The importance of exercising your dog
Submitted by: Four Positive Paws
A trainer’s favorite subject! If you do not exercise your dog enough, you can try to train all you want and get nowhere.
A tired dog IS a well-behaved dog!
Exercise, along with enrichment, a good diet, a clean bill of health and positive training, is the most important factor in having a well-behaved dog. Unless your dog is very elderly, a leash walk is not exercise. It is exercise for the human end of the leash and an opportunity for your dog to sniff bunny trails and do his peemail, but it is not exercise.
Leash walks are important, though! It gets your dog out there in the world, you can teach him leash manners, allow him to meet friendly people to socialize him and keep him socialized (you’re never really done socializing your dog) but they are not exercise.
Exercise consists of some tongue-dragging games of fetch or tug in a safe, fenced area or inside your house:
- biking or jogging with your dog (not with puppies though — get your vet’s O.K. first — avoid pavement and use Tuff Paw or Musher’s Secret on your dog’s pads to prevent cracking)
- hiking on the long line (after your dog is leash trained)
- Sniffing walks (minimum of two 30-minute or three 20-minute walks every day)
- playing with other dogs
However, before exercising, please keep in mind the breed and age of your dog and the outside temperature and humidity. (You would not want to be running with a Husky on a 90 degree day.)
Remember to get your vet’s OK before beginning a new exercise program and to start in increments.
The more exercise you can give your dog, the better. Most young adult dogs need at least one hour of daily exercise, some breeds need a lot more. Herding breeds and sporting dogs under the age of five years, for example, need HOURS of daily activity to be happy and well-behaved companions, but not all of this has to be physical exercise.
Another form of exercise many people do not exploit enough is mental exercise and stimulation. Teach your dog some tricks and stuff your dog’s food in food dispensing toys instead of letting him eat out of a bowl. This way, his meals can keep him busy for an hour instead of for five seconds.
Dogs do not self-entertain. If you put your dog outside in your fenced-in yard, he will not exercise himself (unless there is another dog to play with). More likely, he will resort to boredom barking, trying to escape the yard or do some creative landscaping instead! So please always directly supervise your dog when he is in the yard.
As his guardian, it is your job to provide your dog with enough stimulation. If he spends 10 hours a day alone in the yard or in a crate while you work, do not expect him to be a well-mannered member of the family when you come home in the evening.
If you work long hours and truly cannot commit to keeping your dog exercised, please try to find your dog an exercising buddy — such as a friend or college student — or a professional dog walker or doggie daycare facility (great for active breeds, such as retrievers.) You and your dog will not regret it!
NOTE: Many new owners make the mistake of allowing their new puppy or dog to meet other dogs on a tight leash. On-leash time should always be “pay attention to mom or dad” time. Dogs who think they can greet every dog they meet have a tendency to become leash reactive later in life. Please teach your dog some self control (using positive methods, not force) while he is on the leash — even if he spots another dog, a squirrel or a cat.
Dogs should meet other dogs in a supervised, fenced, off-lead environment such as a small, dog playgroup (not a public dog park, where you have no control over who comes and goes). Another excellent doggie socialization spot is a well run doggie daycare or puppy kindergarten class. Please screen your dog’s play pals carefully if you have your own dog group. Do not let other dogs bully your dog and do not allow your dog to bully other dogs — no exceptions.