Charles Hurty, DVM
Grove Veterinary Clinic
Exercising with Your Dog
We all know that exercise is important to our well being and health. This is also the case for our pets. Not only can exercise benefit our canine companions physically, but it also most certainly improves their behavior and mental health. It is known that dogs that don’t get enough exercise have more physical problems and exhibit more problem behaviors. Exercise builds lean muscle, prevents obesity and problems related to obesity, and allows for an appropriate outlet for built-up energies that lead to problem behaviors in some dogs.
The most obvious benefit of exercise is the prevention of obesity and obesity-related health issues, such as diabetes, arthritis, respiratory problems, and heart disease. Dogs that regularly exercise have more lean muscle and less fat tissue; these dogs experience fewer health problems and live longer, healthier lives.
Just as important is the fact that regular exercise prevents behavioral problems in our canine companions. Dogs need regular physical activity to disperse built-up energy appropriately. When some dogs don’t have appropriate ways (exercise) to be active, challenging behavioral problems can arise. These behavioral problems can include inappropriate destructive behaviors, such as chewing and tearing up of objects in the home. These untoward behaviors could also include excessive barking and sometimes aggression towards other animals or even people as their built up energies are misdirected.
When planning or initiating an exercise program with your dog, start slow and gradually. Our canine companions can suffer muscle injuries and/or joint pain (just like us) if they over exert themselves. Plan shorter runs or walks at first; don’t try to go for the marathon-type run right from the beginning. A physical exam by your dog’s veterinarian is advisable before initiating an exercise program; this can allow you to properly plan the appropriate type of activity or exercise and screen for any potential problems. It is important to monitor your dog for any exercise intolerance, limping, or breathing problems during exercise. If problems are noted, you should stop the activity and seek evaluation by a veterinarian.
Some dogs are better suited for different types of exercise; for example, some of the more densely muscled breeds (boxers, bull terriers) may have some difficulty cooling down their bodies during longer runs. For these types of dogs, shorter runs or controlled throw-and-fetch ball play may be more appropriate. Some dog breeds (Labradors Retrievers, Standard Poodles) do very well in water, and swimming may be the better activity for them. Finding the most appropriate type of physical exertion for your dog is important. The goal is to have fun; we don’t want to create a situation that is harmful to our companions.