Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Is Your Dog Getting Enough Exercise?

Part 1: How much exercise is enough?
Have you ever looked at your dog and suddenly realized that she is plumper than she use to be?  That very instance happened to me when I looked at my Terrier/Dachshund mix, Maui, and noticed she was not the slender, muscular dog I was use to seeing.  It happens to humans and pets alike.  We put on a couple of pounds here and there, and before we even realize it we are suddenly 15 pounds heavier than we use to be.  But unlike humans, dogs cannot substitute the benefits they get from being active with other hobbies (like reading or painting) which results in more mental and health harm than just weight issues.  Dogs were born and bred to work, so without regular exercise and mental stimulus they are known to be more destructive and ill-behaved due to boredom.  
Today’s society is so fast-paced that we end up filling our day with ‘Need to Do’s’, forgetting to add ‘Walk the dog’ to the list.  I too forget to make time for my dogs on days when I feel overwhelmed with work and personal obligations.  When I was a full-time student and I worked full-time I hardly had any free time that wasn’t used for homework or studying.  When I did get free time I just wanted to veg in front of the TV, not walk my dog, Romeo.  I adopted Romeo from the pound when he was 2 years old and I was a teenager.  He came to me with a lot of co-dependency issues and anxiety.  At the time I thought being a good pet owner meant food, water, shelter, and love kept them alive and happy, and that was enough.  That was my first problem; walking the dog was more of a special treat rather than a daily ritual so it was easy for me to put Romeo on the back burner.  I didn’t learn the benefits of exercise until much later, when you might say it was too late.  As he got older, his issues only got worse and he became very stubborn.   I know that if I had given him regular exercise it would’ve helped relieve his stress and anxiety and I would not be dealing with the challenges I face today as I try to correct his bad behavior in his senior years. 
What are the benefits of regular exercise?
Vetinfo.com, ASPCA, The American Kennel Club, Cesar Millan, and your family Veterinarian all agree that exercise is essential to your dog’s mental and physical health.  But just how essential is exercise and what are the specific benefits?
Regular Exercise:
·         Strengthens the immune system
·         Increases blood circulation
·         Reduces the risk of heart disease and other illnesses
·         Reduces or eliminates digestive problems
·         Reduces susceptibility to urinary infections
·         Reduces stress and the likelihood of depression
·         Keeps dog from becoming obese which could result in depression and/or diabetes
·         Reduces the chance of arthritis in senior years
·         Reduces boredom and therefore bad behavior such as chewing, digging, and excessive barking
·         Helps to build confidence
·         Reduces anxiety which may cause a dog to become aggressive or territorial
·         Calms hyperactive dogs

How much exercise should my dog be getting?
It is recommended that smaller breeds get a daily workout of about 20 – 30 minutes and 2 -3 walks per day.  Larger Breeds are recommended to get 40 minutes of an intense cardio workout per day.  
Ultimately, every dog has different needs and different levels of adequate exercise.  I know most people try to walk their dog once a day, usually at night after work.  For older dogs this may be enough, depending on the length of the walk, but for puppies and high energy breeds this is not nearly enough.  So the next challenge is to work a regular exercise routine for your dog into your busy schedule.

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