If it’s truly a dog-eat-dog world where only the fittest survive, are you doing your best as a pet owner to ensure your pooch is fit?
All dogs benefit from daily exercise, and according to the ASPCA, the advantages of pet exercise include:
- Fewer behavioral, digestive and health complications
- More confidence and happiness
- Weight control
In other words, regularly exercising with your dog leads to better overall fitness and health. But as with with any other healthy habit, there is a right and a wrong way to introduce physical activity.
From too much too soon to not incorporating a well-rounded workout, below are five common mistakes to avoid.
1. You Don’t Tailor the Exercise to Breed, Age or Physical Abilities
Does this sound familiar? If a 20-minute walk is good for my dog’s health, a 20-minute run must be better. And if a 20-minute run is great, a 45-minute run is best. Right?
Wrong. Unfortunately, many dog owners think that more exercise automatically leads to greater health, but they couldn’t be further from the truth. Though all dogs need daily activity, some can handle strenuous exercise better than others. A chihuahua doesn’t need the same amount of exercise as a German shepherd, and long-distance running is not necessary for any breed, even leading to long-term injury in some cases, according to the ASPCA.
Common signs that your dog has been overworked and needs less strenuous exercise include sore and sensitive pads, extended periods of fatigue directly after exercise and heat exhaustion.
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2. You Don’t Exercise Enough
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention’s sixth-annual National Pet Obesity Awareness Day survey, 52.5 percent of dogs in the United States were considered overweight or obese in 2012. The numbers become even more staggering when you consider that this percentage is equal to nearly 37 million dogs.
Even though diet plays an important factor in your dog’s weight, moderate to severe lack of physical activity only serves to make it worse. Many pet owners simply don’t give their dogs enough physical activity.
No matter the breed, size or age — if your dog isn’t getting daily physical activity, you are not exercising your dog enough.
This video reinforces the important aspects of exercising your dog properly:
3. You Ignore the Environment Around Your Dog
Your dog’s environment is just as important to her overall health as the amount of exercise she gets. A too-cold environment can lead to frostbite, and a too-hot one can lead to burns. Your dog can be injured by dangerous debris such as broken glass, ice, jagged concrete and excess litter.
Additionally, if you live in a city known for high pollution, try to keep your dog indoors when pollutions level climb. Take your dog for daily walks in the early morning and evening, avoid excess heat, don’t let her out when the sun is high in the sky, and keep track of air quality levels, especially when the temperature climbs.
4. You’re Distracted
Life is distracting. Throughout the day we all receive phone calls, texts messages, emails and various smartphone notifications. During daily dog walks we might chat with friends, neighbors and other dog owners. Most of us are extremely busy and our minds are always turned on thinking about work, family, social life or school.
Still, when you are out spending time with your dog, try your best to keep him the center of your attention. The more you pay attention to your dog, the less likely he will get into trouble. Instead he’ll be busy basking in your attention and trying to please you. The both of you will be happier and safer.
5. You Don’t Include Mental Stimulation
Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your dog’s health, but you shouldn’t make the mistake of keeping it a purely physical activity.
According to Modern Dog magazine, a dog’s memory and learning ability declines as she ages, and, just like people, dogs benefit from brain games. Take advantage of the time you are spending with your pet and provide mental stimulation too. It will enrich your dog’s life.
People achieve mental stimulation through games like sudoku, reading an intelligent novel or having a thought-provoking conversation. For dogs, the best way to mentally stimulate them is by pairing brain games with physical activities, such as obedience training, learning a new skill, playing with other dogs, and games that require quick movement and thinking like fetch and hide-and-seek.
Another great way to keep your mentally stimulated is to use a treat ball. IQ Treat Ball Smarter Toys, available in the Pets Adviser Shop, helps keep your dog thinking by having him work to get a treat. The toys are designed to get your pet mentally engaged while getting a tasty snack at the same time.