In this lesson, Dr. Jamie shares her best tips on how to exercise your dog the right way. But first, let’s explore why exercise is so important for a dog’s mental and physical health.
Why exercise is important for dogs
Daily exercise is essential for dogs. Science has shown it improves not only physical well-being, but also mental health — by boosting the bond between you and your dog.
And as any long-time pet parent will know — dogs have a lot of energy they need to burn off! Exercising regularly allows you, as the dog parent, to better manage the dog’s behaviour. Chewing, biting and itching could be symptoms off a dog that just needs to relieve stress through exercise.
Exercise is also essential for senior dogs, in order to maintain muscle and bone health as they age. Exercises that provide less stress on their joints like swimming or underwater treadmill therapy can be extremely helpful.
Amount of exercise
The amount of recommended exercise depends on the individual characteristics of your dog such as their breed, age, and health. Dogs need exercise at all life stages, but the types of exercise and duration can change.
For example, a young puppy needs more short intervals of low impact exercise like walking and playing while they are growing. These play times can range from 5-15 minutes. This will keep them mentally and physically active, but ensure they get plenty of needed rest without putting too much stress on their growing bones.
On the other hand, dogs in their prime can endure intervals of exercise with more impact like running, jumping, and hiking to stay fit.
The following might be a useful guide to understanding your dog’s exercise needs:
- Small/toys dogs: 30+ minutes/day e.g. Yorkshire terrier, maltese
- Medium dogs/terriers: 1+ hours/day e.g. schnauzers, bull terriers, poodles
- Large/active dogs: 2+ hours/day e.g. huskies, retrievers, collies
But please consult with your veterinarian for a more thorough guide to understanding your dog’s exercise needs.
Signs of exercise-related problems
While you’re having a blast exercising with your dog, remember that just like a human, too much exercise can result in injuries to muscles, joints, and bones.
If any signs of lameness or fatigue are noticed, it is important that you reassess the exercise routine for your dog and have them evaluated by your veterinarian.
Too little exercise can result in increased weight gain, loss of muscle, and decreased activity. In higher energy breeds, a lack of exercise can also cause destructive or unwanted behaviors.
Dr. Jamie’s personal favorite physical and mental exercise is leash walking. Walking with your dog is a great way to practice active meditation with your dog — it’s safe for all life stages and should be a part of your daily routine.
If your dog is recovering from an injury or has a chronic condition, it is important to see a veterinarian experienced in animal rehabilitation to help you build an exercise program tailored to your dog.