As a loving and responsible dog parent, you always think of ways to give your dog a happy and healthy life, and one great way is exercise. Dogs need physical and mental stimulation to keep their body and mind active.
Exercise has proven benefits for both you and your dog. It keeps both of you physically fit, helps clear your head after a tough day, and expels your dog's extra energy that would otherwise show itself as problematic behaviour.
And aside from dog training, which can be considered a facet of dog exercise, there are many other ways you can exercise your dog while having fun! Here are some of the best ways to exercise your dog.
Best Ways to Exercise Your Dog
Walking and/or Jogging
The most common form of dog exercise is walking, and for good reason: It allows you and your dog to exercise at your own speed. It is low-impact, which means it is gentle on your dog's joints, and it works for all fitness levels, whether you want to increase your dog's activity level or reduce their weight.
Keep the walks short at 20 minutes or so, and then gradually extend them over a period of days. Allow your dog to have a "sniff walk" and spend as much time as they enjoy sniffing all the new smells they encounter.
Once your dog gets used to walking, consider switching up the routine by jogging or running with them. Regular runs are excellent specially for breeds with high levels of activity. Some small but energetic dogs love short, sharp interval training sprints, while other dogs–especially bigger, working breeds– can jog beside you for 30 minutes or more.
Running may place a lot of stress on the joints, so it’s recommended to wait until your dog is at least one year old to give their joints time to grow. For the same reason, dogs that are overweight or have arthritis shouldn't walk for too long or run.
Dogs with flat faces (brachycephalic breeds like Frenchies and shih tzus) should also refrain from running since they may experience breathing difficulties.
Another good exercise is hiking with your dog. This builds their stamina. Hiking can be customised to accommodate various levels of fitness and physical capabilities. For example, even small dogs can go hiking, though you may need special carriers once they get tuckered out!
Most dogs like spending time with their owner while exploring new smells and seeing different sights, including other animals. Just navigating through the uneven terrain can do wonders for your heart rate.
When introducing your dog to hiking, start with shorter excursions on simpler terrain to let them improve their ability. Once your dog appears relaxed, gradually introduce him to more challenging terrain and steep hills.
Always bring a dog carrier or harness if you have a younger or smaller dog so you can assist them when they become tired.
Playing fetch is a fun and engaging way to exercise your dog. You can also play it indoors if you have some additional space and an easy-to-carry toy. Large living rooms, stairwells, and hallways are common areas used for indoor fetch.
Since you can do this activity almost anywhere, it's easier to teach your dog how to do it. Your dog may need some initial training for this, like knowing the names of objects so they can fetch the right ones, but after they pick up the skill and pay attention to your commands, it will be fun for them too!
Swimming is an excellent kind of exercise for dogs that enjoy being in the water. It's a full-body, no-impact workout that takes the strain off your pup's joints, making it ideal for older dogs or those with joint issues like arthritis.
While certain dogs were bred to enjoy time in the water, other breeds might find it challenging and may not have an innate ability to swim. It's advised to give them a canine life vest and keep them under close supervision until you're certain they're comfortable.
Better to keep swim sessions brief, around 10-15 minutes, to avoid getting your dog tired or overheated, or swallowing too much water (known as water toxicity). To prevent infections, completely dry your dog once they're out of the water, especially skin creases and their ears.
Doga (Dog Yoga)
Dog yoga, or doga, is a terrific way to bond with your dog while exercising, even though it may not burn off much of their energy. Encourage your dog to remain by your side during your practice and incorporate some simple-to-copy positions.
Poses including the downward dog, upward-facing dog, compass pose, happy baby, supine twist, and supported foetal pose may come more natural to your dog.
Another popular activity is agility training. With ladders, hurdles, and tunnels as obstacles, your dog runs through the course while you cheer them on from a distance. The fast speed gives you both a great aerobic exercise, and your dog also improves their coordination.
Usually, smart, active dog breeds excel in agility, but almost every breed can enjoy it, given that you modify some obstacles. Consider trying it out if your dog enjoys running and jumping and learning new skills.
Nose work games
Dog owners love to play nose games with their dogs to help improve their pet’s ability to recognize scents. It also keeps your dog physically busy while stimulating their minds.
To start, have your dog sit while you hide some of the treats around the house. If you and your dog never played a nose work game before, start with some simple, easily accessible spots.
Once they get the idea of the game, you can start hiding the treats in places that are more difficult to find, such as under carpets or on window ledges. This will train your dog to start using their natural sniffing abilities rather than only relying on visual cues to find the treats.
Don't forget to praise and reward them when they successfully follow the trail and find the boxes!
Playing tug of war
One of the most physically and intellectually challenging games you can play with your dog is tug of war, which continues for every bit of the game. Tugging is a terrific technique to exercise both your dog's body and mind while having fun and relaxation.
Additionally, it's a terrific approach to train your dog's impulse control because it's a game that depends on manners.
Tug is a terrific kind of exercise for dogs, but if your dog, especially a pup, hasn't mastered basic bite inhibition yet, they may find it difficult to follow the rules. Before attempting a game of tug, train your puppy not to bite first.
Just be careful with the toys you buy and how intense your tug would be, especially with puppies who are just starting to grow their teeth. You can also make your own tug toy using fleece or old t-shirts.
Just keep in mind to put your tug toy away when not in use. Numerous tug toys have rope or other components that could be choking hazards for your dog.
Keep your dog safe while exercising
Watch out for warning signs
A good exercise starts with safety. Make sure your dog is in their best condition and the activities they’ll be doing is appropriate for them.
In terms of how often and how hard you exercise, you should always take your dog's lead. Dogs can overheat and become exhausted much more quickly than because of their fur coats and shorter legs, so be aware of the following warning signs that your dog has had enough exercise:
- Excessive panting
- Tongue hanging out a long way
- Very pale or bright red gums
- Vomiting or diarrhoea
- Lagging behind you
- Hesitant to leave the house or continue working out
- Soreness in the day(s) following the workout
Consider their breed
Different dog breeds have different exercise needs and energy levels. Young dogs and working breeds typically require a lot of exercise. Set a short-term goal of exercising for just five or ten minutes each day. Work your way up to 30 minutes on the majority of your workout days.
Be aware that deep-chested breeds, like Danes or Doberman Pinschers, may be more susceptible than other dogs to developing "bloat" or gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV), a dangerous condition that may be related to eating large meals. This is why deep-chested breeds should avoid exercise after eating because the condition could be fatal.
Keep them hydrated
Dogs are prone to heat exhaustion and dehydration. Bring a water bottle/dispenser and collapsible bowl, and avoid going out when it's hot outside. Stick to shady locations with access to free water. Dogs who are dehydrated may pant excessively and show signs of disorientation, weakness, and collapse.
Brachycephalic or short-faced breeds, like bulldogs and boxers, are particularly at risk because they can't pant effectively.
Protect their paws
Long walks on rough terrain might harm your dog's paws, so start slowly. Most dogs develop thicker foot pads and won't experience any issues if you gradually increase the length of your walks.
Don't let them walk on asphalt or sand on hot days and check paws for ice buildup on snowy days. Think about getting a pair of dog booties if you go to particularly rough places.
A regular exercise schedule is essential for both you and your dog to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. And although dogs are usually enthusiastic when playing or walking, you may occasionally need to push them a little to get some exercise.
Take note of the aforementioned exercise activities and get them started with dog exercise, or start spicing up their exercise routine!