Why exercise and mental stimulation are so important for your dog
I need a walk!
One of the most important considerations that you need to take into account when thinking about getting a dog or when you have a dog is that no matter what size your dog is, they all need daily exercise. If you are considering a pure breed dog, think about the exercise requirements that the breed type requires and be honest with yourself about whether you can sustain those requirements for the rest of the dogs life or if you have the resources to employ a dog walker or send it to doggie daycare or a combination of both. Similarly, if you are looking at a rescue dog, get as much information about the breeds that the dog may be mixed with to give you an idea of the amount of exercise it may need. In terms of actual exercise, a good walk around the neighborhood allowing your dog to sniff is great. Remember to change your routes daily as some dogs can become territorial over a particular area if you only walk them there. Take them to the local park, walk them around and maybe play a game of fetch. If you take them to the dog park remember to give them about a twenty-minute brisk walk beforehand so that all of their pent up energy doesn’t get thrown onto the dogs in the dog park, especially first thing in the morning when they have rested overnight and are full of energy!
Hiking is also great activity for dogs particularly as they have an opportunity to take in plenty of different scents, which for a dog, would be like going to Disney World! Remember though that you should only start to hike with dogs after the age of one-year old when their joints and bones have formed properly. Jogging is also a good form of exercise but here again, only start jogging with your dog after it is one-year old so that it’s bones and joints are formed properly. Remember to build dogs up to the distance that you would normally run. Don’t assume that your dog can just do it automatically. Just as humans have to begin to jog gradually, dogs are no different as they need to build up their stamina. Also, before you begin jogging as you do with yourself, remember to warm your dog up first by walking them briskly for about fifteen minutes. This allows them to toilet and maybe get a little sniffing done. Then after your jog has finished, cool them down by walking them for around fifteen minutes again so that you bring down their adrenalin levels and avoid having a highly aroused dog afterwards. Other fun activities to consider are agility, flyball, swimming (a great activity especially for senior dogs), tracking and many more.
Things to think about when exercising your dog are its age, weight, size and what the temperature is like outside. During Summer months the best times to exercise dogs are early in the morning or later at night when the temperatures are cooler. When walking your dog don't forget to take plenty of drinking water with you to keep them hydrated and consider mixing in shorter walks. It is also important to remember that dogs do not sweat and instead eliminate heat by panting. They do have some sweat glands in the footpads, which help with heat dissipation, but only minimally. When panting isn't enough, a dog's body temperature rises. If you feel that your dog is overheating the best way to cool the body down is by putting their paws in cool water, not cold water, which will help to cool their body down. Remember that in hot weather sidewalks get hot which can then burn their paw pads so my advice is to avoid walking them when this is the case.
Similarly in the winter when it is extremely cold with snow on the ground, remember too that as our dogs are low to the ground their feet can very quickly get frost bite so consider doing shorter walks. Additionally Sometimes it's simply too cold for pets to be outside, regardless of their breed. Prolonged exposure to dangerously cold temperatures can put your pet in danger of frostbite and hypothermia, which occurs when the body is no longer able to sustain normal temperature. Do not leave your dog outside unattended for long periods of time.
Dog’s are very intelligent animals and as well as physical exercise they also need mental enrichment. Ways in which you can mentally enrich your dog can include obedience training, puzzle toys, a stuffed Kong, agility training, nose work, playing hide and seek, and trick training. All of these activities engage your dogs brain getting them to think about how to solve something and if you are doing this along with the physical activity the end result will be a tired dog. Exercise and mental enrichment are such an important part of any dog’s life for them to stay healthy, well balanced, prevent obesity, and it also helps with preventing behavioral problems such as barking, chewing, digging and other destructive behaviors and also helps to alleviate stress and anxiety.
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