog as so much energy, is there anything more I can do to tire them out while exercising my dog?
Try taking a toy, tennis ball, or football while out walking – most dogs enjoy playing fetch. If you want to add some more distance to each throw, try hitting a tennis ball with a racket, or use something like a Fling ‘n’ Fetch ball launcher.
Frisbee’s are great too. Remember to try and throw them fairly low to the ground so your dog doesn’t have to jump too high to grab it, and soft ones made especially for dogs are best to prevent chipping of teeth!
Is there anything else my dog can do for exercise?
Yes – swimming is great. There are many hydrotherapy pools around now and you should be able to find one in your area. Swimming is particularly good for those dogs with joint problems as the exercise is non-weight bearing.
While recovering from leg surgery, exercising my dog, Oscar, had to be done through swimming. While the majority of dogs there were recovering from surgery etc., there were a couple of Retrievers who were there just for the fun of it, which was great to see.
Still wanting more stimulation for your dog?
There are other options: have you thought about agility or tracking? There are many local clubs and a great place to start is agilityclub.org. Your dog will have fun, get lots of exercise and above all mental stimulation, that can, in most cases, be more tiring than a long walk!