Long before dogs became man’s best friend, and our couch buddies, they were feral animals. That means they spent most of their waking hours hunting for food. And that purpose has shaped their anatomy, making them adept at hunting and taking down prey. Thousands of years of domestication and selective breeding have not completely erased their body’s need to move and to be active.
And that is why it is important that we recognize this aspect of our pets’ lives. To be completely happy, they need to be active. Remember this mantra: happy dog, healthy dog!
A Tired Dog Is A Happy Dog
I’ve heard veterinarians say that before. That tired dogs are happy because they’ve fulfilled their potential for the day. All dogs, no matter what breed, still retain in their DNA that need to hunt, to be active, to suddenly run at speeds that often surprise their unsuspecting owners. And we, as owners, must recognize and acknowledge this need in our pets.
Dogs that are not exercised not only become overweight, they also develop other health issues. They also become irritable and develop bad attitudes brought about by boredom. They become tired with inactivity. And they express this in many ways. Bored dogs will dig, bark, they will chew things around the house that they’re not supposed to chew on. They may even scratch and bite.
I know this first hand because, now that the weather is cold, we have not been able to take our dog out as often as we used to when the weather was warmer. And he’s chewed up quite a few things in the house since. He’s restless, running around, trying to get our attention, ringing the potty bell. We were guilty of doing precisely what we were not supposed to do, which was ignore him and keep him cooped up in the house, just because we were cold.
We reminded ourselves that taking care of our pet is a responsibility. And if taking him out in this cold weather is important for his health, then we had to suck it up and do it!
So much energy needs an outlet. And it is our responsibility as pet owners to ensure that we provide this outlet to our pets, on top of providing them a home and food to eat. Exercising them to the point of panting will also help keep them closer to their ideal weight.
Different Strokes For Different Folks
As a general rule, exercising your pets anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes a day is ideal. However, different dog breeds and different size dogs will require different lengths of time for aerobic exercises.
Dogs that were bred for sporting or herding, such as retrievers, setters, sheepdogs and various other shepherd breeds will require at least an hour a day of aerobic exercising. Thirty minutes may not be sufficient to burn off all their excess energies. And you may need larger areas to allow them to run around in. Walks, by themselves, may not do the trick.
And remember, if you want your pets to be more behaved during your walks, you need to burn off some of that energy before you start your walk! Which means playing with them first.
Hounds and scent dogs usually do not require as much activity. Thirty-minute walks daily, coupled with twice weekly trips to the park where they can more or less run around, maybe all the exercise that they will require.
Guard dogs usually don’t require long exercise sessions. Slow daily walks for thirty minutes will suffice. Although other working dogs like the Siberian Huskies may require as much exercise time as sporting and herding dogs.
Terriers are energetic enough as a breed, but their small stature means that short, brisk walks, even every other day, may be enough. Toy dogs also do not need much extraneous exercise regime, so short, brisk walks or activities, either outdoors or indoors, should suffice. If you can play fetch with them, then that should fulfill their need for activity for the day.
There are dogs, however, that does not need to be overexerted. In fact, over exercising them may be hazardous to their health. Dogs like Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boston Terriers can be endangered if over-exercised. Pugs, in particular, can develop severe breathing problems.
Signs Of Overexertion
Overheating is a huge problem with dogs, especially since they cannot regulate their body temperature as well as we can. Breeds with dark furs or with long hair are especially susceptible because they retain much of their body heat. Watch for signs of overheating such as frantic or excessive panting, lying down during walks, seeking shade, drooling and glassy eyes.
It’s always a good idea to have water handy when taking your pet for walks or to the park, in case they need to rehydrate. Use cool, not cold water. And if you notice these symptoms are not going away, and if you see your dogs confused, cool him with water and take him to the vet immediately. (It’s a good idea to know where you can take your pets for emergencies. Keep these numbers handy.)
You should also pay close attention to your dog’s foot pads. While they are normally resistant to changes in surface temperatures or friction, they can still be injured. Your dogs may be used to walking on dirt or grass, so for those few times that you walk them on a pavement, make sure you check their paws after your walks.
A good rule of thumb is if your palms can tolerate the surface temperature at which your dog is going to walk on, then chances are, he can tolerate it, too.
Finally, don’t assume your new pets are ready to go on day one! Like you, they need to be eased into an exercise regime slowly and deliberately. Starting them off with a full on exercise routine could cause short term and long term injuries to your pet. Take it slow in the first week or so. Let them get used to the environment, the routines.
Age Is Not An Excuse
Even old, tired, and injured dogs need regular exercise. You just need to be more gentle with them. The goal now is simply to keep them moving. Nothing heavy or too rigorous. Short, slow walks are great! Even swimming is an option, especially for dogs that have joint problems.
Pain is also an issue for our pets. Talk with your vets about a diet regimen, along with pain medications, that may help ease your pet’s pain while exercising. It will be a more pleasant experience for both you and your friend if he is pain-free while you’re enjoying your daily walks.
Healthy Pet, Happy Pet, Happy Owner
Our pets can live long and productive lives at our side. In the process, they can bring us a lot of joy. It’s no different for us. Just as we need to take care of ourselves if we want to live longer, it’s the same with our furry friends.
Just remember that movement stimulates the burning of excess energy that, if left untapped, could lead to major health and behavioral issues in the long run. So, to keep them happy, to keep us happy, we need to keep them, and ourselves healthy. We and our pets need to regularly exercise! It’s our responsibility to them. It’s our responsibility to ourselves.
No one knows everything. Especially new pet owners. Everyone will spend time groping in the dark. But always know, especially in this day and age of instant information online, that resources are literally at your fingertips!
For those who are more traditional, you can use your local libraries as a resource! There are so many books available for you to use to help you be the kind of owner your pets want and deserve.
For this particular post, aside from the knowledge we already possess through our experiences with our current, and previous pets, we also relied on Dr. Marty Becker’s book, “Your Dog, The Owner’s Manual.” Dr. Becker is a veterinarian who is a contributor to Good Morning America and The Dr. Oz Show. He’s also the pet expert for AARP.
He co-wrote this book with Gina Spadafori, a veteran journalist who has written about pet care for over thirty years.
If you have any comments, please feel free to leave them below! We appreciate hearing from you! Have a great, fun-filled day with your pets!