When my own dogs don’t get enough exercise they let me know! Ivan will follow me around the house like a shadow, Merry will find any toy she can rip to shreds (and do just that) and Lola will bounce around the house like a ping pong ball trying to get anyone willing to play with her. This will all happen around mid afternoon on any day they have not gotten a minimum of a 45 minute walk. When this happens I know I have not done my job as an owner by giving them the physical and mental stimulation they need on a daily basis.
As a trainer, I see a lot of behavior issues that stem from lack of both physical and mental exercise. Insufficient exercise can lead to boredom and behavior issues. Examples of behavior issues include chewing, digging, jumping, separation anxiety, excessive barking and other forms of attention getting behaviors. Lack of exercise can also lead to obesity and other health issues in dogs.
The amount of exercise needed for each individual dog differs but one thing is certain, all dogs need some type of exercise every day to be happy, well behaved dogs. The best exercise for dogs is an activity that makes them work both mentally and physically. Many people believe that their backyard provides enough exercise and entertainment for their dog. The truth is that most dogs do not exercise when they are outside by themselves. They spend most of their time laying around waiting for their owners to play with them.
Here are some examples of ways to get your dog some exercise:
Walks: A good old walk is a great way to get your dog some exercise. Having your dog heel while walking is even better. When a dog is heeling he is getting both physical and mental exercise while having to focus on you.
Hiking: Hiking is like going on an even more exciting walk for your dog. He gets to see and smell new things while spending time in nature with his favorite person. Putting a backpack on your dog while hiking gives him a job while getting his exercise.
Fetch (or Frisbee): Fetch is a great game to play with your dog if he has the drive. You can teach your dog to drop it, sit or down before you throw the ball and wait until you give the okay for him to go get the ball/toy. Throwing the ball somewhere where the dog can’t see where it lands is a great way to meet their hunting drive.
Group Classes: Group classes are a great way to teach your dog new things as well as socialize him with other people and dogs. Examples of group classes are obedience, agility, rally-obedience and therapy dog class.
Food Puzzles/Kongs: There are many different types of food puzzles and Kongs available. These toys are a good way to give your dog a treat and keep them busy at the same time. The dog has to use their mind to figure out how to get the food out of the toy.
Play with other dogs: Playing with other dogs teaches them how to socialize properly and allows them to get physical exercise.
Tricks/Obedience: Teaching your dog tricks and obedience will tire them out both physically and mentally, and result in a better behaved dog. Dogs love learning new things especially if you make it a fun game for them. Keep training short and fun, and your dog will be happy to work for you.
Swimming: Swimming is just as good for dogs as it is for people, provided that your dog likes the water. Swimming is easy on their joints and can tire the dog out quickly.
Doggie daycare/dog walker: If you are unable to provide your dog with the proper amount of exercise he needs, doggie daycare or a dog walker may be necessary. Do your research and find someone you trust with your dog and he is sure to have a good time.
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