A reader called asking for information on the importance of exercise, especially in this hot, humid weather. My answer started with, “Yes, exercise is important for all creatures, it keeps their muscles toned, relieves anxiety, and in the case of dogs, I will quote Brian Kilcommons, a nationally known dog trainer and author, ‘A tired dog is a good dog.’”
Now, exercise has to be individualized especially since dogs come in all sizes. Age also has to be considered. My little six pound toy breed gets plenty of exercise following me around the house, but she also enjoys investigating the yard after the sun goes down. How do I know she gets enough exercise? She sleeps a lot when I sit down to work, but is ready to go when I get up. I also keep track of her weight each month.
The larger breeds need more exercise. In this weather, I recommend early in the morning and late in the afternoon. If you have more than one dog, they often will play tag with one another, but if all they do is wander around the play area, it will be up to you to provide the incentive to exercise. Most dogs like to chase and retrieve balls or stuffed toys. If that doesn’t interest them, try hiding pieces of treats around the yard and let your dogs go individually out to find them.
If you are needing some exercise yourself, take your dog with you on leash. Make it like a march, no dawdling, sniffing or marking. Do that before you leave home. Back in the 1970s, I gave my young adult schnauzer a half hour run in the morning and evening from my bicycle.
A question came up about owners who are “couch potatoes” and what they can do to exercise their larger breed pets. Another friend answered that question for me by saying that it is possible to find tread mills in yard sales and exercising your dog for half an hour on a tread mill at a slow to medium trot (the proper word for dogs is “gait”) will relieve their need for exercise and make them want to curl up and sleep a while. Remember, “A tired dog is a good dog!”
Age is important. I was puppy-sitting a miniature poodle pup one weekend years ago and he kept everyone awake howling the first night. The next day I was determined to get him tired enough to sleep through the night, but he was just as determined not to move. Thank goodness for my border collie mixed breed who gave a “play-bow” and led him on a rousing game of chase. It wasn’t long before the pup was lying down, panting hard and he slept soundly the entire night!
The same goes for older dogs. My golden retriever lived to play ball, but I noticed that as he aged, the game got shorter, with the dog retrieving the ball but collapsing halfway to the person tossing the ball and staying there. It is important to respect the dog’s need to rest.