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Exercising Your Dog

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Exercising Your Dog Empty Exercising Your Dog

Post by Admin Mon Jan 06, 2014 5:34 pm

Most dogs have been bred for a particular purpose. Collies were bred to herd, most terriers were bred for hunting/pest control, retrievers were bred to retrieve game for hunters, etc.. No matter what your dog’s ancestors were originally bred for, very often it will have an impact on the type of exercise it needs.

It is always recommended that you research your breed of choice before you go looking to buy a dog, as some breeds in particular need a huge amount of exercise, both mentally and physically. If you’re looking to buy/rescue (or already own) a mixed breed, it can sometimes help to take a guess at what breeds have gone into this dog.

Please do not make the mistake of thinking that letting your dog out into the garden for a couple of hours each day is adequate exercise. This is not at all mentally stimulating and doesn’t provide any directed exercise. It can be great as an addition to regular exercise, but relying solely on gardens to provide an energy release is just not suitable and doesn’t allow your dog to interact with you properly. Sometimes situations can arise wherein the owner has no choice but to limit their dog’s exercise for a while, but that’s a different matter.

I’m sure most dog owners will know from experience that a bored dog can quickly become a destructive dog. Without regular walks, they have to find their own ways to use up all of that boundless energy! This can involve hyperactive playing, chewing and barking. However, even these behaviours can’t always provide an outlet for the pent up energy in a bored dog, so other problems can then arise. The dog may start to gain weight, which can put a strain on the joints, muscles and organs and may also lead to such health problems as diabetes. The dog may also become frustrated and start to get snappy; very often, owners are baffled by their dog’s sudden ‘aggression’ and fail to take into account that it could be anything other than their dog turning nasty.  

Daily exercise can help to prevent the above problems from occurring. It can also be a very enjoyable experience for you and your dog, giving you both the chance to bond.

Some brachycephalic breeds such as pugs, English bulldogs and Shih Tzus can have difficulty breathing due to their shortened respiratory tracts. Another problem leading to breathing difficulties is the length and size of the tongue, cartilage and soft palates. These three things, although the skull of these breeds has been shortened over the years, are still normally sized. Due to the fact that they are compressed into a smaller space, this can obstruct breathing. With any brachycephalic dog who suffers from breathing difficulties, exercise should be monitored to ensure that they are not in distress.

It should also be noted that age is a factor in the amount and type of exercise a dog should receive. Older dogs may be weakening, and therefore may require changes to their exercise regimes (diet should be adjusted accordingly to avoid weight problems). Puppies and dogs younger than 18 months should not be exercised too strenuously, as their bones have not yet developed properly. This is even more imperative to remember with larger breeds such as mastiffs. Larger breeds can also be susceptible to ligament and joint injuries, so exercise should be built up to condition your dog, rather than jumping straight into strenuous activities.

For puppies, the general rule for the required amount of exercise is five minutes per month of age, two or three times per day. This doesn’t include off-lead play, as it allows the pup to rest when he/she needs to. This rule is usually applicable up until twelve months of age (give or take a few months), at which point you can adjust according to your dog’s needs. Understand that this is just a guideline, however.

It’s difficult to say exactly how long an adult dog should be walked for each day, as different breeds have vastly different requirements according to size, weight, etc.. Again, a general rule is about two hours per day, divided into separate walks. If you feel that your dog needs more or less, adjust accordingly.

As well as physical exercise, dogs need mental exercise! This can come in the form of:
Training (sit, stay, heel, recall, or something more adventurous once she your dog has grasped those, such as scent training). This is probably the most commonly used one.

Kongs, treat dispensers and puzzle toys. Puzzle toys are quite good, as they require your dog to work for treats and figure out how to gain access to them.

You can adapt mental stimulation according to what your dog loves most. For instance, if he/she loves food and treats, Kongs are excellent! If you start off simple, putting small treats in the Kong so that they just fall out when it rolls it along, your dog will quickly understand what he/she needs to do. Once your dog has grasped it, you can make it more difficult, adding pastes and larger treats.

Depending on how your dog reacts to squeaky or soft toys, you can try playing hide and seek with their favourites! The reward is finding the toy and getting praise, so extra treats are not a requirement.

You can also use tea towels, as strange as it may seem! Soak the towel in water, then twist it and tie knots through it. In each twisted section, you can hide treats in the folds. The towel can then be put in the freezer. Once it's frozen, your dog can have a lot of fun unravelling it to get the treats. It should be supervised though, in case he/she tries to eat the towel.

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