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Exercise For Dogs: Why It's Important

June 11, 2015

To have a happy and healthy dog, you need to stimulate your dog mentally and physically. Most pet parents understand that if their dog doesn’t get enough exercise, they cannot expect them to be a well-mannered member of the family when they come home in the evening. A lack of exercise and mental stimulation often results in behavioral problems. 

WHY IS MENTAL AND PHYSICAL EXERCISE IMPORTANT FOR DOGS?

Dogs are natural workers. Retrieving, herding sheep and cattle, guarding the house—these are all jobs dogs had thousands of years ago.  Today dogs don’t even have to work for their food, and for the most part they live easy, sedentary lives. “This lack of purpose leaves dogs no outlet for their naturally active tendencies-physical and mental-and it contributes to the development of behavior problems,” according to Pet MD.

Dogs that do not get enough exercise often take part in the following:

  • Destructive chewing, digging, or scratching
  • Investigative behaviors, such as digging through the trash
  • Hyperactivity, excitability and nighttime activity
  • Play biting and rough play

"When you have a bored dog, that's when you start having trouble; they get destructive, especially in a bully breed," warns Craig Hughes, owner of Petmeisters Pet Sitting service in Atlanta, reported by CNN, “It's good to keep that energy burned."

MENTAL EXERCISES FOR DOGS: SUPPORTING YOUR DOG’S COGNITIVE HEALTH

If you leave your dog in the yard while you’re away at work all day, don’t expect him to entertain himself. Unless there is another dog to play with he will have no problem sleeping all day or barking at what’s on the other side of the fence. Mental stimulation for dogs (and humans!) is actually more exhausting than physical activity. “Constant thinking creates a lot of mental stimulation, which tires out the entire body,” according to Off Leash K9 Training.  There are different levels of mental stimulation:

  • Basic: Playing fetch with your dog requires that he focuses his attention, using foods like peanut butter or spray cheese in a toy requires that he strategizes how to get the food out.
  • Complex: Playing hide and seek with your dog is great mental stimulation because dogs are naturally good at tracking and retrieving.

Perhaps the most complex mental stimulation is for your dog to perform tricks and obey commands. Learning new concepts will wear out your dog in a good way! You can read more tips on our blog about dealing with separation anxiety.

PHYSICAL EXERCISE FOR DOGS AND THE DANGERS OF DOG OBESITY

Just like their human counterparts, dogs that regularly exercise will lessen their chance of becoming obese. In fact, more than half of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese, according to a study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). There are also a number of medical problems associated with obesity, including: arthritic changes in overly burdened joints, increased risk of torn ligaments, back problems, and more, according to Vet Street.  Exercising also helps to tone the muscles, and helps the body and metabolic system to function properly.

The kind of exercise a dog needs varies on the size and breed of the dog. For example, fetching and swimming is best for dogs bred to retrieve, pulling for dogs bred to pull carts or sled, chasing and exploring is best for hunting dogs, and chasing and catching for herding dogs.

EXERCISE FOR SENIOR DOGS AND DOGS WITH JOINT DISORDERS

Senior Dogs:

Keeping your senior dog active is crucial for his well-being. A lack of exercise can weaken muscles and limit their activity. Here are some tips to keep your senior dog active:

  • Walk your dog 10-15 minutes daily, and slowly increase to 1-2 hours, 3 days a week.
  • Play tug-o-war or fetch (it’s beneficial for you, too!)
  • Even a younger companion, like a puppy, can help get your senior dog moving! However some older dogs do not enjoy the company of a younger dog, so you should arrange a "play date" to see if they get along. You should also prevent jealousy by paying attention to the older dog first. 

 

Dogs with Joint Disorders:

Even a little bit of exercise can slow down the progression of canine arthritis, and if your dog already has it it’s still important that he gets enough exercise. Short walks with low intensity, and swimming are great options for arthritic dogs. For dogs with dysplasia, it’s important that dogs keep any extra weight off, it could put stress on the joints. Moderate running or walking can help strengthen the muscles around the joint, swimming is also an option. Just because your dog has a joint disorder, you should not rule out the importance of exercise. Exercise for dogs with a luxating patella or dysplasia or even arthritis is important with certain modifications. If your dog has a joint disorder, before you start your dog on a new exercise regimen, talk to your veterinarian.

 

Dogs Recovering Post Surgery:

  • Keep your dog's mind stimulated- This is important since a dog's activity is limited during this time. Food puzzles don't require too much movement, try stuffing a Kong or using an interactive toy.
  • If your dog has to be crated, trying moving the crate to different parts of the house every few days to keep him from getting bored. 
  • Physical therapy- Once your vet gives you the approval for your dog to have limited activity, one of the best forms of rehabilitation therapy is hydrotherapy. It helps to reduce swelling, and pooling of fluid in the body, improves muscle mass, strength, and range of motion. 
  • You can also walk your dog up and down the drive way for 10 minutes using an non-retractable leash. Walking can help improve your dog's range of motion, promote his normal movement, and improve strength and muscle mass.

Talk to your veterinarian about finding the right rehabilitation facility and method for your dog.

THE ROLE OF NUTRITION AND SUPPLEMENTS IN SUPPORTING THE ACTIVE DOG

 

Supplements:

You might also want to consider giving your dog a bone and joint supplement. Most joint supplements will help with joint comfort. However, there are more advanced supplements like Boneo Canine. Boneo will provide support for joint flexibility and mobility, as well as the formation of healthy bone tissue. Boneo Canine also contains antioxidants which is beneficial for active dogs who experience oxidative stress (an abundance of free radicals). Antioxidants help minimize oxidative damage to cells during intense activity and during recovery. You can learn more about how Boneo Canine works by watching this video: 

Nutritional Needs for Active Dogs:

A more active dog has different nutritional needs than a sedentary dog. To accommodate these needs, you can increase the amount of food you give your dog or by switching them to a higher fat diet. Extremely athletic dogs have nutritional needs that are extremely different than average dogs and their diet should be discussed with a veterinarian, according to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

 

About the Author

Bevi Edlund, Blog Editor

Hi, I'm Bevi Edlund. I'm a graduate of communications and journalism from Cal State University, Fullerton. I am also an animal rights activist and a huge dog lover! I think there is nothing more comforting than coming home after a long day than to your furry best friend. Here at Bio-Rep Animal Health, I'll be in charge of writing posts about lifestyle, nutrition and connecting with all of our readers.