Experts in dog behavior agree that not enough exercise is at epidemic levels and one of the leading causes for canine obesity. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, one out of every four dogs is now considered over weight, and heart disease and diabetes are also on the rise.
“There are so many under-exercised and under-entertained dogs and that’s resulting in medical and destructive behavioral problems,” says Dr. Miller, a North Carolina-based animal behaviorist for the ASPCA.
Do You Know Your Dog?
How much exercise your dog needs depends on breed, age, size and over all health. But the consensus among behaviorists and veterinarians is that one hour a day of exercise is required to keep your four-legged friend fit.
That doesn’t necessarily mean throwing a ball until your arm aches or running miles with your dog (in fact, this is often not recommended). A breed and age-appropriate physical workout combined with engaging mental and social stimulation will satisfactorily tire out your dog. And, as the saying goes, “A tired dog is a good dog.”
When it comes to a physical workout, what will exhaust a Great Dane will be barely a starter for a Border Collie. A leisurely half-hour stroll may suffice for a toy breed or an old dog, but a bouncy Labrador retriever or a high-wired Jack Russell will require a a lot more.
That said, there are also some genetic limitations to the type of exercise your dog can handle. A Pug or short-nosed breed should not engage in strenuous exercise that will tax his breathing. Deep-chested, narrow-bodied German Shepherds, Dobermans and Great Danes should not be exercised right after meals, since they are prone to bloating. They also risk hip dysplasia and ligament injuries that sustained jogging may cause.
On the other hand, scent hounds like Fox Hounds score high on endurance and can go for miles without getting winded. Shorter sprints are advised for Greyhounds, Whippets and other sight hounds who run on speed and are not built for long distances.
Age Is A Factor
Then there is the age factor. “A developing puppy will need more thoughtful exercise that does not tax their rapidly growing bodies,” says Sarah Wilson, celebrity dog trainer and author of nine books including My Smart Puppy. “The safest bets are short, easy walks, swimming and playing on non-slippery surfaces.” She recommends that pups play with pups their own size or with a calmer older dog. “Be similarly protective of your tiny dog,” she advises.
Adult dogs have the most options when it comes to physical workouts. They can leap to catch a Frisbee or tennis ball, swim, hike (during moderate temperatures), and train in agility sports. The highest risk activity? “Rough, group play at day cares or dog parks,” says Wilson. Make sure to supervise that playtime.