Dogs require regular exercise to prevent heart disease, stomach issue obesity and other health complications. However, not all dogs get the exercise they need for good health.
A dog’s lack of exercise often parallels its owner’s lack of exercise. Yet, exercising a dog doesn’t have to be a chore. Whether walking, running, playing with dog toys or tossing a Frisbee at your local dog park, there are plenty of ways for you and your dog to have fun as you exercise together.
Walking and Running for Exercise
One of the most important types of exercise for healthy dogs is regular walks. While walking is good exercise for you and your dog, daily walks also strengthen the bond between the two of you by as you spend quality time together.
Short walks may be all the exercise that overweight and older dogs they can handle. Dogs with heart disease or other health conditions may also have a limited ability to walk.
For younger, healthier dogs, a routine of walking can be complemented by jogging or running. Running releases a dog’s excess energy and stress and, therefore, helps you maintain a healthy dog.
Dog Parks and Exercise
Walking and running a dog in public requires a leash that can restrict his ability to exercise. If you want your dog to run free, then dog parks where he can run, play, and exercise off the leash are the best option.
Dog parks and dog beaches are becoming increasingly popular. Most major U.S. cities publish a list of local parks and their hours of operation. Check your city’s internet site for your area dog parks.
Besides being great places to meet other dog owners, dog parks let your dog socialize with other dogs and freely play catch with Frisbees and tennis balls. However, before taking your dog to a dog park for exercise, he should trained for obedience and be up to date with his vaccinations. An untrained dog in a dog park can spark dogfights or owner conflicts, and an unvaccinated dog could contract a serious disease.
Frisbees and Other Dog Toys
Frisbees and other dog toys can serve as great exercise options for many healthy dogs. Remember, however, that dogs don’t naturally know how to play with Frisbees; they have to learn how to catch them.
Playing with Frisbees is essentially a game of fetch, and some breeds are more interested in playing fetch than others. While herding or hunting breeds like Golden Retrievers and Labradors often love chasing Frisbees, a Chihuahua isn’t likely to be too interested.
If your dog enjoys fetching but can’t get the hang of catching Frisbees, try throwing other dog toys. He may have better luck wrapping his jaws around a squeaky toy or slightly deflated ball. A ball attached to short thick piece of rope is also a good dog toy and easier on owners who can’t run very far.
As in any other form of exercise, the level of physical exertion shouldn’t put your dog’s health at risk. Be sure to avoid overexertion for an overweight dog or a dog with heart disease.
Different breeds of dog have very different skills, and their exercise should be tailored to their abilities. Along with walking your dog and having him play with dog toys, you can exercise your dog by getting him involved in organized competitions. Whether your dog participates in a Frisbee, sledding, or carting competition, he will be getting the proper exercise to keep him healthy.
You can look into a variety of possible dog competitions. If you’re considering entering your dog, choose a competition that is well suited to his particular breed. If you own a herding dog, for instance, you could combine your dog’s exercise needs with sheepdog trials.
Agility contests, in which dogs race to complete a preset obstacle course, are enjoyed by many active, healthy dogs, but are best suited for well-trained dogs.
Overweight Dogs and Heart Disease
Exercise is the best way to prevent healthy dogs from turning into overweight dogs. An overweight dog is at greater risk of heart disease, obesity and a number of other health conditions as he ages. By maintaining a regular exercise regimen for your dog, you can minimize the amount and severity of possible health complications your dog faces as he gets older.
Some of the potential health conditions older dogs are more likely to suffer from are heart disease, arthritis and stiff joints. Although an older dog’s exercise needs may be severely limited, regular exercise shouldn’t be abandoned entirely.
Generally, older and overweight dogs require shorter, more frequent walks than healthy dogs. Dog parks may not be enjoyable for older dogs who aren’t comfortable around other dogs. Games of chase or catch may be too intense for older, overweight dogs, especially if heart disease is a factor.
An Alternative Mode of Exercise: The Canine Treadmill
For dog owners who can’t always take the time to exercise their dog, some pet supply stores offer an alternative: the canine treadmill.
Canine treadmills look a little like human’s treadmills, but surrounded by a wire dog cage. Although canine treadmills may seem silly to some, they’re practical in cold climates where it’s harder to take a dog outside for exercise. Similarly, the canine treadmill can be a good mode of exercise for a busy or handicapped person who lacks the time or ability to take the dog out.
Consequently, canine treadmills serve a nice alternative to more traditional modes of exercise for dogs.
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