Posted by Dr. Susan O'Dell DVM on January 28, 2016
A tired dog is a good dog. No matter the size of the dog, every pup needs a physical outlet to expend extra energy and maintain health and fitness. Regular exercise can improve your dog’s mental health and reduce unwanted behaviors done out of anxiety or boredom. It is important to note that each animal is an individual and you need to modify your program. We must make adjustments for age, injury and be mindful of environmental conditions too, such as extreme weather.
For a general guideline to exercise, we can divide dogs up by their breeds and what they were originally bred to do for their owners. However, remember to tailor your program to your dog’s needs.
These dogs include shepherds, sheepdogs and collies. They are the equivalent to a canine bouncy ball. They have very high exercise needs and should get at least 60-90 minutes of higher intensity exercise daily. Herding dogs were also bred to have above average intelligence, so make them work their brains! Intersperse training sessions with physical workouts to keep the routine fresh and interesting for both you and your herder. These dogs are at higher risk for behavioral problems if you are not careful to channel their physical and mental energies into appropriate activities!
This group is comprised of retrievers, spaniels, setters and pointers. They were bred for a long day of work, and should get at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity daily exercise.
From the little Cairn to the larger Airedale, these dogs are generally bouncy and charismatic pooches. Although they have significant exercise requirements, these dogs are smaller than the herding and sporting members, and will often get a fair amount of daily exercise around the house. They should still get a 30-60 minute moderate intensity walk daily.
This is a very diverse group that encompasses two types of dogs – the sight hounds and scent hounds. Sight hounds like Greyhounds, wolfhounds, and deerhounds have lower exercise needs. Although they have very muscular builds, they are sprinters that release energy in quick bursts. A 20-30 minute daily walk will suffice, but allow them a couple of harder sprint workouts per week. Scent hounds like Beagles, Bloodhounds and Coonhounds have higher exercise needs, similar to the sporting group.
Many breeds fit into this category, including Poodles, Chihuahuas and Maltese. Even though these cuties are smaller than the rest, they still need exercise! They have a propensity toward obesity and often do not get the level of daily activity that they require. They can, however, get a significant amount of exercise in a much smaller area. A good game of fetch in the living room can be a great aerobic workout for the wee pups.
These squash-faced dogs, like the Pug and bulldogs, were not created for marathon running. A shortened muzzle and wrinkly face might be irresistible, but they impede airflow and put these dogs at risk for overheating and oxygen deprivation. Avoid exercising these noisy breathers during mid-day heat or humid weather, and allow frequent breaks for cooling down.
Weather conditions are an important consideration for all dogs, not just the Brachycephalics. Pets can be victims of frostbite or heat stroke just like their people. If you live in the snowy, icy north, make sure you clean your dogs’ paws after an outing to remove snow and salt buildup that can be damaging to the pads. Dogs with thin hair coats may benefit from a nice dog coat or hoodie in the colder months. In the summertime, paws can also be damaged on hot asphalt or abrasive surfaces like the sandy shore. During any weather, it’s important to keep your dog hydrated. Bring along a compact dog travel bowl and fill it from your own water bottle.
There are a variety of different ways to wear out the over-energized dog in your life. Good old fetch is a fabulous method to exhaust Fido with minimal output of your own energy. Along those lines, you can employ a tennis racket to get even greater canine wear down. Swimming is a fantastic way to reap the benefits of exercise without the dangers of repetitive impact. Water workouts are extremely taxing, so increase swim times very gradually, starting with 1-2 minutes. You may also want to start out with a dog life vest, especially if you are far from shore. This is one of the best ways to maintain muscle mass in older dogs with joint disease and arthritis.
A good brain game can be almost as tiring as a long hike. Some dogs enjoy a food toy, which can be purchased at most pet stores. These toys require the dog to knock the toy around to make food fall out of small holes. It can be filled with small, low calorie treats or even a portion of his regular meal. If your dog is scent driven, he may enjoy searching for bits of food or treats hidden throughout the house. Another option is to drag a delicious smelly morsel, like tripe, meandering through the yard so he can sniff out your path.
After exercising your furball, spend some calm time with your dog before leaving him alone or confining him in a crate. It isn’t easy for them to suddenly shift out of high gear, particularly if they are left alone. Give him some time to transition, and it should become faster and easier for him to relax over time.