Exercise guidelines for dogs

When it comes to dogs, it’s always the right time for playtime. But how much exercise is too much?

All companion canines need daily exercise to keep physically fit and mentally healthy. Supervised fun and games will satisfy many of your pet’s instinctual urges to dig, herd, chew, retrieve and chase. Regular activity also burns up calories and increases muscle mass and cardiovascular strength.

Individual exercise needs vary based on breed, sex, age, and level of health, but a couple of walks around the block every day and ten minutes to explore the backyard is probably not enough. If your dog is a 6- to 18-month adolescent, or if she is an active breed or random-bred from the sporting, herding, hound, or terrier groups, her requirements will be relatively high.

Select an activity based on your dog’s natural inclinations-border collies, terriers, sheepdogs, and corgis, for example, may delight in herding a giant boomer ball. At the same time, golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and retriever mixes love to fetch-especially in the water. Beagle types would be happy to hunt for hidden toys or treats.

On-leash jogging, race walking, playing Frisbee, and intense games of fetch can be satisfying, and tiring for the both of you, so be sure to start to slow this way. You’ll gradually build up your pet’s stamina, toughen her paw pads and strengthen her muscles. And remember, even animals with bad hips and arthritis can benefit from regular, gentle exercise – ask your veterinarian! If your pet is obese, gets easily winded, or is relatively sedentary, the ASPCA recommends that you check with your veterinarian before starting an exercise program.

If your pet obeys your training commands, one of the best things you can do is pay regular visits to the local dog run. All dogs, especially urban canines, love running and playing off-leash in a safe, fenced-in area. Just be sure your pet will come to you at all times should you say the word. A disobedient or aggressive dog is not ready to play with others.

Adequate exercise has an important side benefit, too. Boredom coupled with insufficient activity can lead to destructive behavior-this means chewing and digging and excessive barking and howling. Increasing your pet’s time on the move can help clear up a lot of these behavioral problems-especially during adolescence.

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