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home : columns : columns December 17, 2014

1/28/2014 1:06:00 PM
Does your dog need more exercise?
Jasper, a border collie mix, playing catch. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee
+ click to enlarge
Jasper, a border collie mix, playing catch. photo by Jodi Schneider McNamee

By Jodi Schneider McNamee

The dachshund that you share your one-bedroom apartment with is overweight. Could it be because you work part-time and Fido hangs out on the couch most of the day without exercise?

Dogs, like humans, need daily exercise to live a healthy life and stay at an ideal weight. Not only will exercise keep your dog fit, it will also burn a lot of their excess energy.

A dog that is tired out from exercising may rest more calmly at home and have less anxiety when left alone. Exercise can improve bone and joint health and reduce digestive problems. Heart and lung function can also improve. Exercise will help keep your dog's weight under control.

Most dogs are born to work for a living and tend to love their jobs. They've worked alongside humans for thousands of years, and most are bred for a particular purpose, like hunting, herding livestock or providing protection. Modern dogs rarely work anymore.

Some pet parents assume that if a dog has access to a yard, he's getting enough exercise. Wrong.

A lack of exercise can easily result in boredom.

Did you know that by taking your dog for a walk or run, you are keeping him from destructive behaviors like digging or destroying your furniture?

A lot of dogs' unacceptable behavior is a result of pent-up energy. By having an exercise plan, you will benefit from a happier and better-behaved pooch. When you have a routine, you will find that your dog will look forward to his evening or morning walks. Also, a simple walk or a game of catch can create a bond that your dog will appreciate and enjoy.

You don't need to take up marathon running in order to exercise your dog, and in fact you could harm your dog with inappropriate exercise. Do research on your particular breed of dog, because the types of exercise that you choose for Fido should depend on many things such as age, weight, health and breed.

A shih tzu may need less exercise than a German shepherd.

The kind of exercise games for each dog would vary somewhat also. Labs would benefit from retrieving or swimming games, while herding and agility would be great for border collies.

A leash is probably the most essential thing you will need if you plan on taking your pooch for a walk around town or hiking the trails.

Since games really are exercise, outdoor toys such as tennis balls, Frisbees and even sticks are a great way to get your dog excited about going outdoors to play games. Another great way to exercise and socialize your dog at the same time is to bring him to a dog park; most likely Fido will be able to run off-leash! The possibilities are endless.

But what if it's too cold outside? You can still exercise your pooch indoors. Think creatively. If you have stairs, use them to tire out your dog; steps add an additional challenge to a dog's workout, as they engage different muscles that those used on a regular walk.

Set up an obstacle course and train your dog to jump through a hula hoop. This game can challenge Fido both physically and mentally. Make your dog work for his treats. Hide some treats around the house; it will keep your dog busy tracking them down. Engage your dog in a good old-fashioned game of fetch or keep-away. These games keep your pooch engaged, active and help to release pent-up energy.

If it's hot outside, dogs can experience heat exhaustion and heat stroke. So use common sense on very cold or overly warm days.

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