If you’re a dog owner, you’re less likely to be a couch potato—at least according to one recent study of California dog owners. Although dog owners in the study didn’t tend to rely on walking for transportation (getting to work or running errands) they were more inclined to walk regularly than non-dog owners.
While this is promising news for humans and dogs, not all dogs respond to the same type of physical activity. Depending on the breed and size, your dog may do better jogging briskly by your side, or accompanying you for leisurely late-night strolls. Herding and hunting dogs need more amounts of daily exercise to avoid becoming overweight. But some shorter-legged breeds are susceptible to allergies and heat stroke and are happiest as low-activity companions.
The Long and Short of It
The best type of exercise for your dog depends on the breed and size. Shorter legged dogs can’t always handle long, rigorous walks or jogs, unlike their long-legged counterparts. While longer legged dogs are better companions for longer walks and jogs, some short legged breeds might do better joining along in a stroller.
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends 30 minutes of daily activity such as short walks and swimming for low-energy dogs and older dogs (seven years and up). Short-nosed dogs, like Boston Terriers, don’t handle heat or extreme cold very well. Also known as the American Gentleman, Boston Terriers don’t require an excessive exercise routine, preferring walks or playing in the yard to anything strenuous. Since the Boston Terrier is sensitive to heat and cold, walks should be planned during the least extreme temperatures of the day.
Medium-energy breeds, like German Shepherds, have higher exercise demands compared with short-legged breeds. This category benefits most from moderately paced walks, or from agility exercises, which sharpen mental as well as physical canine abilities. AAHA recommends at least two hours of physical activity every day.
High-energy dogs benefit from regular activity, since it mellows their overactive behavior and keeps them from getting into trouble (and saves your slippers and carefully tended rose bushes). Jack Russell Terriers have a lot of energy and use much of it toward digging holes in the backyard. These high-energy breeds do best with a structured exercise routine that includes many walks per day or yard games to keep them occupied.
Exercise doesn’t have to be restricted to laps in the backyard or evening walks. Like humans, dogs rely on a balanced amount of physical activity to keep their minds sharp. Playing games with your dog helps provide them with mental stimulation, while also developing a bond between owner and dog. Frisbee sessions, swimming, playing fetch, and agility training are some of the ways in which you can incorporate exercise sessions for you and your dog.
Terriers will especially benefit from Frisbee chasing and other types of chasing games. Intelligent and energetic, this breed may enjoy obstacle courses to challenge their body and mind.
Dog Safety Tips
Think of your dog’s paws before you hit the pavement. If it’s hot outside, go for the grass, or wait until the temperature drops before getting in that run.
While it’s a good idea to give your dog water before and after your walk or run, all that activity will make your pet thirsty during exercise as well. Have plenty of fresh water available to distribute to your dog throughout the walk.
Unlike us humans, dogs don’t sweat to cool off—that’s why they pant, tongue out, when working out. It’s best to avoid bringing your dog along for a jog in extremely hot or cold weather. Look for signs of exhaustion when exercising with your dog. Overworked dogs are at risk for strained tendons and ligaments.
Signs of overheating include:
- drooping tongue
- glazed eyes
- heavy, rapid panting
- wobbling, staggering
Though some breeds, like Retrievers, may want to plunge right in, not all dogs love the water. You wouldn’t like to be thrown into the water against your will, and neither would your dog. Never force dogs to swim. And remember to consider the quality of the water—there could be harmful bacteria lurking in there—before letting your pet dive in.
How Dogs Improve Your Health
Studies continue to suggest the positive relationship between dog owners and their pets. While your dog will benefit from the frequent play and walking, your overall health will probably improve in many ways, too, including:
- cardiovascular health
- curbing obesity
- stress reduction
- social connection
Just remember to watch for signs of fatigue and distress when exercising with your dog, and to speak with your vet if you have any questions or concerns about the best type of physical activity for your furry companion.