HOW TO EXERCISE YOUR DOG
by Victoria Rose, Nanny 911 For Dogs traing and behavior modification, Salem, OR
Scootering is just one of several ways I exercise my Doberman, Jetta. It's a fun sport we both enjoy and it gives her a great workout. However you do it, regular and strenuous exercise is a powerful tool - and the BEST tool - to keep your dog calm.
Don’t Walk The Dog!!!
Why? Because walking does very little to fulfill a dog’s exercise needs.
Unless it’s a VERY small dog (so that it has to run to keep up with you while you walk fast), walking on a leash is almost NO EXERCISE at all for a dog. Dogs must RUN to meet their exercise needs.
Few people realize how much exercise the average dog NEEDS. Lack of exercise (RUNNING at THEIR pace, not ours!) is the #1 reason too many dogs are hard to handle, out of control, and then end up either “driving” their owners “crazy,” or worse, being turned over to shelters, usually because their owners decide they are “just too hyper.”
Exercise is the most-neglected aspect of most dogs’ lives and that which subsequently causes them, and their owners, the most grief.
As a rule: most dogs NEED to RUN (so walking on a leash is totally ineffective), until their energy is expended, 2x a day, RAIN OR SHINE, 365 days a year. Making sure they run is a chore, like feeding and grooming. It requires sacrifice on the part of the owner.
Dogs need it for their own health and general well-being. They need it to relieve tension and to de-stress. Sadly, most owners neglect their dog’s basic NEED for exercise. They may know the dog needs to get out and burn off some energy, but they feel too tired or too busy to meet this responsibility. They ignore (possibly because they are not aware of the importance of) their dog’s basic need for exercise, even though that dog clearly is totally dependent upon them, and at their “mercy,” for all its needs.
Just having a yard is not sufficient. Dogs generally do not exercise themselves in appropriate ways. If they are running, they are usually doing so in ways that disturb the neighbors and/or increase aggression, like barking or chasing children or other animals along the fence line.
The majority of dogs, especially those who get into trouble at home, are full of energy and under-exercised. They are the ones in the neighborhood barking at every little noise or activity they hear or see. These are the dogs chewing and digging up their yards. These are the dogs, that despite being social creatures, and REQUIRING social contact for their mental health, are relegated by unknowing or uncaring owners to the backyard – or worse, a chain - because they are deemed “too hyper” to be indoors.
First of all, it is wholly unfair to punish a dog because the consequence of our neglect annoys us. Secondly, there is no such thing as a hyper dog! There are only under-exercised (and untrained), dogs. These are the dogs whose basic needs are not being met, and for whom this (often-inadvertent) neglect is showing up as “behavior problems.” (By the way – no one gets off the hook by saying their dog’s behavior doesn’t annoy them. Even if an owner has a high tolerance level, or a dog remains well-behaved, the dog still needs to run and exercise for his own mental and physical health.)
In dog training we say, “A TIRED dog is a GOOD dog.” Properly-exercised dogs, as a rule, SLEEP ALL DAY. If a dog is awake and active all day, he probably is not getting enough exercise.
I advise my students: “If you have time to either train your dog or regularly exercise your dog, get out of class now and set up a twice-daily exercise routine. Twice-daily exercise is much more important than training, and… a regularly exercised dog often doesn’t even NEED any formal training because… a sleeping dog rarely gets into trouble and… ‘A tired dog is a good dog.’”
These are a dog’s BASIC NEEDS:
2. Social companionship/living in the house with the family/playing with other dogs
3. Exercise until “Hang Dog” tired twice a day, every day
4. Mental stimulation (Training, getting out in public)
5. Food (Good quality)
6. Regular and emergency vet care (when needed – not waiting until payday)
Neglecting any one of these basic needs is to fail to meet the standards of responsible pet ownership.
A routinely- and well-exercised dog can tolerate an occasional shorter or missed session without much, if any, consequence. And older dogs or dogs with lower than average energy may do just fine on once a day – the proof is in their behavior. When running your dog, be aware that most will not simply just QUIT when sufficiently tired. They’ll keep running. But if you take them home and feed them, you’ll find them retiring to their beds to sleep. So you need to experiment to see how much exercise is enough for your dog. If you bring him home and feed him and he still bounces around the house, he probably didn’t get enough.
Exercise requirement is one of the most important considerations when choosing a dog, and when making the effort to meet your responsibility for your dog’s basic needs. It helps keep him out of trouble, makes him a better neighbor, and helps him to be easy to live with. And again – even if a dog whose exercise needs are neglected is not exhibiting bad behavior, he still is suffering mentally and physically from the lack of activity.
By the way: My breed, the Doberman pinscher, is a VERY high-energy breed. I have lived with them in my own homes on fenced-acreage, and in rented apartments with no yards, but my responsibility is the same either way: I take my dog some place where there is room to run first thing in the morning, and then again late afternoon or early evening. Each time, I throw the ball for her to retrieve or I let her run with other dogs or charge around chasing squirrel scent or I run her with the bike until she is pooped out. Mind you, I HATE this chore. I would much prefer to get up in the morning, shower, etc., and then work on the computer all day, but I LOVE having a dog and know that in order for one to be calm and relaxed enough to live peaceably in my home, and to follow my commands, I must meet her exercise needs. And because I choose to own a high-energy breed, I know I am required to be out there longer and/or more often than if I’d gotten a dog of a lower-energy breed. So choose your dog carefully. Choose one whose needs match what you are able and willing to offer.
Sometimes I “kill two birds with one stone” by taking projects with me to wherever I am going to run my dog. While supervising her, and in between throws of the ball, I can read a magazine, write a letter, look through my mail, sew on a button or organize my car.
Recently I took up Dog-Scootering. This sport is GREAT exercise (for Jetta) and FANTASTIC fun (for us both). She loves pulling me on the scooter and I love riding it. I have clocked her in the car at 25 mph. I think she has probably pulled me on the scooter at up to 20 mph. We whip along the trails at the local park… it’s very exciting and she gets a terrific workout.
After she runs, we go home and I feed her, and she SLEEPS. My Doberman, like all my dogs before her, is always super-calm and super-relaxed due to the amount of exercise she gets each day. I do this every single day of the year, rain or shine, regardless of my busy schedule or lack of desire, because I recognize it as one of her basic NEEDS and one of my basic RESPONSIBILITIES.
I would not neglect running my dog every day and every night any more than I would neglect feeding her. She is NEVER running around my house looking for things to do or reacting to neighborhood activity. My neighbors may not even know I have a dog. When she, like all my other dogs before her, is in the house (or apartment), she is quiet, “mellow,” and ASLEEP.
Remember: A TIRED DOG IS A GOOD DOG.
Be cautious about the dangers of bloat/torsion. Risk factors include the timing of exercise with water intake and feeding. Learn more and take appropriate precautions.