February 26, 2021
Every episode of the old cartoon The Jetsons ended with the lovable dog Astro eagerly holding his leash so that George Jetson could take him for a walk on the family treadmill that teetered on the edge of space. It never ended well for George, but Astro knew what most dog owners know now:
Regular exercise is part of the deal.
No matter a dog’s breed or age, exercise is necessary to maintain optimal health and a long life… just like it is with humans. And just as it is with us, what’s right for some dogs is not the case for others. You don’t need a vet to tell you that exercise for a Border Collie or a rescue mix can be more intense than for an English Bulldog.
If you’re wondering just how much exercise your dog needs, you’re not alone! Perhaps you overdo it, or perhaps you don’t encourage activity enough. That’s why it’s wise to consult with your vet about such matters and have a game plan from the earliest days your pup comes home. But at the end of the day, it’s between you and your dog.
To help, here are seven common types of exercises you can do with your dog...
1. WALK YOUR DOG
It all depends on your dog's age, size, and breed. In general, dogs need an hour of exercise every day. Make sure to give them the right workout routine. Some physical activities may not be best for all breeds.
2. THE DOG PARK
Most towns have at least one local dog park by now. It’s a community must, a regular meeting place not just for dogs—but their humans as well. There’s no better way for them to socialize with other dogs; and all we’re required to do is use common sense: Make sure our dogs aren’t pooping everywhere or being aggressive. The pooches get to run wild inside a fence, where there are no leash-laws to worry about.
All you need is a cheap tennis ball or a flying disc, and then let the madness begin. Some dogs will do this for infinity if you let them, and others might go get it but they are never going to just drop it at your feet. Either way, this concentrated exercise releases a LOT of pent-up energy. As with all forms of exercise, limit the intensity for flat-nosed breeds as breathing issues can grow severe with any extended physical activity. Common sense, always.
4. GO FOR A HIKE
If you like to hit the trails, there are plenty of opportunities to bring your dog along with you. National parks have clear guidelines on what’s permissible, as most NPS trails are off-limits due to dangers such as bears. But there are usually alternative trails, so you just need to do your homework. Always remember the NPS BARK guidelines:
Bag your pet’s waste
Always leash your pet
Know where you can and CAN’T go
Here’s one for every breed. Do your dog a favor, though: Make sure they have ample footing, like a carpet. (After all - you wouldn’t want to be in socks on a hard-wood floor trying to win a tug-of-war battle with someone who is a giant compared to you.) BUT avoid using an object like a stick, which can splinter and injure their mouth or digestive tract. I like to get my dog going by touching him on the side while I pull; he just growls and gets more and more into winning.
If you have the right breed, this is a natural exercise to encourage. A Labrador’s paws, for example, are webbed for this very purpose. ALSO, swimming helps improve your dog’s metabolism and circulation. As with humans, this also is a no-impact exercise that is great for the joints, and for dogs dealing with conditions like arthritis or dysplasia. If you have a dog that is going to sink like an anchor left unattended, then it still can be healthy to hold them in the pool and let them doggy-paddle. With all dogs, remember to dry their ears after being submerged, to prevent infection. Also, be extra cautious about chlorine levels. A warm bath afterward might be necessary to ensure clean skin.
7. AMAZING DOG SPORTS
There’s a physical activity for every type of dog. Consider setting up your own agility course either inside or outside. Your pup might be really good at this! At the very least, it mixes up the routine…like P90X, but for a dog. You can use a Hula-Hoops, boxes, any number of household and garage supplies. And it’s another perfect method of bonding.
Remember—Time is the Master
The other end of the age spectrum is important to know about as well. Physical abilities of puppies are limited and they are more prone to injury while their bones are still growing. According to Purina’s suggestions to dog owners, puppies should exercise no more than two times a day, with no more than five minutes of exercise for each month of age. You can find more puppy exercise suggestions here.
Exercise helps improve your dog's mental health. Give him or her activities that keep the senses engaged, as with that walk and the powerful smells. Brain games are great for those active and intelligent toy and miniature poodles to keep them from boredom. All dogs have personalities. Just remember there is a dog in need of rescue from a cage somewhere right now, and all it wants is to get out and exercise and do what it was born to do, with help from a loving friend.