Regular exercise is essential for staying fit and healthy, and dogs are no exception to this. Exercise is just one of your dog’s basic needs. Life gets busy, which is why many of us forget to give our dogs the exercise they need. Are you ready to find out what sports you can do with your dog?
Do dogs really need exercise and how much is good for them?
In general, most dogs should get one to two hours of exercise a day to help them stay healthy. Your dog may need more or less depending on age, breed and stamina. An older Shih Tzu may just want to lounge around on the couch, while a Border Collie or Pinscher may be doing agility for four hours a day and still want more.
No two dogs are the same, so discovering your dog’s exercise needs may take some time. If you are starting a new exercise programme for your dog, be sure to start slowly and let him build endurance and exercise tolerance. Watch for exhaustion, such as heavy panting, wheezing, wheezing, limping, disorientation, and slowing down or stopping to lie down during activities. Avoid outdoor activities on very hot days and make sure he/she has access to cool water at all times. Stop or reduce exercise if your dog seems tired, sore or uninterested in exercise. Contact your vet if you notice any signs of illness or discomfort during or after exercise.
What type of exercise is best for your dog?
Playing sports together can be a great way to bond with your dog while keeping you both active and healthy:
Walking is the classic form of exercise we usually give our dogs. And that’s okay, most dogs love walking! In addition to getting some exercise, a walk is a great way for your dog to explore the world with his nose. Don’t be in a hurry. Let your dog take as much time as he needs to sniff around during the walk. Try taking a different route every so often so he can see and smell new things.
Running is a great form of exercise for some dogs. Not all dogs can tolerate this type of exercise, though, so keep that in mind. Running with your dog can be easier when you use a light leash (running off-leash is usually not a good idea for legal and safety reasons). When you first start running with your dog, be sure to start slowly and work your way up to higher speeds and longer distances. Avoid running in hot temperatures, especially on hot asphalt, as this can burn paws. Check your dog regularly to monitor his exercise tolerance and take breaks as needed. Remember to take water with you on runs.
Not all dogs are meant to run alongside a bike. This can be dangerous in some cases (for you and the dog). However, cycling with your dog can be fun if you do it right. The most important thing is to start slowly. Let your dog get used to the bike. Then let him acclimatise to running and keep up with him. Pedal as slowly as possible at first and avoid too many twists and turns. Your dog should always be on a leash, so you may want to find a good bike accessory so you don’t have to hold the leash yourself.
Hiking gives your dog the opportunity to explore the world on a deeper level than just walking. When you first start hiking with your dog, keep your hikes short and preferably on cool days. Avoid difficult trails until your dog gets used to them and feels more confident.
As always, carry plenty of water. Your dog may even be able to carry his own backpack; just make sure it is well balanced and not too heavy for him.
Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs can swim. And some dogs simply don’t like to swim. But if you have a water dog, let him swim! You can incorporate the game of fetch and swim to make it even more fun. Just remember these water safety tips:
If your dog isn’t afraid of the water, but can’t swim, you can still teach him. Start with a dog life jacket and shallow water until he gets used to it.
If he likes the water, it won’t be long before he feels safe on his own.
If he doesn’t like the water, don’t push him. Some dogs are land-loving but not water-loving, so respect that.
There are lots of fun games you can play with your dog, some of which will also give him some exercise. Fetch, hide and seek and tug of war provide moderate exercise for your furry one and light exercise for you.
Games can also be used in training, which is a good form of mental stimulation.
Sports designed for dogs
There are many exciting sports for dogs today, and new ones seem to be emerging. Sports such as agility and canine freestyle will offer some light to moderate exercise as well as a great workout.
To get started with a dog sport, do a little research to find the ones that might be best suited to your companion.
Consult with your trusted veterinarian before starting any type of exercise for your dog. When you exercise, let him set the pace. Take water and rest breaks. Avoid exercising in hot temperatures, especially with dogs that have shorter snouts (such as Bulldogs or Pugs), older dogs and dogs with health problems.
Regardless of the type of dog you have, watch for signs of exhaustion, illness or injury. If in doubt, stop exercising and head for home.
Also, be aware of your surroundings when exercising with your dog: the presence of other dogs or people can create a dangerous distraction, especially if your dog is off leash.