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Exercise for Dogs

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Exercising Your Dog continued...

Additional tips for on-leash inline skating and bicycling Being on wheels when attached to a galloping dog can be a bit dangerous. Squirrels, bouncing balls, the neighbor’s cat and other things that might distract your dog aren’t just slight diversions. They could have you suddenly traveling at light-speed and spilling onto your face-or worse, spinning into the path of a passing car. So, just like with running on-leash, the first step to rollerblading or bicycling with your dog is teaching her how to run beside you without pulling. Dogs often get more excited when running than they do when walking, so it will take extra training to teach your dog to stay in position at a run. If possible, first teach her this skill while running yourself, as described above, instead of skating or cycling. If you plan to cycle with your dog, it can be helpful to attach a Springer to your bike, a device that lets you attach your dog’s leash to the bike. The Springer has a coil spring designed to absorb and reduce the force of your dog’s sudden tugs if she lunges to the side, which will help you keep your balance and prevent your dog from pulling the bike over.

It’s important that you monitor your dog’s physical exertion while you’re on a bike or inline skates. It’s easy to over-exert your dog when you’re on wheels while she’s running. To avoid this, start with short distances at first and gradually increase them as your dog’s endurance increases. If your dog starts to lag behind a lot, you may be pushing her too hard or she might not be enjoying your outings. Slow down or consider taking your dog with you only when you plan to skate or cycle for short distances.

Off-leash exercise Off-leash walking, running, hiking or bicycling in a large, safe fenced property or park or in a forest are ideal activities. Your dog can set her own pace, sniff and investigate to her heart’s content, stop when she’s tired and burst into running whenever she likes. Be sure to have your dog well-trained to reliably come when called before you give her off-leash privileges. Please see our article, Teaching Your Dog to Come When Called, for training information. Dogs should be allowed off leash only in safe areas where regulations permit. As you would during on-leash activities, be careful not to overestimate your dog’s abilities. If she seems stiff, sore and exhausted for hours after exercising, you’ll want to scale back next time

Swimming Some breeds are natural water dogs and require no training or acclimation to water, but even dogs who aren’t bred for water activities can learn to enjoy a swim now and then. Here are some tips for fun and safe swimming with your dog:

  • Introduce your dog to water as early as possible, preferably when she’s still a puppy. If you do, she’ll probably be more confident about swimming as an adult.
  • Regardless of your dog’s age, make sure her first experiences with water are pleasant ones. Look for a quiet place with shallow water. With your dog on a long leash (about 15 to 20 feet long), start your dog at the water's edge. Wade in with her and encourage her with play and praise.
  • Never force your dog into the water, and don’t let her get in deep water over her head until you’re confident about her swimming abilities. Belly-deep is deep enough at first. As she becomes more comfortable, you can toss a ball a couple of feet to encourage her to venture in a little deeper.
  • If you swim with your dog, be careful that the two of you don’t get over your heads. Many dogs will try to climb on their guardian’s head or shoulders when they tire.
  • Bring fresh water for your dog to drink. Even freshwater streams and lakes can contain parasites and unhealthy bacteria.
  • Don’t let your dog swim into currents.
  • Don’t allow your dog to jump into deep water in a pool or lake. A dog can panic and possibly drown. Without an easily accessible ramp, she may not be able to get out of a swimming pool or climb back onto a dock.
  • For boating or swimming in lakes, get your dog a well-fitted canine life vest. You can use a long nylon lead to prevent your dog from swimming too far away or running off when she gets out of the water. Keep a close watch to make sure your dog doesn’t get tangled in the lead.
  • Dog guardians who fish should take steps to make sure their dogs can’t access fishing lines, lures, hooks or bait. Keep your dog away from feces, dead fish and shellfish washed up on the shore, which can contain toxins and parasites.
  • Make sure your dog has access to shade. Too much sun can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. If you have a hairless or light-colored dog, ask her veterinarian about using sun block on her exposed areas like her nose, ear tips and stomach.
  • Rinse your dog’s paws after visiting the beach to wash off irritating sand and salt water.
  • Dry out your dog’s ears after playing in the water to prevent ear infections. Please contact your veterinarian to determine which product is best for your dog.
  • If your dog has a heavy or soft coat-as do, for example, retrievers, collies and shepherds-be sure to brush her thoroughly after she’s dried following a swim. Soft coats can mat when wet and trap bacteria that can create local areas of infection called “hot spots.”
  • If you have a swimming pool, keep it securely fenced off or covered with a sturdy pool cover when not in use. Never leave your dog unsupervised around an uncovered pool. Your pool should have graded steps, to give dogs and children a way out of the water. Dogs and toddlers cannot climb ladders. If your dog can’t get out of the water, she will soon tire and drown. Also, don’t assume that your dog will automatically know where the steps are and how to exit the pool. You need to show her and teach her several times.

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