You just get home from work and are greeted at the door by a wagging tail and an exceptionally happy pup. You’re tired, hungry and just want to turn into a couch potato and binge watch Netflix. The last thing you want to do is put on your sneakers and take your dog for a walk because that means that YOU have to exercise. Fido will understand, right? You decide to kick off your shoes, grab some food and plop down on the couch. Your dog jumps on the couch and happily lays by your side. I get it.
Just because your dog appears to be content, doesn’t mean she doesn’t need exercise. Sure, your dog will gladly cuddle up with you, because let's face it, you are pretty much her whole world but are we compromising their health by not exercising them regularly? YES.
Dogs need a combination of physical and mental stimulation to be happy, healthy and balanced. When they don’t get adequate exercise, they are at risk for physical and behavioral problems.
Taking your dog for a brisk walk every day will prevent premature aging. As our dog's age, their tissue starts to degenerate and they lose lean muscle mass. Exercise paired with a healthy diet will keep their muscles strong, therefore enhancing their quality of life. I recently read an article about how bad it is for humans to sit for long periods of time without exercising. It suggests that having a sedentary lifestyle can shorten our lives. How can the same NOT be true for our furry family members?
In addition to a healthy diet, exercising your dog daily helps prevent obesity. Obesity is associated with heart disease, back problems, torn ligaments, arthritis, difficulty breathing, increased surgical risks and diabetes. There is even a link between obesity and certain cancers.
I have a dachshund, Rocket who is at risk for back problems by nature because of his long spine. Any additional weight on his back can increase his chances of developing IVDD, a serious problem in certain breeds, especially those with longer backs.
Benefits for Everyone
Taking your dog for daily walks strengthens the bond between the two of you. This leads to a strong and trusting relationship. There are also many benefits of exercising with your dog for human health. In an article published by The Medical Journal of Australia, studies show “if all dog owners walked their dogs, substantial disease prevention and healthcare cost savings of $175 million per year might accrue.” Spending extra time with your best friend does indeed help you live a healthier life.
Outdoor Dog Exercises
Below are some of the many ways to exercise your dog. Remember, letting your dog roam in a fenced backyard won't do the trick. Dogs aren't able to adequately exercise themselves especially when they are alone.
1. Brisk walk
5. Agility training
6. Playing fetch at the park
7. Socializing and playing with other dogs
*Be sure to contact your Veterinarian before starting any new exercise routine.
A dog that doesn’t get enough exercise can become bored or anxious which can lead to behavioral problems like chewing, scratching, excessive barking, going to the bathroom in the house and aggression towards humans or animals. Exercise keeps her mind happy and at ease. A tired dog is a happy dog!
We have very harsh winters here in Utah. Typically, we will get snow for several months straight. Some breeds love the winter, others, like my dachshund will barely go to the bathroom outside when it's snowing. So, what do you do when it’s pouring rain or snowing? There are plenty of indoor activities to keep your pooch mentally engaged and even active. Below is a list of ideas fun for you and your dog when the weather gets rough.
Hide and Seek
This is one of my favorite games to play with my pup, Rocket. You can play by hiding one of your dog’s favorite toys, or yourself! I tell Rocket to sit in his bed and give him the “stay” command. Then I will either hide his toy or myself and then yell out “Okay!” As soon as he hears me, he excitedly takes off and starts looking all over the house. I can hear him relentlessly sniffing. He is always so proud when he locates the hidden toy and jumps excitedly when he finds me behind the closet door. Sometimes my husband will join in on the fun and the two of us will hide together. Our go-to spot in the house is our bathtub. Yes, you can imagine the sight of the two of us squatting down, cramped in the bathtub trying not to laugh at ourselves while Rocket runs around the house desperately searching for us. Talk about spending quality time together!
Learning new tricks (and reviewing old ones)
Teaching your dog new tricks is always enjoyable, especially when treats are involved. Practicing daily keeps your dog’s mind sharp, builds confidence and beats boredom. Be sure to use healthy treats in small quantities so they don’t consume excess calories. Sometimes I will chop veggies into very small pieces or even use Rocket’s kibble as treats.
If you have space, you can play fetch indoors. Simply throwing a toy for them to retrieve followed by a little tug of war is a great way to keep your dog physically active. If your pup is a diehard fan, you can get him an iFetch Interactive Ball Launcher which will automatically throw the ball for you keeping him entertained and active for long periods of time. Just be sure to remove grandma's porcelain before!
On days when you're very busy, you can bring your dog to doggy daycare for a couple of hours. It’s great in the winter months because they can socialize and play with other dogs in a large indoor space. This will definitely help release pent-up energy and your pup will get to socialize with other dogs. Daycare isn’t for every dog. My dog is definitely more of a “people” lover than a dog lover. He is not a fan of daycare as it makes him feel anxious. When you bring your dog to daycare for the first time, be sure to observe if she is able to comfortably fit in.
Think about this:
The amount of exercise your dog needs depends on the type of breed, age and physical health of your pet. It’s best to talk to your Veterinarian about an exercise program that will suit your dog. Take into consideration the outside temperature. If it is very hot outside, your dog’s paws can burn and they can become dehydrated. If it's cold and icy, salt on the pavement can irritate your dog's paws. Find out how to protect your dog’s paws from extreme heat and ice.
Balancing life can be tricky. Work, kids, responsibilities, deadlines. I know for me, I would love an extra 4 hours in my day and I don’t even have kids yet! So, here is my challenge for you.
I challenge you to walk your dog at least once a day for 20 minutes. Tell me how your dog responds and the difference it makes by sharing in the comments below.