Exercising with your dog can benefit both of you!
Dog trainers and behaviorists tell dog owners all the time that dogs need exercise. A bored dog who doesn't get enough exercise is more apt to get into trouble. With exercise, a dog left alone will be happier taking a good long nap instead of chewing, digging, or barking.
What is Considered "Exercise" for Dogs?
Before talking about how much exercise your dog needs, let's decide what should be considered exercise. A very simple definition is if an activity causes your dog to breathe hard, that can be considered exercise.
So, for example, taking my three 40 to 50 pound dogs for a three mile walk is a good outing but it's not exercise because it doesn't cause them to breathe hard. (If the weather is hot and the dogs pant because of the temperature, that's a totally different thing.)
However, if my friend takes her two Papillons for that same walk – same distance and walking speed – it would be considered exercise. Her dogs have much shorter legs and the dogs have to work harder to maintain the speed and cover the distance.
With my dogs, however, retrieving a ball or toy, out in the yard where they can run hard, is good exercise. Dashing back and forth, jumping to catch the toy, and playing with each other will get them breathing hard.
To determine what is exercise for your dog, you'll have to watch him. Does a walk in the morning and evening when it's cool get him breathing hard? Or should the two of you go jogging instead? Does your dog like to retrieve toys or would he rather go swimming? Just as exercise for you should be enjoyable, so should his exercise.
How Much Exercise for a Dog?
There is no set rule as to how much exercise any given dog needs on a daily basis. If your dog is a couch potato, it won't take much to get him breathing hard and tired. My three herding breed dogs, who are very fit and well-muscled, need a good hour each and every day, at a minimum.
Take a look at how much daily exercise your dog gets now and gradually increase it. Please note that I said to do this gradually. A sudden increase in exercise could cause sore muscles or an injury.
Be sure to vary the exercise. For example, if you like to jog, maybe the two of you can go jogging two or three times a week, then have your dog swim one day, and on the other days the two of you can play retrieving games.
If your dog hasn't been participating in a regular exercise program, take him to the vet for a quick exam first to make sure it's okay for him to begin exercising. If your dog is a little older, do that too. My oldest dog, Bashir, is nine years old and I just took him in for his annual exam even though he's been exercising regularly. I just wanted to make sure everything was okay.
Exercising Your Individual Dog
Just as every person has his or her own exercise needs, so does your dog. Increase the exercise program slowly and watch for soreness or injuries.
Watch your dog as you begin exercising. If he gets hot or tired, stop, give him some water and let him recover. Then take it a little slower the next time.
If you have a puppy, talk to your veterinarian about what exercises your puppy can go. Avoid repetitive exercise on hard surfaces – especially running and jumping – as these could cause damage to your puppy's bones and joints.
Your old dog needs a gentle exercise program. Swimming is often very good for older joints.