Saturday, August 24, 2013

The importance of exercise for your dog.

Cuddles and me walking on a trip to the mountains last year
Copper at work with me on a mild day.
 Sometimes I get frustrated because I don't think folks really understand how important proper exercise is to a dog of any age.

It is especially important for growing puppies but is also very important for adult, senior and geriatric little guys and girls.

In addition to the obvious health benefits for both you and your dog(s), it also helps them mentally and behaviorally as well.

In my experience, a large percentage of the problems and issues that my dog training customers experience with their animals is simply due to inadequate exercise.

Here is a partial list of a few of the symptoms of an under exercised dog ( I borrowed these from the Web MD site):

  • Destructive Behaviors i.e.Chewing, Digging, Scratching, Eating remote controls, eating hearing aids (yes I had a student with a dog who did this once).
  • Investigative Behaviors i.e. garbage can raiding, pulling items off counters, opening the cabinet doors to explore and perhaps participate in destructive behaviors :)
  • Hyperactivity i.e. bouncing off the walls, awake all night
  • Unruliness i.e. jumping on people, rearanging furniture, etc
  • Excessive Predatory and Social Play
  • Play Biting and rough play
  • Attention Getting Behaviors i.e. barking, whining, etc.

Copper and Cuddles protecting the back yard

Dogs historically need a job to do. They need work. In some breeds this need is more pronounced than others. For instance terriers and shepherds very much need to have some job to do in order to be happy. Beagles, not so much :).

Without the proper amount of exercise, dogs basically get bored and that is what leads to many of the behaviors on the above list.

They also really need the mental stimulation that good, interactive(with the people) exercise provides.

Copper looking at something very interesting on the other
side of the fence (the grass is always greener there
 for some reason.
 There is a lot of good information available on how to exercise your dog.... there is also some not so great information out there. Here is what I suggest:

You don't have to be aggressive with it. I mean don't have to run any marathons with your dog or take him roller skating. I have mentioned before the importance of at least one good walk per day. This is a good start.  However, not all trainers agree with what I am about to tell you but, please resist the urge to get one of those fancy retractable leashes. They make proper leash control much more difficult and I have seen many people injured by them. That little line on them can burn you if you catch it on the retract. That little line is also very easy to trip over and become ensnared by. I very strongly suggest a good, old fashioned, flat leash. If you want a long one, you can get them 30ft. long if you like.

Cuddles and our normally very active foster girl Lovey
after a day of proper exercise.
Learn proper loose leash walking technique. If you do not know how to do this, Copper and I will be happy to demonstrate and teach you how. It is much easier to show you the technique than it is to write about it. It is one of those things that requires a developed feel. But, you can learn fairly quickly and easily.

It is very important that the exercise be interactive. Walking on the leash using proper loose leash technique provides a lot of interaction between you and the dog. Also, if your little guy or girl likes to play with toys, play with them. Play fetch or something like that. It is a lot of fun and it helps the dog exercise mentally.

Also practice some of the obedience behaviors with your dog (i.e. come, sit, stay, down, leave it, etc). This also provides some mental exercise.

Please use some common sense here. Don't over do it. And please don't exercise outdoors in the heat of the day in the summer. There are plenty of indoor places you can take your dog to exercise if you must do it in the heat of the day. Also be particlarly careful with the so-called brachycephalic dogs (those with short flat little  noses like bulldogs and boxers). These dogs tend to overheat easily due to their physiology.

If your veterinarian is an evil alien, let me
know and I will give you the name
of a vet who is a native of the planet earth
Small, short legged dogs will not have the endurance for walking that larger breeds will have. It is also not the greatest idea in the world to exercise dogs heavily immediately following a meal.

Please also remember, the sight hounds are typically sprinters. They are not endurance dogs. Please don't overexercise them.

Obviously, if your dog has physical problems, do only exercise for which the dog is capable. If you are unsure call your veterinarian he will be happy to discuss it with you.

There are some benefits of regular exercise that may not be exactly intuitive. Dogs, much like people, remain more agile and limber with proper exercise. Proper exercise sometimes helps with certain digestive problems in dogs. Because of the interactive element of proper exercise, it is often a great help to timid or anxious little guys and girls.

If you need any help teaching your little guys and girls to behave properly on a leash or if you have any other training needs or dog related questions, please contact me at anytime!

Till next time


William Moore
William Moore Canine Training

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