Exercise: A Happy New Year’s Resolution for Your Dog

When we enter a new year, many of us resolve to get more exercise. But what about our dogs’ fitness needs? A dog typically requires more exercise than is often assumed, and not getting it can result in both health and behavioral problems. According to recent findings by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), an estimated 53.8% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. Health issues such as diabetes, joint problems and hypertension, as well as destructive behavioral problems, are considered to be on the rise in the US.

According to PetMD, some of the conditions that a dog can suffer as a result of excess weight are:

  • Exercise intolerance, decreased stamina
  • Respiratory compromise (breathing difficulty)
  • Heat intolerance
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Diabetes or insulin resistance
  • Liver disease or dysfunction
  • Osteoarthritis (lameness)
  • Increased surgical/anesthetic risk
  • Lowered immune system function
  • Increased risk of developing malignant tumors (cancer)

So how much exercise does a dog really need? This varies according to breed/size, age and personality. However, most experts agree that a minimum of 60 minutes a day of moderate to intense activity is a good general guideline. Breed types that require the most exercise are herding and sporting breeds, such as border collies and retrievers, followed by terriers of all types and scent hounds, bred for endurance hunting. Sight hounds like greyhounds and whippets have lower exercise requirements, since they are bred for short-distance sprinting. Toy breeds and the short-muzzled (brachycephalic) dogs such as bulldogs or pugs have lower requirements yet, but they still need exercise. For the latter, this can present a dilemma. That adorable scrunchy face comes with impeded airflow, which can put these dogs at risk for oxygen deprivation and overheating. A careful balance of exercise and diet can help to manage these risks and the risk of obesity.

Keep your canine companion busy and engaged with a variety of activities. Providing a mix of low intensity walks with high intensity games and activities is recommended. Higher intensity activities can include fetch, tug-o-war, swimming, jogging/hiking (if appropriate to your dog’s breed and age), day-care and/or dog park play. Another important factor in creating a healthy, happy lifestyle for your dog is offering sufficient mental stimulation. This can be a part of an exercise routine or a supplement to it. A dog can experience boredom, anxiety and depression, especially while you are away. Having her day broken up with activities provides the variety that your dog needs. An outing with a PugetPets dog walker is a great way to break the monotony. So are play dates, day care, and food puzzle toys. Dispensing one meal a day from a puzzle toy such as a Tricky Treat Ball, Tug-A-Jug, or KONG toy can add an element of fun and interest to your pup’s day. Frozen peanut butter or wet food in a KONG or marrow bone provides your dog with a longer lasting multi-sensory experience while you’re not at home. Low intensity walks, puzzle toys, and games involving scent-location of treats or objects will help keep both brain and body in shape for an older dog whose exercise requirements have tapered off.

So this year, whether you’re making your own fitness resolutions or not, remember your co-pilot! Tailor any exercise program to your dog, and you’ll have a companion who is happy, relaxed and fulfilled. Dog is Good…especially when dog is tired!