With the new year often comes the resolve to be more active, lose weight, and become healthier. Hopefully we haven't given up on our new year's resolutions already! In our quest to exercise more, it often helps to have a friend along, and what better buddy and motivation than a dog?
Exercise is just as important for the health of your dog as it is for you. Dogs who exercise regularly are less likely to be obese. When your dog maintains a healthy weight, he is less likely to suffer from ailments such as:
• heart disease
• respiratory disease
• joint pain
• hip displasia
In addition, a sufficient amount of exercise will help with behavior problems such as excessive barking and being destructive. People often surrender their animals because, despite training, they still tear up the couch, go through the trash, or chew on your new fancy shoes. These unwanted behaviors are not a sign of malice, but evidence that your dog is not being physically or mentally challenged. He's bored and restless!
And did you know that dog owners typically get more exercise than non-dog owners? Dog owners are a step ahead of the pack, when it comes to being physically active!
All dogs need exercise. The type and amount of exercise depends on the age, breed, and health of your dog. Dogs are as individual as we are, so there is no magic formula, but there are some loose guidelines to consider:
• Most dogs need between 30 and 60 minutes of exercise each day.
• Active breeds need more intense aerobic exercise such as running or swimming, preferably at least 30 minutes each day.
• Inactive dogs still need exercise. Playing fetch several times a day or going for a 30 minute walk works well.
• Small dogs are often thought to get enough exercise on their own around the house, but this is usually not the case. For this reason, small dogs are most often obese. Make sure your tiny pooch gets his fair share of activity.
The good news is that dogs enjoy most physical activities that humans enjoy. So whatever your pleasure, chances are, your dog can do it with you. A good off-leash romp in the dog park is a great way for your dog to get physical, as long as he's the social type and won't crash the party. The dog park can also be a great place for you to get social with other pet parents. Some other activities that people and dogs can enjoy together are:
• walking and hiking
• roller blading, skating, or skateboarding
• frisbee or catch
Before embarking on any new fitness activity, it's important to consult with your doctor and with your pet's vet. The veterinarian can help determine the intensity level that is best for your pooch and can monitor your dog, physically, as he gets in shape. If your pooch is more active, you can even up the ante by adding a weighted vest. This can be particularly helpful if your pooch can outlast you on your walk or run.
If you don't already have a pooch and you're looking to choose one whose activity level will match the time and physical commitment that works best for you, it's helpful to understand the history of the breed your are considering and what their strengths are.
Sporting Dogs require a lot of physical activity and are usually the best runners and swimmers. Their workouts can be intense, and they usually have considerable endurance.
Working Dogs are happiest when given a job or specific task that requires physical activity. Sled-pulling and flyball are examples. These dogs are quite physical and do best with a purpose in mind.
Herding Dogs need to be challenged mentally and are also require the highest activity level. Herding, of course, is phenomenal, if you happen to live on a sheep farm, but these dogs will also try to herd groups of children or cats. Talk about frustrating! Finding an activity that stimulates these smart, active animals is key.
Small and Toy Breeds don't typically require quite as much activity as other canine types (but still need a daily romp), with the exception of terriers, who are usually quite active and capable of going the distance. Terriers often like to dig, so providing your little guy with an appropriate digging outlet (or enough physical activity so that he's too tired to dig) will keep him out of your flower bed.
According to pawnation.com, the dog breeds most prone to obesity who can be helped tremendously by exercising regularly are:
Ironically, many of these dogs do quite will with high levels of physical activity. If you're looking for a real physical challenge and are the outdoorsy, athletic type, Animal Planet outlines the following breeds as most active:
German Shorthaired Pointer
Since most of these great activities you and your pooch can do together are outside, weather must be considered. Some climates can be extremely cold or extremely hot during certain times of year, and it can be unsafe to exercise outdoors for any length of time. Since I am a professional pet sitter in Phoenix, we deal with extremely high summer temperatures. I to not walk dogs when temps are over 100 degrees, so I most often exercise them just before dawn. It's still quite warm, often in the upper 80s or low 90s, but we don't have the intense sun to deal with and after the night, the sidewalk isn't as hot as it would be in the evening. The opposite holds true in extremely cold climates. The best time to exercise your dog would be when the temps are at their highest, usually in the late afternoon. A good guideline is not to do any form of prolonged outdoor exercise with your dog in temps below 32° F or above 85° F. Dogs are most comfortable exercising when the temperature is between 32° F and 70° F. Breed and coat must also be considered. Smaller dogs are not able to handle cold well, and dogs with shorter hair are also less tolerant of cold temperatures. The case is the opposite in the heat. Larger dogs with more hair are the least heat-tolerant.
When considering adopting a dog, it's important to be realistic about the activity level that animal requires. If you're a marathoner who wants a running buddy, an English Bulldog is not a good choice. If you already have a pooch whose energy level surpasses yours, maybe use that as motivation to become a bit more active, yourself.
Do you and your pooch exercise together? What are some of your favorite activities?