Exercise for Dogs
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 are:
- 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 dogs.
- 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.
Exercising Your Dog
With today’s more sedentary lifestyles, dog parents are often challenged to find enough outlets for their pets’ considerable natural energy. Dogs are more athletic than us. But take heart-there are a variety of ways to exercise your dog, from activities that don’t demand much energy on your part to activities that exercise both you and your dog. Dogs’ need for exercise varies depending on their age, size, breed and individual traits. Most dogs benefit enormously from daily aerobic exercise (exercise that makes them pant, like fetch, tug, running and swimming), as well as at least one half-hour walk. Choose activities that suit your dog’s individual personality and natural interests. Experiment with the ideas below to see what’s most practical and enjoyable for her and for you.
Exercise That’s Easy on You
Giving your dog enough exercise doesn’t mean you have to be athletic yourself. If you’d rather not run around or take long, brisk walks, consider two approaches to exercising your dog:
- Focus on brain, not brawn. Exercise your dog’s brain with food puzzle toys, hunting for dinner, obedience and trick training, and chew toys instead of excessive physical exercise. Please see our articles, Enriching Your Dog’s Life and How to Stuff a KONG® Toy, to learn more about providing mental exercise for your dog. To learn more about training, please see our articles, Training Your Dog and Clicker Training Your Pet.
- Focus on games that make your dog run around while you mostly stand or sit still. Games that fit the bill include fetch with balls, Frisbees or sticks, Find It, Hide-and-Seek, catching bubbles (using a special bubble-blower toy made for dogs, such as the Bubble Buddy™), chase (a toy on a rope or stick), and round-robin recalls for the whole family. (Please see our articles, Teaching Your Dog to Play Fetch and Enriching Your Dog’s Life, to learn more about these games.) If your dog enjoys the company of other dogs, other easy options include taking her to the dog park, organizing play groups with friends or neighbors who have dogs or signing her up for dog daycare a few days a week. These options give your dog a chance to experience invigorating social play with other dogs.