Most of us have busy schedules or work a long day, leaving our dogs alone with nothing better to do than sleep, lounge on the couch or, in the worst case scenario, pick up destructive behaviors. Before concluding that your dog needs behavioral intervention, consider whether or not he or she is getting enough exercise.
Why exercise is important
For thousands of years, dogs have been used for help with herding, hunting, and working. Dogs want to have a purpose, and they often need to feel like they have a job to be happy. Without adequate exercise, dogs can become restless and develop behavioral problems. Attention-seeking habits like barking, or even destructive behaviors like chewing, digging, or scratching may all be signs that a dog that needs more attention, enrichment and exercise.
Benefits of regular exercise
Exercise isn’t just a way to forestall poor habits or save your house furniture; there are a ton of benefits to your dog being active on a daily basis. Regular exercise helps to keep your dog healthy, agile, and limber. It can also prevent digestive problems, constipation, and excessive weight gain. Exercise can provide a healthy outlet for your dog’s energy, helping them feel sleepier at bedtime or when you’re away from home. It can even help timid or fearful dogs build confidence and trust!
How Much Exercise Should My Dog Be Getting?
The short answer is that dogs need on average 2 hours of exercise each day, but this varies greatly depending on their age, size, and breed. A good rule of thumb is that your dog should be getting daily aerobic exercise (like playing fetch, Frisbee, or swimming), as well as a half-hour walk. The exercise should make them pant, but not become exhausted.
Modifications to the exercise rule of thumb:
- Herding breeds like Labrador Retrievers, Shepherds, and Border Collies usually require more exercise than other breeds.
- Smaller breeds, breeds with shorter legs, or breeds with flat noses don’t usually require as much rigorous exercise.
- Younger dogs should be exercised carefully and not for long periods of time, because their bones are still growing.
- Large Breeds prone to bloating should not be exercised right after meals.
Exercise ideas, for body and mind
Need some ideas for ways to incorporate exercise and enrichment into your dog’s daily routine? Try these activities that your pup will love:
- Activities that require minimal energy from you: fetch, hide and seek, catching bubbles, dog park “playdates,” and doggy daycare.
- Meal-time activities that stimulate the brain: food puzzle toys, using a Kong to “hunt” for dinner, and chew toys that encourage minimal physical exercise.
- Activities for active people: walks, jogs, hiking, on-leash bicycling, or swims at the park.