Think you don't need to exercise your dog daily? Think Again!
Dogs, like humans, need to be on the move by design. In the wild, a dog had to be on the move to stay out of trouble (e.g. avoid becoming a Velociraptor’s meal). Similarly, when a dog was hungry, the tastiest meal could only be got by hunting it down!
All that has changed in today’s world. Now, you serve your dog her food in a beautifully decorated bowl. And, she does not have to worry about predators getting to her while she lounges in the living room.
Trouble is, her body has not yet evolved to this new No or Low Exercise Reality. In fact, her body continues to do best when she remains on the move.
That is why dog exercise is important.
In this article, we will list specific reasons why you should make sure that you exercise your dog regularly (daily is best). We also provide exercise ideas for your dog and finally 4 key precautions to take when considering an exercise regimen.
#1. Exercise is fun
A regularly exercised dog comes to depend on the enjoyment derived from exercise. As the appointed time nears, she will get restless with excitement. Some dogs will even drag out your running shoes and fetch the leash. In short, they love it!
#2. Exercise helps keep your dog in shape
Dog exercise can burn off calories at up to ten times the sedentary rate. This tones her muscles and invigorates all the organ systems in her body, helping them to remain well-conditioned. Additionally, your dog has a far better chance of maintaining an appropriate body weight if exercise is a regular part of her routine.
#3. Exercise helps you keep in shape
Dogs may have the edge over cats because, unlike cats, owners usually have to be explicitly involved in exercising their dogs. This involvement often means that owners benefit from a reasonable workout as well.
#4. Exercise together enhances your bond
It’s early in the morning, the sun is on the cusp of rising, and the weather is cool and crisp — and there are only you, your dog and the walking trail. It is moments like these that strengthen the bond between you and your dog. A strong bond helps keep your dog calm, alert, happy, and interested in life.
#5. Exercise can help reduce your dog’s weight
If your pet has packed in a few extra pounds over the years, dog exercise is a wonderful way to help her get it off. Not only does exercise consume calories, but the increased activity help reduce the stress that her reduced diet places on her organ systems.
#6. Exercise helps the mental well being of dogs
Dogs that belong to “working” breeds like the Akita, or Boxer, in particular, derive enormous mental benefits from regular exercise. This is because working dogs often feel like they need a job to do. They thrive on the successful completion of a task given to them by their owners.
Such dogs may require tailored exercise regimens, but the extra effort will be well worth it. Without exercise, these dogs can develop all kinds of neuroses. Click here to learn how exercise can help with behavioral problems.
#7. Exercise improves sleep
Moderate exercise provides a workout not only for the body but for the mind as well. A pleasantly tired dog who has received the mental stimulation she needs will have a healthier, more restful sleep — beneficial to overall health.
#8. Exercise reduces OCDs
Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD) have a powerful mental component. Exercise’s mental stimulation and physical benefits counter OCD tendencies.
#9. Dog Exercise helps digestion
A healthy digestive system is critical to good health. Exercise is known to have positive effects on the digestive system. Your pet may often choose this time to evacuate her bowels; in addition, moderate exercise will improve her appetite; this is particularly useful if she is a finicky eater.
#10. Exercise helps bone development
The skeletal systems of dogs (and humans) — that is, bones! — are living tissue. Old bone cells die and new, healthier cells develop in a never-ending process. This remodeling process responds to exercise; your pet’s bones and joints will become more robust, making her less prone to arthritis and other bone disorders.
A word of caution: young growing puppies, especially of large breeds (e.g. Irish Wolfhound), should not be allowed to get too rambunctious.
6 More Reasons to Exercise Your Dog Daily
That’s right – exercising your dog is so important, I’m adding even more reasons why you should do it. And, in many of these situations, the benefits are just as rewarding for you as they are for your dog!
Here are 6 more reasons why you should exercise your dog every day.
1. Exercise Saves Your Belongings
I say it in almost every description of every dog on this website: a tired-out dog is a happy dog. If you don’t exercise your dog enough throughout the day, then you’re essentially encouraging your dog to engage in bad behavior.
It is less likely that a well-exercised dog will ruin your expensive belongings. It is also less likely that a well-exercised dog will develop anxiety or even aggression because he otherwise doesn’t know what to do with his pent-up energy. Save your belongings – and your dog’s mental state – by giving him the daily exercise he needs.
2. Exercise is the Fountain of Youth
Just as it does for humans, exercise acts as a fountain of youth for dogs. Daily exercise slows down the aging process, making your dog less susceptible to the diseases and conditions that can affect him as he ages.
Take it easy with an older dog. If you notice your dog slowing down or acting like that last exercise session was too rough, dial it down.
3. Exercise Encourages Socialization
Taking your dog for a daily walk can do wonders for both of you mentally because it gives you both the chance to socialize. In today’s world, humans and dogs both need to socialize more than ever. And what better way to socialize than to take your dog for a walk?
Dogs need to be out and about in the outside world just as much as we do. The lack of socialization can cause problems in dogs like anxiety and even phobias – just like people. A daily 30-minute walk is a good idea, in addition to any other exercise regimen you may have planned for your dog.
4. Because You Promised Him
Whether you adopted your dog or bought him from a breeder, the promise you made was the same: to do everything in your power to ensure your dog received the proper care he deserves. One of the ways to do this is by giving him regular exercise.
As your dog’s owner, you are responsible for your dog’s health. If your dog develops health problems related to obesity, then it is your fault for overfeeding him (or feeding him the wrong food) and not exercising him properly.
5. Exercise Provides Structure
Kids are healthiest when they grow up with a structure, and the same goes for dogs. When your dog knows that you take him out for exercise at the same time every day, he comes to depend on and look forward to it, which does wonders for his morale and behavior.
6. Exercise Improves Training
As I mentioned previously, when you exercise your dog, you strengthen your bond with him. This becomes incredibly useful during your training sessions. When your dog knows he can depend on and trust you, he is more likely to cooperate with you when you’re trying to teach him something new.
When your dog knows you love him enough to take the very best care of him, this encourages him to be even more obedient. This is because he wants to please you to give something back for all the nice things you do for him.
4 Ideas for Dog Exercises
If you’re unsure of the kinds of exercise you can regularly engage your dog in, consider the following list:
1. Low-Impact Exercise
If your dog is a puppy, elderly, or regularly experiences pain, then you may want to stick to low-impact exercise. Walking is the best option when you need to rely on low-impact exercise.
2. Medium-Impact Exercise
When your dog gets used to exercise and you want to push him out of his comfort zone a little, you can try jogging or hiking a flat trail with him. Playing fetch is also a great way to push him a bit further without overdoing it. Just make sure to bring him in when he looks like he’s had enough.
3. High-Impact Exercise
When your dog is old enough and/or fit enough, and you want to help him push his limits, now is the time to break out the high-impact exercises. Here, you’ll want to try running, hiking up and down hills, and even playing more strenuous games of fetch.
4. Mental Exercise
If you’re unsure how to challenge your dog mentally, you can try things like playing puzzles or games with him or changing his regular walking route. Scent training and agility training are other ways to help him stretch his mental muscles. Read our article on how to mentally exercise/stimulate your dog to learn more.
5 Exercise Precautions to Take Before You Begin
Of course, there are some things you should know when engaging in exercise with your dog so that you don’t encourage him to overdo it.
Here are 4 quick tips on what to avoid when exercising with your dog.
1. Be Careful in the Heat
Most dog owners know to take it easy when it’s too hot. But one thing many forget is to protect their dog’s paw pads from burns. If the pavement is too hot for you to hold your hand on it, then it is also too hot for your dog’s paw pads.
You should avoid exercising outside when it’s too hot out because, even though your dog pants to cool down, he can’t cool down as quickly as you can. If your dog is panting heavily or is having trouble keeping up with you, then he needs to take a break.
2. Take It Easy
When beginning a new exercise regimen, remember your dog’s level of activity. If he’s not used to exercising regularly, then he needs to build up the stamina to be able to complete longer exercise sessions.
Just like a person, he’ll need to start off slow at first and push himself gradually. If he seems unable to keep up, reduce both the length of the session and the intensity of the exercise until he seems like he can handle more.
For younger dogs, it is especially important not to overdo it. When a puppy’s muscles and joints are still in the process of growing, overactivity – like jumping up to or from heights, or long jogs or runs – can do permanent damage. Protect your puppy’s muscles and joints by waiting until he’s two years old or so before engaging in more vigorous exercise.
Many dog owners assume that swimming comes naturally to dogs, but this is not always true. Your dog may not be a strong swimmer, and that’s okay – even if his breed has “water” in its name, like the American Water Spaniel.
If you want to test your dog’s swimming skills, have him try swimming in a pool. And it’s never a bad idea to outfit him in a life jacket just in case. Even good swimmers get tired, which can lead to drowning.
5. Older Dogs
Owners of elderly dogs may be afraid to exercise them, thinking the dog may overdo it more easily or worse, break a bone. But the truth is that older dogs need exercise too to keep their bodies in proper working order.
If your dog has trouble walking without pain, talk to your veterinarian. He or she can prescribe medication or provide ideas for other forms of treatment so that you can still provide your dog with the exercise he needs to stay healthy.
The benefits of exercise are manifold. Not only is your pet benefited physically, but mentally as well. Ensure that your pet gets exercise appropriate to her age and breed and she will live a happier and longer life.
As a bonus, you will be happy to learn that studies show owners who regularly exercise their dogs tend to be fitter than people without pets!