Common Myths About Exercising Your Dog
January 27, 2013
Training can be really complicated. It can leave me feeling like I need a whole pitcher of wine and a tranquilizer. Sometimes I get so wrapped up trying to solve a particular problem that I’m up at three in the morning skimming through my reference books for a lightening bolt of genius. That’s why I love it when I encounter a problem that has an extremely simple solution. If you do A then B will follow.
In the majority of the dogs I encounter that extremely simple solution is exercise.
When I ask people if their dogs are getting enough exercise I get a pretty predictable set of responses from people that definitely LOVE their dogs, but seem to underestimate what it means to have a dog that is properly stimulated-mentally and physically.
1) He gets at least an hour a day on-leash on our favourite route in my neighbourhood!
Humans are slow. Uber slow. I mean, death-crawl slow. At least compared to a dog. I’m not saying a leash walk is insufficient, but I am saying that if your dog’s only exercise is on-leash, you’d better be fast. You don’t have to sprint for an hour, but keep up the pace enough that he’s not falling asleep half way through. Furthermore, change up the route. No dog wants to look at the same thing every day and he certainly doesn’t want to smell the same smells every day!
2) He gets plenty of exercise, but it’s usually broken up into shorter walks throughout the day.
Even though your dog may technically be getting a good hour of walking a day when it’s all added up, he’s definitely not wearing himself out. Imagine you were going for a jog. Instead of doing one solid hour, you’re doing three short runs throughout the day of about fifteen minutes each. While it’s not going to HURT you, you’re certainly not going to develop any kind of cardiovascular endurance or even break a sweat! If you really want to wear your dog out (keep in mind, this depends on his age and his level of health), he’s going to need a good, hard bout of vigorous exercise. You might want to play fetch with your dog for a half hour straight in a big open field. All those quick bursts of energy will wear him out much more than a twenty minute stroll around the block three times a day.
3) He goes for really long hikes with us a couple days a week…that should be more than enough.
This has the potential for disaster written all over it. The less often your dog gets to see the world, the more excited he’ll be when he finally does. This means that when you do take him outside for that much-needed run, he’ll be even more difficult to control and he’ll be more likely to engage in fights because he’s so aroused and excited. Set him up to succeed by making his walks a consistent and reliable part of his day.
4) We have a huge backyard and he spends all day out there just playing!
This one is the clincher. I hear it all the time. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The backyard is NOT a substitute for a good long walk. The backyard is a fun place for your dog to have a pee or dig in your garden, but it falls wildly short of satisfying his physical needs. Moreover, the walk is as much about bonding with you, as it is about physical exercise. It’s impossible for him to bond with you if you’re inside watching TV while he fights tedium by barking at the neighbour’s kids.
So what defines a fantastic walk for you and your dog? How are you going to possibly satisfy your dog’s needs without killing yourself?
Take your dog for a walk every day. If you’re walking on-leash, do so quickly, throwing in some basic obedience along the way to keep things interesting. If your dog has a reliable recall and does well socially, take him to an off-leash park where he can really run around. Ideal off-leash areas are trails where you can keep moving, calling your dog and staying out of trouble. I can promise you that if you haven’t been making this a daily practice and you decide to give it a go, you will notice a drastic difference in your dog’s level of restlessness, and overall behaviour. Happy walking my friends!