It is no secret that physical activity a key to good human health. It should come as no surprise then that that regular exercise is also vital to good canine health. With dogs, exercise is more than physical. It is important to maintaining behavioral balance and has extra benefits of providing structured bonding time with the pet parent.
Before dogs were domesticated, their bodies were built for the wild – which meant hunting for food, water and shelter. In fact, it is not at all unusual for a wolf in the wild to cover upwards of 100 miles in the course of their daily routine. Contrasted with the mostly sedentary life of a domesticated dog, the need for regular exercise becomes rapidly apparent. Obviously, we can’t expect to provide 100 miles of physical activity a day for our dogs, and their bodies have evolved from needing that much stimulation, however, good regular exercise is still vitally important.
Live Longer, Live Healthier
Regular exercise has been shown to cause dogs to live longer, healthier lives. This is because exercise strengthens skeletal muscles and vital organs. Strong skeletal muscles help to stabilize joints, slowing the development and progression of arthritis. Strong organs, such as the heart and lungs, are more efficient at delivering vital nutrients throughout the body.
It’s Psychological Too!
The physiological benefits are obvious, but there are serious psychological ones as well! In fact, many experts attribute over half of all behavioral problems in dogs to exercise! A dog without an outlet to burn off excess energy (and keep themselves entertained by getting out of the house) has no choice but to find other ways to get rid of it, which leads to aggressive and destructive behaviors.
Regular Exercise is Key
A walk once a week simply doesn’t cut it. Life is busy, but your dog deserves a little time and attention too – otherwise, what is the point in inviting him or her to live with you? The side benefit is that some exercise time with your pup forces you to get out and explore the neighborhood as well, which also just so happens to be good for you, both physically and mentally. Try and provide your dog with a minimum of 15 minutes of good exercise time every day with a longer session at least three time a week.
Vary the Activities
In a gym, people both lift weights and do cardio workouts. Dogs need the same variety to build both strength and endurance. The best way to do this is by providing a variety of workouts for your pet. Walking and running activities are good for building endurance. Chasing and fetching activities provide good workouts for building strength as they require the dog to start and stop often and abruptly.
Lazy Dog? Work Up to It
If your dog hasn’t gotten much exercise recently, be sure to take it slow at first. Start with short activities and slowly increase the time over several weeks. Endurance workouts over 30 minutes should have a day between them for the dog’s body to recover. Be sure to check with a vet before starting a workout regimen for a dog with physical limitations, one that is significantly overweight, or for a dog that has had very little exercise in the past.