Introduction: How to Exercise Your Dog
Hello fellow dog lovers! Does your dog have destructive behaviors like digging, or tearing up your house? Or even psychological issues like biting, endless pacing, or other seemingly absurd behavioral issues? No? Then prevent these problems and let your canine friend get out more and enjoy life. The best answer and prevention to these problems is to give your dog plenty of exercise and activity. Your animal also demands quality attention from you (the dog owner), so this instructable will not talk about building dog runs, or treadmills but instead it will focus on healthy activities one can do with the animals.
The key to good exercise is work up the heart a good amount so that the dog reaches a good pant. This happens to be the dog's reaction to body heat, so it is a good indication they are working hard. If the pant is too strong, you will hear a harsh wheezing breath that sounds very unpleasant. Be sure to give your dog rest, especially older dogs and provide plenty of water when finished. They will be very thirsty.
This guide is based on my own experiences with my dogs, but due to the nature of taking care of pets mileage may very and suggestions are certainly welcome! Let me remind you that playing with your dog is not only beneficial for the mind and body of your pet, but also for you! Daily exercise is required and most ideally more than once in a day.
Step 1: Choosing an Exercise
There are of numerous ways to exercise/play with your dog, and I welcome you guys to contribute. I'm going to focus on the following:
Playing fetch (with different toys)
Walking your dog
Hiking with your dog
Taking your dog to a dog park and doing all of the above and more
You can vary what you do with your dog, so if you take your dog on a long hike in the woods you might want to go easy the next day with a light amount of fetch or a shorter walk in the neighborhood. Other then that, choose something that you enjoy doing because its important to continue these activities regularly. And lastly, you may call it exercise, but your dog thinks of it as play/an adventure. Think like the dog.
Step 2: Fetch
Playing fetch is probably one of the more popular activities and only devoting a single step is a gross oversimplification. I encourage you to seek other instructables and consult other literature for much more detail on how to train your dog to fetch.
The key is to take the whole process in steps, as it will take time. Choose an object that won't hurt the animal should it accidentally hit him/her (it happens) like tennis balls, ropes, squeak toys, and small sticks. When you are introducing the dog to the object, try to associate the object with rewards and attention. Some dogs take to them naturally, others may need encouragement. Putting a treat inside a toy is an easy way to draw the dogs attention to it. In the beginning, just let the dog have fun with it like carrying it around in the mouth and generously reward/pet your dog so that he associates the toy with attention and joy.
Once the dog gets attached to the object, then start training your dog in steps. First run to chase after it. Then grab it with the mouth and finally to return (with object in mouth) to you. The last one is optional for smaller dogs and can be difficult to teach. However once your dog gets it, you can try to encourage other forms of fetch. Also teaching fun behaviors like jumping to catch a ball/frisbee, or swimming to get a stick are great additional steps.
Step 3: Other Games
Let your imagination run wild. Remember this is about having fun for both you and your dog, so pick something that you enjoy as well. With all that positive encouragement and treats, dogs love to be taught tricks. Just make sure you stop when you or your dog gets tired of the task at hand.
Though not strictly exercise, it will give your dog plenty of mental activity. Can easily be applied to more physical games. The typical boring tricks are great, but everyone has seen them so come up with something that is easy enough to teach a dog in steps. Some ideas:
Giving hugs: the opposite of not jumping. Bad idea if dog is constantly muddy
Finding some object: not just useful for drugs/bombs
Jumping over objects: like low walls, yourself, or small children
Step 4: Dog Walks
Taking your dog on walks is a great way for him/her to enjoy different smells and discover new places. Especially in urban settings the necessary items include:
plastic bag/device for poop
water bowl and water
Teaching your dog to walk on a leash is almost always necessary. Many dogs will just pull on the leash, making the activity difficult for both parties involved. It will be a slow process at first, and some harnesses have been designed with the idea to help solve this issue by putting pressure on the forward leg joints. Though, truthfully, it failed miserably with our dog and she would protest its use. Choke collars work, especially the ones with points that collapse on the neck, but don't use it if you can't stand hurting your dog even just temporarily.
Otherwise, the use of the leash in the city limits is generally recommended if not required. Encountering other dogs, or automobiles make the leash pretty useful. An extendable leash is a good buy, but it will require smarter use by the dog owner. Water is good to bring along, especially on longer walks and on hotter days. Treats come in handy for just the regular positive encouragement of your dog.
Step 5: Hiking With Your Dog
Hiking with your dog, is very similar to urban walks with dogs with a few notable exceptions. So pick a fun trail and plan a good morning/afternoon for the activity. Unfortunately many trails are off-limits to dogs due to varying reasons like wild animals, dangerous trails, or general bigotry against dogs. Despite such signs, many people bring their dogs anyway. Make sure you know the trails and the area.
If your dog is well trained, it is generally acceptable to allow your dog to walk without a leash (rules vary per location). Generally they stay on the trail and within view. Most dogs love to wander ahead and then check back to make sure the owner is within sight, then run ahead again. Others will run down the trail, then back up, then back down. Typically the outdoors hike (is there any other kind) is good exercise, but is also very tiring. Begin with shorter hikes like a few miles, and build up.
The key point on outdoor hikes is to bring more water than you'd think you would need. The last thing you want is to run out of water a few miles from your car, and your dog dehydrating and overheating. Its difficult to know how much water your dog needs and since their internal cooling system is linked to water consumption its best to err to your dogs benefit. My suggestion is to bring a lot in the beginning (at least a gallon) and let your dog drink all he/she can. Eventually you will get an idea of how much is enough. Debate is still out regarding drinking creek or lake water for dogs. They contain harmful organisms and bacteria, the worst of which is giardia or e coli (think terrible diarrhea) , but the dog has a much better system for all that (they eat other animals' poop!).
Step 6: The Dog Park
The dog park is a wonderful place for your animal to romp and socialize. You can play fetch and let your dog run around without a leash. Wait until your dog is at least 4 months before getting to the dog park so that he/she won't be dominated by the other animals. If you find that your dog does not play well with others, the dog park may not be for you.
Suggestions on finding dog parks nearby and tips for taking your dog to one can be found at:
Step 7: The Cool Down
Well, there is the cool down. After playing/exercising make sure your dog gets water. They probably won't object to it, but just be sure they do drink afterward. Also, if your dog dislikes bathes this is a great time for a shower. They will be plenty warm, and might not object terribly to a cool spray with hose. Rub some shampoo on them and spray again, and you have a cool, clean dog.
Make sure you pet/reward your dog for a fun play/exercise session with plenty of praise and/ or a treat. Finally, you will need to set limits for your dog. He/she will gladly tag along and play fetch long after they should. Monitor their breathing, and attitude and if you notice a great decrease in energy it may be time to stop. If the dog is old, or hasn't exercised much it may be sore the next day. Your animal might not get up, or may be limping. Thats a sign to take it easier next time, and keep up the regular exercise.
Have fun, and playing with your dog is what makes owning one so much fun