Advantages of regular exercise for your dog
The advantages of providing your dog with regular walks and exercise include helping to prevent injury by keeping the muscles supporting the bones and tendons strong.It also increases the cardiovascular system and reduces fat preventing obesity and helps maintain a healthy weight. For overall health, it improves gastrointestinal regularity, strengthens the immune system and improves sleeping and eating patterns. The psychological benefits to your dog are that it provides mental stimulation and enrichment and prevents behavior issues like jumping up, digging, chewing and nuisance barking.
Consequences of not providing regular exercise for your dog
The consequences of not providing adequate regular exercise and walks for your dog are that it can result in a dog that is unhealthy, bored, frustrated and just plain unhappy. Most excessive barking, chewing, jumping, digging and running away behavioral problems are caused by boredom and pent-up energy. It’s like living with a time bomb! You never know when it will go off…or how much damage it will do. The cost isn’t just in terms of property as the cost to your dog’s psychological health and ultimately physical health and could cost you a lot more in vet costs and dog trainers to fix their behavioral problems and health issues.
However, there are some common mistakes that many dog owners should avoid with their dogs exercise and walking routine. The first one being …
1. Not keeping a regular routine
Your dog needs daily exercise as opposed to nothing all week with a one or two-hour visit to the dog park at the weekend. The key to a healthy, happy and fit dog is regular, preferably daily exercise. Dogs love routine as it makes life more predictable and stable. Ideally, you should walk and exercise your dog at around the same time every day.
2. Exercise that is not suitable for that dog
It is important to tailor your dog’s exercise to that particular dog. It is common to think that if a 30-minute walk is good for a dog then an hour of high-intensity exercise must be better. This is not necessarily true as it depends on the dog’s age, breed and level of physical fitness. A small breed dog doesn’t need and probably couldn’t handle the amount of exercise a working breed may need. The likely result is a possible injury to your dog and it certainly would be stressful and not be much fun for the dog. The type of exercise should also be tailored to the particular dog. Lots of running upstairs, jumping or high impact exercise wouldn’t be suitable for a dog that is prone to back issues.
3. Not providing enough exercise
Not providing sufficient exercise for your dog can lead to both health-related issues and behavior related issues. Dogs that are under exercised are more at risk of being overweight or even obese with the related health issues that go with it. Even if the dog isn’t overweight their muscles are not being kept strong to support the bones, joints, and tendons. Dogs that tend to get injuries are more likely to be dogs that lack overall physical fitness and muscle conditioning. In addition, insufficient levels of exercise will leave your dog with pent-up energy making them frustrated and bored which are the most common cause of dog behavior problems like nuisance barking, digging, escaping and destructive behavior.
4. Overworking the dog
Overworking a dog can be just as bad or worse than not exercising enough. It is important to monitor your dog when exercising hard for any signs that they are struggling. Dogs don’t sweat like humans, so it is much harder for them to cool themselves down. Avoid hard exercise in hot weather. Even if the weather isn’t that hot it is still possible for a dog to overheat If your dog is showing any signs of overheating or potentially heat stroke get them to water and cool them off. Signs of heat stroke include heavy panting, confusion, sluggish movement and red gums and tongue. Overheating can also overload their system and cause them to have a seizure. Also, keep an eye out for any limping which may indicate an injury and check on your dog’s paws for signs of cracking or soreness.
It is also important to allow rest and recovery for your dog so the muscle fibers can rebuild and prevent any muscle soreness.
5. Not providing mental stimulation as well as physical exercise
It is important to provide both physical and mental stimulation for your dog. In fact, mental stimulation can tire a dog out just as quickly as physical activity. Going for a walk does provide mental stimulation also from the sights, sounds, and smells. One of the best ways to provide both physical and mental stimulation is by pairing brain activity such as learning a new trick or command, socializing with other dogs and any game that requires quick movement and decision making like fetch or chase.
You can also provide mental stimulation for your dog by using puzzle and interactive toys.
6. Not building up your dog’s fitness level gradually
As with humans, fitness is a process and you should increase the resistance of the exercise given gradually over time and not try to do too much without improving conditioning slowly. You can run the risk of an injury and make the activity less enjoyable for your dog by doing too much too soon.
7. Using the wrong gear
In theory, dog walking equipment is simple – a leash and a collar – but the options are limitless and can be confusing. Many people opt for a retractable lead but these can be unsafe and limit your control over your dog and are only a good option if your dog already knows how to walk on a loose leash and has good walking manners. Using a leash that is too short makes it difficult for your dog to walk without tension on the leash. Ideally, it is best to use a 5-6ft leash so your dog can walk comfortably while you maintain control.
Then there is the choice of using a collar or harness. A flat collar can put pressure on your dog’s trachea if they are pulling, while a harness that clips on at the back gives your dog more strength to pull. Both these options can make the walk unpleasant for both your dog and you. The better option may be to either use a roll collar, but not a choker or prong collar, (these are training tools) or a harness that clips on at the front giving you more control.
8. Not taking necessary safety precautions and being aware of the surroundings
When walking dogs, it’s important to be mindful of common safety hazards such as sharp objects on the ground, traffic or other dogs that may or may not be friendly. Many people become distracted by talking on their phone, text messaging or checking their social media
By paying attention to your dog, the less likely it is that they will get into trouble and your dog will enjoy the attention and be eager to please you.
9. Not picking up your dog’s poo
Be a responsible dog owner and clean up after your dog.
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