Dogs are born to work for a
living. They’ve worked alongside us for thousands of years, and most are bred
for a particular purpose, like hunting, herding livestock or providing
protection. Dogs’ wild relatives spend most of their waking hours scavenging
and hunting for food, caring for offspring, defending territory and playing
with each other. They lead busy, complex lives, interacting socially and
solving simple problems necessary for their survival.
The most common job for our companion dogs today, however, is Couch Potato!
They no longer have to earn their keep and instead have to adjust to our more
sedentary lifestyles. They get their food for free in a bowl and are often
confined, alone and inactive, for most of the day. This lack of purpose leaves
dogs no outlet for their naturally active tendencies-physical and mental-and it
contributes to the development of behavior problems.
Another problem modern dogs face because they rarely work anymore is a lack
of opportunities to exercise. Some pet parents make the mistake of assuming
that if a dog has access to a yard, she’s getting exercise. But your dog
doesn’t run laps by herself in your yard-or do much of anything besides waiting
for you to come outside or let her back inside. It’s the interaction with you
Problems That Result from Lack of Exercise and Play
Dogs can be like young children. If you don’t give them something
constructive to do with their energy, they’ll find something to do on their
own-and you may not like it! Some of the most common behavior problems seen in
dogs who don’t get enough exercise and play are:
Destructive chewing, digging or scratching
Investigative behaviors, like garbage raiding
Hyperactivity, excitability and night-time activity
Unruliness, knocking over furniture and jumping up on people
Excessive predatory and social play
Play biting and rough play
Attention-getting behaviors like barking and whining
Benefits of Exercise and Play
The good news is that keeping your dog healthy, happy and out of
trouble with daily exercise is a lot of fun and provides many benefits,
Helps to reduce or eliminate the common behavior problems listed above,
such as digging, excessive barking, chewing and hyperactivity
Helps to keep dogs healthy, agile and limber
Helps to reduce digestive problems and constipation
Helps timid or fearful dogs build confidence and trust
Helps dogs feel sleepy, rather than restless, at bedtime or when you’re
Helps to keep dogs’ weight under control
Before You Start Your Dog’s Exercise Program
Check with your dog’s veterinarian before starting an exercise program. He
or she can check your dog for any health issues that may be aggravated by
exercise and suggest safe activities. Some size, breed and age considerations
Breeds that are prone to bloat that is, deep-chested,
narrow-bodied breeds, such as German shepherd dogs, Doberman pinschers and
Great Danes should not be exercised right after meals.
Small or short-legged dogs usually don’t need as much walking as larger
Breeds with short or flat noses (brachycephalic breeds) can have trouble
breathing when exercised vigorously.
Sustained jogging or running is not recommended for young dogs whose bones
haven’t finished growing. Because large dogs are more prone to cruciate
ligament injuries, arthritis and hip dysplasia, sustained
jogging can be hard on their joints and bones, too.
Sighthounds, like greyhounds and whippets, are built for short-distance
sprinting, not long-distance runs.