Play and Exercise for Dogs
Exercise is an essential element to a happy dog’s life. Dogs need play and exercise to fulfill physical needs but also emotional and social needs. The type of and amount of activity you can offer your dog may differ according to their age, fitness and surroundings.
The Importance of play and exercise
The best form of exercise is one that stimulates both your dog’s mind and body. Play is an excellent way of engaging your dog and satisfying their physical and emotional needs. A well stimulated dog is less likely to become bored and start exhibiting behavioural problems such as destructive behaviours, chewing, digging, excessive barking and poor socialisation skills.
What are the physical benefits of play and exercise for Dogs?
• Raises metabolic rate
• Increased muscle tone and strength
• Increased joint flexibility
• Improves circulation
• Increases bone strength
• Reduces risk of heart and respiratory disease
• Weight control. Avoids diseases such as obesity and diabetes
• Can help manage arthritis
• Boosts the immune system
• Aids digestion
• A healthier happier pet that lives longer
What are the emotional benefits of play and exercise for Dogs?
• Strengthens the bond between you and your pet
• Greater social skills
• Mental stimulation
• Emotional well being
• Reduces stress
• Brings about stable sleep patterns
• Reduces behavioural problems
Types of Exercise for Dogs
Whatever types of exercise you choose for your dog ensure that you have full control. Basic training should be implemented from the first day you introduce a new play or exercise activity. This ensures the safety of you, your dog and others around you. The best forms of exercise are those which involve both you and your dog. That way you’ll both get fit and reap the benefits together.
Walking and Hiking
The duration and intensity of this activity can be increased as both your strength and stamina levels improve, start with a moderately paced 30 minute walk and gradually build up. Walking on uneven terrain is much better for you since it improves muscle tone, coordination and burns more calories. Walking gives you and your dog the opportunity to explore the countryside around you. All the sights and smells of new territories are a great stimulation to awaken the senses of both you and your dog.
Throw and Retrieve
You may want to consider what your dog was originally bred for when choosing an appropriate physical activity for you and your dog to enjoy. Dogs originally used for hunting may love throw and retrieve games. Some dogs may take some time to learn to retrieve but these games provide an excellent way to strengthen owner- pet bonds.
Some dogs love to run and are happy to jog alongside an owner who is running, cycling or rollerblading. This kind of activity will be most suitable for breeds who are suited to running long distances and who are physically fit. Examples of such breeds are those that were originally bred for sledging etc. Many owners use their dogs as training partners and both will find their fitness levels raised as they reap the benefits of exercise. Start with a brisk walk, once you can both maintain this walking pace for 30 minutes try and turn this into a jog. Exercise studies have shown that interval training is a great way of increasing your metabolism. Try and intersperse faster bursts of running into your jog to maximise the benefits. Note that this kind of exercise is only suitable for dogs who are well trained, obedient and easy to control.
The benefits of swimming as an exercise are far reaching. This activity is especially suitable for overweight animals or those suffering from joint or skeletal problems such as arthritis. If you are going to introduce swimming to a dog then it is best undertaken in a specialist hydrotherapy centre as this is safer than outdoor swimming for the beginner. See our articles on swimming and hydrotherapy.
Using balls is a great way of engaging your dog in a physical activity. Once a dog has been introduced to a ball they can happily play with it for hours. Each dog will come up with their own individual way of handling the ball and will relish games with multiple participants.
Be careful when playing this game with small breeds. Make sure the ball is big enough not to be swallowed.
Play with other Dogs
Dogs love to play with other dogs and as long as your dogs are friendly and well socialised then this would be an excellent exercise for them.
The Importance of Nutrition
The food you provide for your dog is the fuel that fires their furnace. It is important for you to select a high quality meat based diet which is balanced in terms of all major nutrients. It is also important that your dog is fed species appropriate diet, not one littered with human food stuffs.
A common downfall with many pet owners is to choose the dogs food based on price rather than based on quality.
The increasing incidence of obesity in pets is mainly due to owners not meeting their pets exercise and nutritional requirements. Your dog relies on you completely for their food and owners must take responsibility for feeding their dogs a healthy diet which is appropriate for their size, breed and activity levels.