Exercise for Dogs
Exercising Your Dog continued...
Exercise for Extra Playful or Active Guardians
On-leash walks Did you know that dog owners walk an average of 300 minutes per week, whereas people without dogs walk only about 168 minutes? Apparently, our dogs motivate us to stay active! On-leash walks give dogs lots of interesting sights and smells to investigate. They may provide enough exercise for some toy breeds, senior dogs and other inveterate couch potatoes. Use an extendable leash, like the Flexi retractable leash or the WalkAbout™, to give your dog more freedom to explore, and walk briskly for 30 minutes. To spice up your walks, vary your route once in a while to give your dog new smells and sights to enjoy. If your dog is old, not accustomed to exercise, overweight or has a health problems, start with a 10-minute walk each day and gradually increase the duration. For healthy young or middle-aged dogs, leashed walks alone probably won’t provide enough exercise. Keep reading for more suggestions for adding vigorous activities to your dog’s routine.
On-leash running, inline skating or bicycling These are great ways to exercise a healthy dog and keep yourself fit, too. Teaching your dog how to walk without pulling on her leash is the first essential step to creating a safe and enjoyable on-leash jogging, inline skating or bicycling companion. If your dog forges ahead, pulls to the side or lags behind you when you walk, imagine the problems that could result when you're moving faster! Constantly pulling on the leash can damage your dog’s throat, and it’s no fun for you either. (Please see our article, Teaching Your Dog Not to Pull on Leash, for more information.)
Here are some tips and things to consider when you and your dog try life in the fast lane:
- People are actually better suited for jogging or long-distance running than dogs are. Even when hunting or herding, dogs tend to move in short, intense bursts of speed with intermittent stops. Playing dogs do this as well, stopping to sniff around, eliminate and enjoy the scenery. If you jog with your dog on leash, be careful not to overestimate her abilities and go too far. If she seems stiff, sore and exhausted for hours afterward, scale back next time. Also, be careful to check your dog’s paws after a run. Dogs get blisters on their pads, just like people get blisters on their feet. Dogs with white or light-colored footpads and some breeds, such as border collies, can be prone to this problem. If you usually run, cycle or inline skate on paved roads, avoid doing so on very hot days. Instead, you can find some soft surfaces that won’t injure your dog's footpads, such as dirt and grass. Or if your dog’s footpads seem especially sensitive, you can purchase special shoes made for dogs, like Muttluks® dog boots (www.muttluks.com).
- If your dog normally gets to sniff around on your daily walks, she’ll probably try to do the same when the two of you are running, skating or cycling. You’ll have to teach her to pay attention to you during your outings. The best way to do this is by regularly rewarding her with small treats for not pulling. Pick the position you want her to run in and give her treats when she’s in that spot. Before you set off, give your dog ample time to relieve herself and sniff around. And after you finish your outing, you can give her another chance to eliminate and sniff before bringing her inside.
- Again, sustained jogging or running is not recommended for young dogs whose bones haven’t finished growing. It can also be hard on large dogs’ joints and bones. If you have a young dog, check with her veterinarian to find out when it’s safe for her to start running. If you have a large dog, ask her veterinarian if it’s safe for her to run with you.
- Because teaching a dog not to pull on leash can be challenging, don’t hesitate to enlist the help of a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) in your area. A professional trainer will offer group or private classes that can give you and your dog lots of help with leash walking. Please see our article, Finding Professional Help, to locate a CPDT near you.