Exercising you Dog

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Exercise is as important for our dogs as it is for us. Puppies and healthy adult dogs need regular daily workouts, and senior dogs will benefit from regular exercise, too. Spending time exercising your dog can give you a healthy workout at the same time! Twenty to thirty minutes of exercise per day is recommended.

Like human athletes, dogs can adapt to strenuous exercise if they are allowed to train properly. It increases the capacity of their cardiovascular systems, keeps them at a healthy weight, and strengthens their bones and muscles. If your dog has not been receiving regular exercise, begin with just a few minutes each day and gradually lengthen the exercise period. Before beginning an exercise regimen, have your dog checked out by the vet to rule out any health problems, such as obesity, or heart and lung problems, that could make exercise dangerous.

Exercising your dog also has behavioral as well as physical benefits. Like humans, their brains produce serotonin during and after exercise, which has a calming and relaxing influence. When they are cooped up all day, they may become restless and bored, especially if they are young dogs. This is especially true of dogs who are crated all day while their owners are at work. Pent-up energy can result in undesirable behaviors such as chewing, digging, and excessive barking.

For more active dogs, a mere walk may not be enough; they will be more satisfied with running games such as chasing a ball or Frisbee. Make sure your dog has plenty of dog toys to play with.

When the weather permits, daily exercise is recommended. In the summer, avoid strenuous exercise in the heat of the day and when the humidity is high. Dogs can suffer from heat exhaustion as easily as their humans can. It’s better to exercise in the early morning or evening, when the temperature is below 80 degrees and the humidity is below 30 per cent. Dogs with a heavy coat, obesity, or lung or heart problems, will feel the effects of the humidity sooner than healthy or shorthaired dogs. Be sure the dog has plenty of fresh water and a place to cool down if necessary.

If the weather drops below freezing, limit exercise unless your dog is used to cold temperatures. If road salt is used on icy roads in your area, be sure to wash and dry your dog’s paws when you return indoors; the salt can burn your pet’s paws, and if they lick it off, it can make them ill. Older dogs who are suffering from joint disorders such as dysplasia or arthritis may not have any interest in running after a ball, or even be fit enough for a walk.

Swimming offers older dogs an excellent cardiovascular workout and strengthens their bones and muscles without the jarring impact of walking or running. If your dog is not used to swimming, don’t force him in. Coax him in gently and keep the first few sessions short. If he is swimming in a pool, be sure that there are steps or ramps for him to get out, and train him to know where they are. If a dog can’t get out of the water he will swim until he is exhausted and drown. Chemically-treated pool water will not harm your dog if the chlorine levels are maintained properly, but discourage him from drinking the water. Always have fresh water available. When he’s done swimming, rinse his coat and skin well to remove any traces of the pool chemicals. Swimming in a pond or lake is also an option, but keep an eye out for any boaters or fishermen in the area who create a hazard. Rivers, seas and oceans may have strong current currents that may carry your dog away. Always keep a close eye on your pet while he is swimming to avoid a tragedy. You may choose to purchase a life vest for your dog to wear while he is enjoying the water.

Some dogs enjoy running alongside their owners while jogging or bicycling. Dogs need to be properly leash-trained for this athletic effort. There are contraptions available to fasten the dog’s lead to your bicycle that have breakaway leashes for safety.

Across the country, dog play parks are gaining in popularity. This is a park where dogs are allowed to run free and play. Your dog should be well-socialized toward strange people and other dogs before you take him to a dog park. He should have all his vaccinations, and be spayed or neutered to avoid unwanted romantic entanglements! Observe dog park etiquette, such as cleaning up after him (most parks supply bags for this purpose), and supervising his play at all times.

Regular exercise can also aid in housebreaking. A dog that has had some vigorous activity often feels the need to relieve himself afterward. Give him time to calm down and take care of business before bringing him back indoors. Be sure to praise him when he eliminates in the appropriate spot!

Dog owners will find that ensuring their dog has a regular daily exercise period will have
benefits for the owner also!
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