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Exercise – a Great Gift for Your Dog and You!

A tired dog is a happy pet parent.  When dogs are well exercised and receive enough cardio, they are calmer and it’s much easier for them to focus.  Exercise does several things for your dog.  It controls weight, increases muscle mass and bone density and can slow the aging process. A dog that receives an appropriate amount and type of exercise will generally live two to three years longer than a dog that doesn’t.  Additionally, if your dog maintains a healthy body he will heal quicker should he sustain any injuries or undergo surgeries.  Exercise lessens or prevents behavior problems. Your dog is then able to rest in a relaxed state.

So what type of exercise gifts can you give your dog? There is a variety of options you can choose from and they’re not all physical.  You can exercise your dog’s brain with food puzzle toys, hunting for dinner, obedience and trick training, and chew toys. Great cardio exercise can be achieved with on-leash running, walking (depending on the speed and how often he stops to sniff), swimming, biking, and hiking.  If any of these activities are done off-leash then it requires an area that offers a safe fenced property or park or in a forest (if permitted).  Your dog can set his own pace, and sniff and investigate as much as he wants.

Before starting an aggressive exercise routine, make sure your dog is healthy and doesn’t suffer from health issues.   And, please consider your dog’s size, breed and age before choosing an exercise program that may not be safe for him.

Keeping your dog healthy, happy and out of trouble with daily exercise is a gift to them as well as to you.

The Benefits of Cardio Exercise for Dogs (and You)!

When we speak of “cardio” we assume we’re referring to aerobic exercise.  As a definition “aerobic” literally means “living in air” and refers to the use of oxygen to adequately meet energy demands using exercise.

Just like us, our dogs require cardiovascular exercise to increase and/or maintain their fitness level. The advantages of including a cardiovascular program into your dog’s exercise roRunning on a treadmill is a great way to keep your dog in shape.utine include:

  • Weight loss/management
  • Stronger heart and lungs for greater and more efficient circulation and respiration
  • Increased  bone density
  • Improved endurance

Dogs should receive at least 30 minutes of cardio exercise a day.  When you give your dog a cardio workout, you need to consider your dog’s breed (or primary breed, age and overall health condition. For example, if you have an older dog, or one with a short snout, or if you’re just starting an exercise program, take it easy. And if you’re ever in doubt as to how much and how rigorous you can exercise your dog, always consult with your veterinarian.

 A cardio workout can come in the form of a walk or run (which also benefits you), swimming, playing games – anything that makes your dog pant. Just be consistent and committed with your exercise routine.  This isn’t just for weekend warriors – it should be a daily commitment you make to your dog.   Be responsible – don’t go from zero to 60 if you and your dog haven’t exercised in a while.  Building your stamina gradually is the healthiest and safest way to achieve cardiovascular fitness.

Exercising Your Senior Dog

Just because your dog is considered a senior doesn’t mean he doesn’t want or need exercise. That being said, seniors’ needs are different from younger dogs and more care and thought is required when it comes to the amount and type of exercise you plan for them.Exercise in moderation is essential for your senior dog.

Unlike us, dogs are considered senior at different ages, generally depending on the size of the dog, sometimes depending on the breed. Whatever the age, it’s important that they stay in good physical and mental condition.  Exercise stimulates blood flow, oxygenating all tissues and eliminating toxins more readily.  It also helps bowel function something that’s very important for older pets. Without adequate exercise, muscles become weak so they can’t do as much.

The vigorous exercise that you give a younger dog most likely will not be appropriate for a senior.  There are exceptions and I’ve seen dogs that are eight, nine, ten years old still run a 5K – they started when they were young and the routine continued. They stayed in top physical condition through appropriate exercise, proper nutrition and constant vigilance of any physical and/or mental changes. 

In general, the activities you both enjoyed when your dog was younger require moderation as he ages.  Some moderate activities include: 

  • Walking – you can start out with 10 – 15 minutes once or twice a day and slowly increase to 1-2 hours three times a week.
  • Swimming – you can swim with him or play fetch in the water. This is especially good for arthritic dogs since it’s a low impact activity and gentle on their joints.
  • Fetch with a favorite toy.
  • Hide and seek. This also uses his scenting abilities and promotes that special bond between the two of you.
  • Dog Pilates – it can be taught to old and young alike. All dogs can benefit from core      conditioning.
  • Doga – yoga for dogs. This exercise can      improve flexibility and core strength, foster bonding, support positive behavior, and aid in your dog’s digestion. 

Exercise is an important aspect in maintaining the health of your senior dog.  As he gets older, you should moderate his exercise regimen based on his abilities. A dog that receives regular physical and mental exercise will retain his vitality and mental sharpness.  It is very easy to watch our senior dogs lie around snoozing. They look so content.  But regular exercise for your senior can improve his quality of life, and perhaps longevity of his life – and we all want that, don’t we!

Mental Stimulation for Dogs Through Exercise

Ask yourself how you would feel if you constantly spent every day, all day at home alone without any interaction with people and very little to keep our minds occupied. Those of us who have dogs and lead busy lives many times do exactly that to our dogs.  We leave our dogs at home alone all day.  Doing so can set the stage for destructive behavior, house soiling and compulsive behaviors. Similar behaviors can result if you crate your dog for hours at a time or if you leave your dog unsupervised and tied to a runner. Dogs are social animals and they need social interactions with people and other dogs in order to behave as normal dogs.  Canine company/friends should be a permanent feature in your dog’s life.  If this is started at an early age, it will help eliminate problem behaviors. 

Giving your dog adequate exercise is one of the most important ways to give our dogs the environmental enrichment they need.  Exercise is fun and provides mental kudos that last all day.  There is a misconceived notion if you walk your dog for a mile every day or let him sniff in the back yard he will get the mental and physical stimulation he requires to stay healthy.  Wrong!!  Twenty to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, for example, running, is minimal for a healthy dog but may not be enough for some young highly energetic dogs and athletic dogs. As long as your dog is physically capable, the more exercise he gets the better.  Exercise generates mood-stabilizing serotonin within the brain producing a feeling of well-being and mental stability. It’s often said, a tired dog is a good dog and a happy pet parent!

Physical, mental and emotional health considerations are necessary components of a solid overall health plan.  For maximum health, all three need to be included in your dog’s lifetime exercise plan.