Understanding the Importance of Regular Exercise for Dogs

Wednesday, October 11, 2023


While a dog’s exercise needs vary slightly by age, breed, and size, regular exercise is essential for all dogs. It helps maintain their general health and is crucial in weight management, brain development, bone health, and reducing behavior quirks.

A healthy weight also helps prevent excess pressure on joints, while exercise keeps them lubricated and strengthens the muscles that support them.

Strengthens Muscles

Just like people, dogs need exercise to strengthen their muscles. A good workout burns calories, regulates hormones, promotes more restful sleep, and reduces stress. It also helps maintain the correct body weight and eases joint pain, reducing the risk of health problems.

Dogs who don’t get enough physical activity can become bored, frustrated, and unhealthy. They may also exhibit destructive behaviors such as chewing. Dogs can live longer and healthier lives with regular exercise and a balanced diet.

Like humans, the amount of daily exercise a dog needs depends on their breed, age, and energy level. Typically, dogs need at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily. It’s best to begin with shorter exercises and gradually increase the duration as your dog becomes more comfortable. Try playing games that involve movement, such as fetch, hide-and-seek, or swimming. The added benefit of these activities is that they can be a great way to bond with your dog.

Improves Coordination

Regular exercise for dogs improves coordination and helps your dog move more efficiently. For example, running or walking exercises on a hard surface can strengthen their legs over time, improve bone density, and help them avoid injuries. It’s best to begin these workouts slowly and gradually increase the length and speed to prevent injury.

Exercising with your dog also improves the bond between you. This can promote a healthier lifestyle for both of you and may encourage you to stay consistent with your fitness goals.

While the exact amount of exercise your dog needs varies according to age and breed, most dogs who can move benefit from a daily quota of 30 minutes or more of physical activity. This can be anything from short interval training sprints to jogging together for half an hour. You can also try circuit training with your pup, where you alternate between exercises like push-ups, lunges, squats, and plank.

Keeps Bones Healthy

All dogs benefit from regular exercise, no matter their age or size. A fit dog is less prone to problems like arthritis, obesity, and behavioral issues stemming from restlessness and anxiety.

A quick walk around the block before a game of fetch, a brisk run or a hike can help a dog get a good workout without overdoing it. Some dogs, such as short-nosed (brachycephalic) breeds or puppies with growing bones, do not do well with long jogs. Instead, they may enjoy short bursts of play or a game of hide-and-seek.

It is a good idea to gradually work up to more vigorous activities as your dog gets used to them. This allows your dog to adjust to a new activity, which can also prevent injuries. Most adult dogs need one to two hours of exercise daily to stay healthy, but individual needs vary depending on age, breed and underlying conditions.

Reduces the Risk of Injury

Just like humans, dogs need time to build their endurance. Adding too much activity too soon can cause over-exertion, increasing the risk of injury. Consider the weather; a hot day can increase the likelihood of heat stroke or exercise-related soreness and stiffness.

Avoiding repetitive motion injuries is also important, as is varying the types of exercise you do. For example, switching between walking and jogging will help reduce the stress on your dog’s joints, as will doing some work on surfaces other than concrete or asphalt (e.g., grass a dirt track).

Avoiding "Weekend Warrior Syndrome" is another way to minimize injury risk. Dogs who do not exercise regularly throughout the week are at greater risk of injury during marathon exercise sessions on the weekend, possibly doing their joints more harm than good. Regular exercise can also improve behavior, especially in anxious and bored pets, and reduce related negative behaviors such as chewing or digging.

Improves Behavior

Dogs with plenty of physical activity are less prone to restlessness and stress, making them calmer overall. This can help prevent negative behaviors such as excessive barking, digging, and chewing, often caused by anxiety.

Regular exercise helps dogs burn off excess energy, preventing obesity and related health problems like diabetes and arthritis. As a dog walker, I have seen overweight dogs transform into agile and lively companions after establishing an exercise routine.

Exercise is a great way to socialize with other dogs and people, promoting positive interactions and building trust. Moreover, spending time exercising with your dog allows you to strengthen your bond and build lasting memories. If you’re unsure how much exercise your pup needs, ask your veterinarian for recommendations. Depending on your dog's breed and lifestyle, they will likely recommend daily walks or playtime sessions. Dogs bred for stamina and work roles typically have higher exercise requirements.

Reduces Stress

If you have ever had a bad night’s sleep due to lack of exercise, you know how frustrating it can be. The same can be said for dogs cooped up without regular physical activity all day.

Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural stress-relieving hormones. This helps lower your dog’s anxiety levels and makes them feel happier and calmer. Dogs with elevated anxiety often exhibit destructive behavior like excessive barking or chewing.

Small breeds often get overlooked regarding exercise, but they still need regular daily exercise, just like larger dogs. Start your small dog off slowly if they are not used to exercise, and gradually increase the length of their workouts. Always check with your vet if you’re unsure of how much physical activity is appropriate for your dog. They’ll help you set a safe and healthy exercise routine that will benefit both of you for years!

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