Exercise Considerations for Keeping Your Dog Healthy
All dogs need exercise. Physical activity helps your dog remain fit and healthy and also helps maintain his mental health. However, the exact amount and type of exercise your dog needs depends on several factors. Your pet's size, age, and physical condition all play a part in determining his ideal exercise routine. Many people find that exercising their dogs is also a great way to stay fit themselves. Even dog owners who aren't in the best shape are often willing to go the extra mile for their four-legged companions.
Is Your Dog Made for Speed?
Exercise needs should top your list of considerations when selecting a dog. If you are active yourself, you may be a great match for an athletic breed, such as a Boxer or Greyhound. They love to run and can keep up with the most dedicated joggers. Similarly, Border Collies and Weimaraners are ideal companions for long hikes. These dogs take delight in spending time outdoors.
It is important to remember that even smaller dogs need exercise. Chihuahuas and Toy Poodles are often pigeonholed as lap dogs. You might even see people carrying these breeds around in oversized purses. The fact of the matter is that many small dogs enjoy walking—and sometimes even running—as much as the next breed. Instead of jogging around the block with these dogs, however, you can simply plan a daily sprint to your mailbox and back.
If your dog is still a puppy, you must exercise him in moderation. Dogs under the age of one year particularly face an increased risk for injury from jumping and other intense physical activities. This is because their bones are still growing, making them more vulnerable to accidentally hurting themselves. The best exercise for a pup is often a good old-fashioned game of fetch. Watch for signs that your puppy needs to rest, and take things down a notch if he becomes too rambunctious.
Older dogs may need to take things a bit easier as well, but senior dogs' tolerance levels can vary. A dog who has spent most of his life going for long walks will still enjoy doing so as he ages. Owners of these senior pets may just need to slow down the pace a bit or take a break midway. And always bring along fresh water for your dog no matter how old he is.
Getting Back Into Shape
If your dog is overweight, you'll need to be extra careful with exercise. Physical activity can be a bit tricky for overweight dogs. They need to exercise, but the extra weight also places them at a higher risk for injury. The key is to keep the activity reasonably slow but steady. Your dog must literally walk before he can safely run. In the beginning, keep his walks short and slow. You can gradually increase both speed and distance as your dog begins to shed his extra pounds.
Tammy Gagne is a freelance writer who specializes in the health and behavior of companion animals. A two-time Dog Writers Association of America writing competition nominee, she has written more than pet care books for adults and children. She lives in New England with her husband, son, and myriad furry and feathered creatures.