Dog exercise whatever the weatherIn the week of Blue Monday, said since 2005 to be the most depressing day of the year, it’s appropriate to be thinking about dog exercise and its benefits.

Research shows that exercise for dogs controls their weight, improves their body condition, builds energy and maintains strong cardiovascular and immune systems. When it is done with a friend, it introduces quality time and creates stronger bonds between them.

Looking at those benefits, we only need to throw in a fitness tracker and 10,000 steps and we’re describing the benefits for humans! So putting them together must be a winner.

We also all know that dogs are active and social by nature and that inactivity builds frustration. This can be exhibited as barking, whining, tail-chasing, chewing, digging and general home destruction. So exercise has a behavioural benefit, much like human mental health.

5 Steps to Better Dog Exercise

These are 5 simple ways to improve exercising yourself and your friend:

  1. Avoid Boredom. It is important to vary the routine. Don’t do the same old dog walk- if you’re bored so will they be. Dogs by nature need fresh air and exercise as it fulfills their desire for play and exploration. Check out your local ordinance survey map for all the footpaths and create multiple circular routes.
  2. Plan a variety of activities. Some walks are just that a walk. Others can be a walk to parkland and open spaces where dogs can run free without affecting livestock. Here playtime is also important particularly for younger dogs.
  3. Don’t stretch too far. Balance running around or walking further with your dog’s (not just your) energy levels. As with us, going too far too soon leads to injury and over-tiredness. What should be enjoyable then becomes a chore. If your dog and you are excited by the prospect of exercise, then you’re on the right track.
  4. Use their energy. Short nosed dogs are heavier breathers and are not typically suited to vigorous exercise. For other breeds or for younger dogs fetch allows them to run for much longer distances in your sight. Games like this also have a behavioural benefit as the rules give you the authority and direction of leadership and thus more likely obedience.
  5. Positive reinforcement through affection not food. We’re not going to deny that the occasional treat works well for us as well as our pets, but strokes and cuddles fit better through our walk and play sessions.

Where to begin

If your pet has a medical history or you haven’t done much exercise, then in the same way as it’s sensible to ask your Doctor for advice, ask your Vet for guidance based on the size, weight and breed of your dog.

Always start gently. If you’ve done little or no exercise, start with a short duration and build. For a walk set off with a time and route in mind. Then think about maintaining or increasing the time by 5 minutes.

For your friend it’s always better to start on dirt or grass, as this allows their footpads to toughen up. Going too far too soon on tarmac hurts.

Key to effective exercise is regularity, so don’t be put off by the weather. A walk in the rain is still fun unless it’s extreme weather. This is more a matter of developing a sensible routine.

In the winter, it is good practice to wipe paw pads and coats to remove snow, ice, salt and mud. While if you’ve driven somewhere using boot and seat protectors keeps your car clean. That way you can both be happy and fitter.