How to Exercise Your Dog

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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)
Misc games
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:

The typical:
rolling over
crawling
shaking

Better 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:

leash
collar/harness
plastic bag/device for poop
water bowl and water
some treats

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:
http://animal.discovery.com/features/dogpark/dogpark.html

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

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    56 Comments

    Digging is not destructive behaviour in dogs, especially not as regards hunting dogs (whether these actually go on formal hunts or not). Threadmills are considered a form of torture of dogs, but ordinary running letting your dog run freely at his own pace is good exercise for dogs. Puppies and very small sized dogs should not be forced to run at the pace of an adult human as this is too strainful for them (whether on leash or not on leash trying to catch up with their owner).

    2 replies

    a dog running on a treadmill is not a form of torture i agree it should be no substitute for a structured daily walk but it can supplement a dogs exercise programme if you have a high energy level dog for example huskies or sled dog breeds are bred to run what we would call a marathon in freezing conditions with a heavey sled tied to their backs if you think you can walk these guys enough you are mad, sometimes walks just arent enough and if you purchase or build a self driven dog treadmill they will only do what they want to do on it they will not run if they dont want to and will only go at a speed they feel confortable doing and will increase the dogs quality of life

    It seems to me that if my dog was digging holes in my yard, tearing up my lawn and garden and risking exposing wiring, piping, etc., that it would be considered destructive, whether it is a hunting dog or not. 

    As a canine behavior it stems from a dog becoming bored with no outlet for excess energy.

    My mom and I are considering a dog, but we don't know what kind to get. She wants a Lab because they are easy to train and whatnot, and we definitely don't want a lapdog. The neighbors have 4 Shelties that seem really cool. What do you recommend?

    16 replies

    Labs are great, but they are not as easy to train as people think - The first year is hell (Ok, we did get 2 making it much worse), but they can be very stubborn. And if you aren't very strict, you will get a lapdog... I haven't met a lab yet that hasn't tried to climb on my lap at some point. A golden retriever might be a good plan too - They are less hyper than Labs.

    Golden's are a great dog but do best if you can let them go to water, be it a ditch lake or stream. you can't make the weather too cold for Labs and Golden's. All dogs the first year are teething plenty of big bones to chew on and they love wood also. Golden's have only one bad trait for the first 3 years and that is they will jump up on you, because they want to be the best friend you ever had. Golden's do have hair shedding issues but can be cut back in the summer. Golden is not just a name or color it's because, the nature of these dogs and their patience. Never let the soft looks fool you they will defend you with their lives. Our Golden has already flipped one pitbull and put him on his back and commenced to kill him. Took 2 folks to drag the dog off.

    what a lovely story so great to hear how your goldy was going to kill a pitbull... by the way i dont think it matters what the breed of your first dog is my first dog was a rescued pitbull terrier and she was amazing she protected my pregnant girlfriend from 2 large shepherd type dogs one looked nervous aggressive or may have just been following the other dogs lead but regardless of breed the owner was an idiot he made no attempt to recall his dogs but his dogs changed their mind after seeing bailey who was on lead luckily for them and only managed to give them a verbal and a bit of a show.. choosing a good breeder is very important they will be able to tell you what to expect exercise and temperament wise, exercise requirements of your chosen breed should match your activity level and good socialization is a must for any breed if you get these basics right youl be happy with your chosen dog

    Get a Red Doberman, trained cool dogs i had mine for almost 14 years until he passed away. DO NOT CROP THE EARS!!!

    OH I so agree with you on this. same with tails. a dog needs its tail for so many things. one is to show you how happy or worried it is. tail goes under when worried or unhappy, wags like mad when happy OUR dog won a waggiest tail comp in mutt contest. lol She was lovely, now on our third this one is a staffie cross but rescue as have all our dogs except the first. Deepha( D for Dog) was my special lady and no idea what her parentage was as her mother died giving birth to 4 puppies BUT Deepha was so loyal and intelligent she learn STAY in a situation where I was across the road and she had jumped off our boat to follow me. She also was my best companion when I was so ill I could not talk but she would go fetch my husband when I needed help.
    Thanks Yerboogieman for your comment.

    Hey'a Shino. If you are a first time dog owner a lab would be perfect as they are pretty difficult to 'muck up'. Don't get me wrong, if you neglect them, don't give them daily exercise, and let them lawd it over you they will be a pain in the butt. However, they at least are normally well balanced mentally. But no matter what dog you get, the fastest way to get problems is to not exercise them every day. Very few dogs require less exercise than at a bare minimum 3/4 - 1 hour of good solid trotting with runs in between. Most dogs are under exercised in our western society. I have a Rhodesian Ridgeback and she needs a good hour at least. In the winter I take her beside me on my bike up hill and down dale and she's happy as larry. Some of that run is at near full speed for her (down the hill of course as I can't keep up with her otherwise...lol). In the summer it's quite hot where I am, so I take her early morning or evening for walks with a few runs in between. Also, if you can afford it, feed a diet NATURAL to your dog....that's meat, meat and meat and a few bones, especially the edible ones, raw....not cereals, and other human foods. Shelties are cool little dogs but can be very noisy. My RR never barks unless there's someone coming. All the best dog hunting. :o)

    Oh...just a note...you shouldn't exercise a dog under 6 months hardly at all....just playing in the backyard, or take him in your car to other places to meet people and other dogs. It's really important to protect their skeletal system when they are young...let them grow...then introduce the regular exercise I am talking about above.

    if you exercise dogs when thear yong thay will behave. becuse if they are hiper thay are more likley to be bad!!!

    Actually, if you exercise your dog too much, and give them the wrong kind of exercise when they are too young, you have a higher risk of skeletal problems, (particularly hips) especially with the larger breeds. You must be careful when they are young to keep them from repetitive jumping off things, hard running, etc. Just playing in the backyard or a park is fine. If you want a young dog to behave, then be the pack leader! That is predominantly what keeps any dog well behaved; just ask my Rhodesian Ridgeback...lol.

    I recommend shetland sheepdogs, very smart, easy to train, medium size...

    Actually, our neighbors had 4-5 shelties. :P They were straight out awesome.

    i say just get a mut from the pound thats were i got my last two dogs

    Being partial to AKC Golden Retrievers, You can't beat these dogs. Very few bad traits and extra smart dog. The hair problems, just have them trimmed close once a year. They are outside dogs and need a lot of exercise. Love to swim, go, meet people-very social.

    Thats a tough question. It depends on what you are looking for and what type of a place you have. We have a large field around our place so our large dogs can get plenty of exercise. If you have a house with a small backyard or an apartment, then go with a cool small breed. Unfortunately i don't really know about them. As for large breeds, I've had golden retrievers which are always super friendly. But you cannot go wrong with a lab. They are friendly, smart, and I have yet to meet someone who is unhappy with a lab.

    Mm. We have large fields around the house, big yard and stuff. We want something we can do stuff with, not lazy and stuff. We had a retriever once that was pretty cool. I used to like rottweilers, but my dad's cat got killed by one, so meh. XD

    *double post* We also go camping alot during the summer, so we want a dog we can play with then.