In his own doggy way, Jake, a chocolate Labrador retriever, tried everything to tell his owner he needed more exercise. When his owner arrived through the door each day, Jake would play bow, bark, jump, bring him a tennis ball and his leash.
His owner, tired after a long day at work, just patted Jake on the head and melted into the sofa, holding a beer. Jake resorted to more direct methods to get his methods across. He chewed shoes, dug into the carpet and tore up the backyard so bad it looked as if they were testing missiles there.
Dogs, like people, are made for physical work. Exerting themselves brought not only dinner, but also a feeling of contentment as they rested. This is due in part to a mood-stabilizing chemical in the brain called serotonin, which is released during and after exercise.
Denied exercise, a dog just doesn’t gain weight. He or she can become destructive, noisy or generally antsy in the effort to relieve tension and pent-up energy. This is especially true of young dogs, which are often crated while the owners are at work. The morning or evening walks for a mile may not be enough, especially for active breeds. Twenty or 30 minutes of running each day – chasing a ball or Frisbee – is considered the minimum for most dogs.
Exercise for Better Behavior, Not Weight
Many people exercise their dogs to maintain or reduce weight. This is only partially true. While exercise does help control weight, it should be done to increase your dog’s fitness and for the emotional rewards it brings.
As mentioned before, a lack of exercise and play time brings stress and causes bad behavior. Some of the bad behaviors include:
- Excessive barking
- Pacing and acting “antsy”
- Improper elimination
Exercise can help with housetraining. A dog that has just exercised is often stimulated to relieve himself, so you have the opportunity to teach him to go outside. Because exercise has a calming effect, nervous or submission urination is less likely if your dog is the skittish sort.
Before exercising, however, make sure the conditions are not too hot or dangerous, and that you have plenty of cool, clean water on hand. For more information, see the article Exercising Your Dog.