All dogs need physical activity to be happy and healthy. A tired dog is also less likely to have behavior problems such as chewing, digging, or excessive barking. Dog obesity is a rising epidemic, and exercise has a huge impact on keeping your pooch trim. But how do pet owners decide the best amount of exercise for a healthy, happy dog?
How much exercise does my dog need?
In general, all dogs need at least 30 minutes of exercise daily. But your individual dog may need more or less, depending on age, breed, and overall health.
Puppies have a lot of energy, but also need a ton of rest for their growing bodies. Keep play sessions frequent but short, to allow for down-time between activities. The same is true as our dogs age; they need shorter exercise sessions with less intense activities.
Different dog breeds have different physical needs. Brachycephalic dogs such as pugs or bulldogs are not built for aerobic activities and can easily overheat even on cool days, so running is out for these dogs. However, sight-hounds and herding dogs are physically built for long days outside, and will need more activity to keep them healthy and happy. Keep in mind distances as well; a walk around the block is a long way for a Dachshund with his short legs, but just a blip on the daily schedule for loping hunting dog.
All dogs benefit from exercise, but too much can exacerbate previous health issues. If your dog is elderly or has joint damage, running may do more harm than good. Stick to low-impact activities like slow walks and swimming at your local dog beach.
How often should my dog exercise?
Dogs need daily exercise. Puppies and elderly dogs might benefit from several shorter sessions per day, while younger dogs might love a good, long run early in the morning and be good.
How much is enough...or too much?
A dog with "enough" exercise is able to sleep well at night, and has a good muscle tone and healthy appetite. If your dog has overexerted himself, it looks similar to a human; slowing down, heavy breathing, or stopping activity. Trust your dog and don't push her too hard.
What can I do besides walks?
Maybe you are unable to walk your dog, or just find it boring. There is a world of other options! Fetch, chase and other ball games engage your dog's body and mind. Swimming is a great option for older dogs with joint issues (just be sure to put your dog in a life jacket!). And even if your dog never competes, things like Frisbee or agility will still work out their bodies and be fun for both of you.Ellen Vossekuil.
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